Ever since it first emerged, capitalism has been accused by its detractors of encouraging greed and selfishness. Its defenders have responded either that this is not so, or that selfish behaviour is redeemed by its socially beneficial effects of greater economic growth. The financial crisis has triggered soul-searching about our economic system. Surprisingly perhaps, the questioning has come from capitalism’s most committed practitioners: bankers. Stephen Green, HSBC chairman, has written a book about morality and money. Ken Costa, Lazard International chairman, writes: “We are doomed to repeat our mistakes if we do not restore sound ethics to economic behaviour.”
Can capitalism only work if its participants also obey moral values beyond pursuing their self-interest? If so, what needs to be done? Or is the genius of capitalism that it can produce benefits for society even if individuals work for none other than themselves? Was the crisis primarily a result of bad policy or of immoral behaviour? Is there a place for morals in finance? Join the debate. Click on Comment to share your views.