Monday, October 27, 2008

Financial systems and human rights

Hi readers, I've been overseas for a stretch but have been following recent events from the human rights perspective. It seems the excesses of Wall Street and the culture it spawned will challenge human rights more broadly than recent wars & famines. The fall out from the financial crisis fueled by a mindless greed that has underpinned the corporate culture over the last three decades will have savage consequences for the world's poor.

That documentary that likened the pathology of corporations to that of a psychopath has proved prescient. The 'I'm alright Jack' culture of excess and rampant consumerism has come unstuck in alarming fashion. We have the spectacle of earnest politicians scurrying for their Keynesian readers, trying to stem the breach by taking huge equity slices in private banks, pumping public liquidity and guaranteeing private savings. The deregulation phantasmagoria cooked up by dry rot free marketeers has imploded!

Some of the futures derivatives markets have been little more than gambling houses where greedy people played and swapped other people's money at the crap tables, betting on risky future potential earnings, and putting at risk the livelihoods of whole communities. The whole thing was a dodgy pack of cards waiting to collapse - the sub-prime mortgage fiasco was just the tip of the iceberg!

We are witnessing a cultural shift that will see financial markets change immeasurably. It could have positive implications in the longer term as the market licentiousness of the last decade was bad for the planet. Our economies have become unsustainable and people are losing sight of what is important - genuine community and shared humanity. In the meantime savings are under threat, retirement incomes will be dealt savage blows and weaker economies will be hurt.