The Vice Fund: Economics IS Morality
Over the weekend I heard an interview with an appalling young man who manages "The Vice Fund," a financial portfolio with investments in tobacco, alcohol, gaming, and weapons companies. This man blithely told the interviewer that the fund wasn't immoral. "It isn't about morality," he said, "It's about making unbiased, unemotional financial decisions."
I'm sorry, but it is a moral decision. It is an emotional -- or perhaps emotion denying -- decision.
Investing in tobacco is making a moral choice to support an industry that lies bald-faced to the public and juries alike, manipulates it's products to maximize addictivity, and markets a product which kills its users, and those who live in close proximity to its users, at horrific rates.
Gambling isn't much better, although it ruins people financially, rather than stealing their health. (Of course, the stress involved in financial ruin and the destruction of family that often follows, could have serious repercussions on the health of those addicted to gambling, not to mention the problem of depression when your debts are overwhelming...)
Further, although this charming young gentleman may claim that investing in these companies is not an issue of morality but business acumen, that claim in and of itself is a moral judgement. He is saying that making money is more important than any other considerations -- like the havoc some of these products create, like getting rich at the cost of death and financial devastation of others.
This, to me, is the biggest bane of capitalism. The notion that profit is not bound by morality. Or the judgement that profit supercedes all other moral considerations. That has led to such sufferring -- from sweat shop factories, to the exploitation of consumers and the willingness to sell addictive products that kill their users, to increasingly impossible demands on corporate workers for ever increasing hours on the job and higher and higher rates of productivity -- it is downright evil.
When the moral component of these decisions, these value judgements is denied, it more than evil.
The reporter let him weasel away. When he asserted they were just making decisions on financial performmance, without regard to morality, or emotional responses to these companies and their products, she let him get away with it. She didn't pursue him, pointing out that it is a fallacy to think any decision can be made outside the realm of morality. Everything decision is a moral decision.