I guess the story of “rogue trader” Jerome Kerviel who is accused of costing his (former) employer Societe Generale 4.9bn euros. You can go here for a quick breakdown of events.
The question is: assuming Mr. Kerviel actually did what he is accused of, has he acted wrong? The reflex action is of course to say “yes”, but are we really justified in feeling this?
We have societies that are based on the somewhat odd idea that the greed of individuals will lead to the greatest welfare for society as a whole. While it would be interesting to discuss exactly what “greatest welfare” and “society as a whole” may or may not mean, I would like to stick to the first part of the statement.
Greed is generally considered a good thing. We get taught this at an early age. Sure there are a few people who question these ideas, but they are considered politically suspect, usually bundled up in the hateful term “the left”. We would never want to belong to that group, they represent all the “bad” things in society. They want to disrupt our harmony.
Privately, many people may question whether greed really is a human virtue, but there are always a wide range of distractions on TV to make sure that the thought never gets a chance to “root”. Also, you wouldn’t want to question something that respectable members of society hold as self-evident, would you? You couldn’t talk to friends about your doubts about the virtues of greed, because you will soon be regarded a “leftist”, not worthy of attention.
But if we hold greed to be a virtue, perhaps the principle value of a modern, efficient and healthy society, how do we blame a person who commits an act of greed? If you believe in the superiority of liberal capitalism, surely you should hail Mr. Kerviel, not as a criminal, but as a hero? If you don’t see him in this way, maybe it is time to question your support of the capitalist system. Perhaps you should come and join the rest of us idiots and outcasts on the “left” (once you are here, you will find that this actually encompasses a wide range of political ideas).
For the record, Mr. Kerviel’s actions are no worse than going to war on false grounds for the sake of oil, or supporting democratic movements on the one hand, while at the same time offering support to barbaric regimes as long as they are allies. There are other examples. Once you begin to question, you will find that quickly most things you took for granted begin to crumble under the pressure of rational argumentation.