Imperialism and Finance04-22-2011
Someone I respect recently wrote,
"It pains me to say this but money and influence are almost synonymous in our time. Even more painful is that most money today is numerate money, not literate money. And this is both a pernicious and a very boring situation for a twenty-first century democratic citizen."
This reflects a fundamental view that the origins of the financial crisis--and of so much more--are less economic and more concern the transformation of our business as well as our legal and political cultures. Where once these "professions" were founded on the taking up one's role as an ethical businessman, a lawyer advocate of justice, or a statesman politician, today all of these activities are governed by the single standard of success and growth. The infinite growth demanded by economics in business and imperialism in finance has unsettled all attempts to impose or even nurture ethical limits.
This loss of limits in the professions was one of the key origins of totalitarianism Hannah Arendt identified in the Imperialism chapters of her book The Origins of Totalitarianism. It was also one of the key topics of the 2009 Hannah Arendt Center Conference, The Burden of Our Time: The Intellectual Origins of the Financial Crisis, the book of which will be out soon by Fordham University Press.
For a related view, see this view by Kathy Jones.