Greed is endemic in our society but we do not care to admit it, or to look at ourselves searchingly, for it is not an attractive truth. Misuse of public funds, even corruption, is uncovered regularly involving politicians, police, councillors, health workers, teachers, sportsmen, and it is always for money and personal gain. For observers, beneath the usual reaction of shock at and condemnation of the disclosures there can lie a streak of envy at the sums involved and profits made, and the sometimes lavish lifestyle achieved. While they would not, usually, break the law many would happily take money if it were offered to help them live their emulative dream.
Before the Libor furore, the finger of judgment pointed to wealthy celebrities who, quite legally, used the tax system to minimise the amount of tax they paid: tax avoidance comes in many forms, and accountants everywhere are doing what they can to minimise the tax liabilities of their clients, large and small and not just famous people. Is this wrong if it is allowed by law? If someone offered to help you to reduce your tax bill, would you be tempted? If a workman reduced your bill in exchange for non-accountable cash, would you agree?
Your answer to my questions may be yes or no, and whatever you say I do not judge you for it for morality comes in many forms. If bankers at Barclays and other banks abused interest rates, as they have done, we may know it was unethical but we should remember too that many other people have succumbed to the temptation of easy money, pounds or pennies, legal or illegal, possibly even those close to home. As the banking scandal develops, it might serve us to consider not just where banking went wrong, but where our attitude to money went wrong too.]]>