Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, sat on the Banking Standards Commission. Perhaps he should have taken heed of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. On the financial crash, Archbishop Nichols said perceptively that: “commentators point out that the financial systems, while closely regulated, were lacking in clear ethical foundations” and followed this by commenting “in place of virtue we have seen an expansion of regulation. A society that is held together just by compliance to rules is inherently fragile, open to further abuses which will be met by a further expansion of regulation”. And this is what we see from the Commission. They produced some fine analysis of ethical problems but largely proposed regulatory solutions. In fact, the most important reforms will be those that make banks bear the cost of failure: that will help to rein in excesses. But, attempts to promote ethics via regulation will continue to fail.
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