So what would the Scholastics make of modern finance? Would they admire how efficiently a family’s savings can find productive uses? Or would they decry how developing countries pay more to borrow than rich ones? Would they marvel at our banks’ international reach? Or would they condemn how poor people pay for banking services such as checking accounts that rich people get for free?

It shouldn’t be so strange for a big bank to hire a theologian such as Miller; what should be strange is that we find it strange. It’s our modern talk of unfettered free markets and shareholder value that’s the anomaly. When Miller talks to bankers and executives, they often tell him that they feel as if what they learn in church or synagogue has no place at work. Even he was embarrassed about using the word ‘calling’ when he told his former co-workers that he was leaving for the seminary.

But neither secular nor religious authorities offer much guidance to bankers trying to link what they do to some kind of ethical tradition. In seminaries and divinity schools there’s a total lack of attention to the economy and the marketplace, Miller says. ‘Clergy may be quick to throw stones at the latest corporate excess on the front pages,’ he told me, ‘but there is not much constructive work.’ The public criticises bankers for their ethical failings, but the bankers themselves have also been failed by our ethical authorities.

« Banks hiring moral philosophers »

A quote saved on Aug. 27, 2017.


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