- ‘A banker and a theologian’ sounds like the start of a bad joke. But for David Miller it’s merely a job description. After working in ﬁnance and business for 16 years, Miller turned to theology, and received his PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2003. Now he’s a professor of business ethics and the director of Princeton University’s Faith and Work Initiative, where his research focuses on Christianity, Judaism and Islam. ‘How to Succeed without Selling Your Soul’ is the students’ popular nickname for his signature course.
- It shouldn’t be so strange for a big bank to hire a theologian such as Miller; what should be strange is that we ﬁnd it strange. It’s our modern talk of unfettered free markets and shareholder value that’s the anomaly. When Miller talks to bankers and executives, they often tell him that they feel as if what they learn in church or synagogue has no place at work. Even he was embarrassed about using the word ‘calling’ when he told his former co-workers that he was leaving for the seminary.
- But neither secular nor religious authorities oﬀer much guidance to bankers trying to link what they do to some kind of ethical tradition. In seminaries and divinity schools there’s a total lack of attention to the economy and the marketplace, Miller says. ‘Clergy may be quick to throw stones at the latest corporate excess on the front pages,’ he told me, ‘but there is not much constructive work.’ The public criticises bankers for their ethical failings, but the bankers themselves have also been failed by our ethical authorities.
- Anyone interested in reclaiming ethics’ place in the world of ﬁnance, however, can build on a several-thousand-year-old foundation. ‘Aristotle, Kant, Bentham – are they dead people who have nothing of interest to oﬀer?’ Miller muses. ‘Or were they on to something? Our economy would be unrecognisable to them. But the questions are still relevant.’
- Sub-title: "Moneylending has been taboo for most of human history. So how did usury stop being a sin and become respectable ﬁnance? "
- For the full text, see Aeon: Mayyasi - Of money and morals
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