Carmichael: Canada’s bankers face a new test of character

A key pillar of Mark Carney’s book Value(s) is his contention that capitalism needs more government because markets are amoral. Recent history is on his side. Leaving profit-maximizing companies and welfare-maximizing consumers to pursue their desires unchecked led to a massive financial crisis, a climate crisis and social networks that addict children, hurt our mental health and undermine democracy.

Carney, who shared the 2021 National Business Book Award, argues that liberal democracies lost their way by forgetting that capitalism was meant to be anchored by moral values. Milton Friedman effectively put an end to that idea in 1970 with his essay on why the only values managers should worry about are profit margins, stock prices and dividend cheques. By the late 1980s, the dominant ethos of business was the pursuit of wealth, so much so that Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street, a critique of ruthless corporate raiders that entrenched “greed is good” in the lexicon, ended up inspiring a generation of bankers.

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