All about ideas…

The Price of a Life

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NPR is my favorite radio station so my car radio is always tuned to the local NPR station. Today as I drove back from the local market, NPR was in the midst of a program about a So. American family whose husband and father had been kidnapped and held for 18 months.

As I listened, I thought how lucky we US Americans are that we don’t have to worry about being kidnapped when we drive home from work. But then I thought about all the millions of US families who worked and saved to build a solid future only to see it crash and burn as a result of the Wall Street’s ever increasing need for profits, regardless of the effect to the overall economy or individual businesses…or families. I thought about the millions of hardworking families who have seen their lives and savings turn to dust. I wondered who was looking out for them, not just saying they were but really cared.

Wheat fieldThat reminded me of a story I read a month ago. A couple of years ago, the world prices for food commodities – wheat and grains – saw a sudden unexplainable rapid increase in prices Millions of people in Africa, as a result, starved. Babies died. After much research, world food organizations and researchers discovered that that our very own mega-banks and hedge funds had been responsible for the sudden, unnecessary price hikes. They speculated on food commodities, increasing grain prices to a level that caused mass starvation, to make billions in profits. At what point does making huge profits become more important than human lives? Am I wrong in believing that this kind of trading action is immoral?

I know companies, and their employees, are in the business of making profits for the company and their shareholders. But when does making profits supercede morality and ethics? Are we once again like those ancient Romans who destroyed and killed randomly for gold?

Last week, Google’s stock dropped because even though Google’s revenues were up, the company’s profits did not meet Wall St expectations. The reason the profits were not higher was because Google chose to invest in company growth, diversifying and expanding their capabilities and hiring new employees. As a result, Wall St. punished Google by downgrading Google’s stock price. Am I the only one who thinks that Wall Street’s action was shortsighted and idiotic?

That husband and father in South America was kidnapped for money. The desire for money drove those kidnappers, and if a good family cried and feared and worried, they were unconcerned. Their goal was gold, and they didn’t care how much harm they caused to attain it.

Is our present day financial system really any different than those kidnappers? It seems to me that both choose money over the value of lives they may harm or destory.

Is morality only a political “buzz” word to be used and abused, or is morality something more central to our belief system and self-view of who each of us are? Is attaining billions in profits or income worth the destruction of millions of lives?


Written by Valerie Curl

July 19, 2010 at 8:27 AM

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