Finance Markets, Systemic Violence, the Problem of the Heart

I went to see the Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job a few nights ago. See the trailer below. It’s a documentary about the global financial meltdown of 2008, focusing on the actions of the top finance and insurance firms and their executives in creating the environment in which such a catastrophic failure could occur.

Most quotable quote (although there are many contenders): ‘It’s a Wall St. government.’ Scary. Probably true.

In one sense it was nothing new: I the second half of last year studying the political economy of finance markets, and none of the ideas presented here are original. They are, however, presented well, and the interviews are excellent. The explanations of the complex financial products wrapped up in the crisis are also great; even after six months studying finance markets I find many of them nearly impossible to understand. (Which, incidentally, suits the finance firms quite nicely, thank you very much!)

Anyway, I have some thoughts related to the film sloshing around in my head: on greed, justice what Scripture says about the problem of the human heart. The film made me profoundly angry and deeply sad: great economic and social violence are done through our ‘self-regulating markets,’ and it can’t be fully explained without an understanding of the evil inclinations human beings are all prone to. One of the things I’ve loved about studying political economy is that it deliberately leaves economics open to contributions from all kinds of disciplines, including (much to my delight!) theology.

In the meantime, while I’m drafting and thinking through those issues, here’s a good review of Inside Job and Client 9 (a doco about the downfall of former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer, who made a valiant attempt to reform Wall St.). Check out the review at The Quietus.


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