The book exposes several core fallacies holding up modern financial free-market orthodoxy and which contributed to the recurrent failures of banking and finance to sustain healthy economic growth for all. The book argues that: 1) It is wrong to oppose public goods to private goods, with public goods consigned to governments for distribution and private goods left to allegedly only self-serving free markets. Some notional public goods – education, social services, transportation, etc. – can be effectively sourced and delivered by markets. And, to the contrary, some private goods affect the public interest and so draw upon themselves aspects of public goods. There is a continuum of goods and services ranging from pure public goods to pure private goods, with intermediate goods of a mixed character. Quasi-public goods and quasi-private goods can be provided by private enterprise through open market transactions. These are shared value goods and services. Financial intermediation is such a mixed public and private good. 2) Corporate social responsibility performs a mediation function between private goods and services provided by the firm and public goods demanded by society. 3) A limited theory of valuation – which ignores intangible assets and liabilities – caused the asset bubble and resulting collapse of leverage in the fall of 2008. A better theory of valuation is proposed to add public good dimensions to the calculation of private asset values. 4) The existence of an agency problem in finance and corporate governance is challenged. Current agency theory presumes that markets are incapable of providing public goods. The assumed agency problem supports companies ignoring stakeholders, externalities and fiduciary duties of responsibility. 5) Anxiety and money exacerbate the selfishness which brings the agency problem to the fore, but they can be offset by enhancing the strength of the moral sense, which is part of each person’s social-psychology. The severity of the agency problem is rejected by value-based cultures – Catholic social teachings, Buddhism, Chinese ethics, Taoism, Aristotle and Qur’an. In addition, I/Thou relationships and friendships sustain values to overcome the agency problem. 6) Financial institutions need to be incentivized to provide public goods in addition to private goods. 7) “Wall Street” may be more about rent-extraction than investing in real growth. In much of finance, contract rights – shares, bonds, loan participations, derivatives, etc. – are only “rented” for a short time in order to flip them for a higher price. Why, then, should traders be given all the respect due to owners who invest for the long-term? 8) The US Dodd-Frank reforms did not challenge the inherent dysfunction in financial trading, but only sought to distance public coffers from responsibility for making good on private losses. 9) It is self-restraint – the moral sense as provided to each of us by Natural Law – which can align private goods with public good and so lead us to a moral capitalism.
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Stephen B. Young is Global Executive Director, the Caux Round Table, and author of Moral Capitalism. He has written on jurisprudence and legal history, Qur’anic guidance for good governance, Chinese jurisprudence, and fiduciary duty. He teaches at the Carlson School of Business Management and at the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, Chulalongkorn University. Young a founder and board member of Magni Global Asset Management. Young is also on the Executive Committee of the Convention of Independent Financial Advisors and the Advisory Board of the Vatican Foundation, Fondazione CentesimusAnnus Pro Pontifice. Trained in law at the Harvard Law School, Young was Dean and Professor of Law at the Hamline University School of Law.
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