Monday, 26 July 2010


Overnight my bedside radio is on ABC Local Radio 774 - but occasionally the dial slips and I land on a station which takes the BBC World Service.  I am an information junkie and so appreciate a little leaven in the lump in an external form.  Thus it was that I heard an interesting interview with Niall Ferguson. Film buffs will recall that Ferguson was the inspiration for the young specialist teacher, Irwin, in The History Boys.

This time he was speaking about the subject of his recently published book, Siegmund Warburg - who was one of those Warburgs.  Go here, here and here for reviews of the book, High Financier: the Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg.  Go here to listen to Niall Ferguson speaking under the heading, Banks: Money and Morals
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In this part of the 21st century when we have seen bankers of all types and persuasions playing fast and loose and bringing down economies across the globe, Ferguson claims that Warburg was insistent on quality and demanded that banking be approached ethically and aesthetically.  The first quality we must all demand, and insist upon its implementation.  How aesthetics can be brought into the world of banking to bring about its transformation can be another matter altogether.  The ugliness and dishonesty, though, of the sub-prime mortgage maestros makes one want to think long and hard on the linkage of honesty and beauty.

Ferguson does not see an answer in regulation.  He believes the thousands of pages of recently drafted US legislation will still only result in a ticking of the boxes by those who want to return to the slice and dice, party atmosphere of the toxic derivatives market.  
Ferguson thinks right and wrong needs to be taught way back in business school.  Now I'm sure, that right and wrong and ethics need to be taught in business school - but, it should be as plain as the nose on one's face, that - if personal morality waits until it is taught in business school - it is way, way too late.  

Moral development 
is a cradle to grave imperative - 
or else it fails.

Related Reading:
High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg
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