“Banker” and “morality” are not concepts you would ever expect to find paired together, but some of the biggest bankers in Europe are rushing out to insist that, at heart, they are all about morality.
This unprecedented public profession of personal ethics has been prompted by the ongoing outrage that Europeans are expressing about the economic collapse bankers caused and the obscene bonuses that they’re now paying themselves. Americans are furious about the same thing here, but in Europe the greed is seen as a fundamental moral failure. The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, has even called on bankers to “repent” for their ethical sins.
Incredibly, several bankers are defending themselves by asserting that their outsized bonuses allow them to donate to charity, thus proving their moral soundness. This has generated nothing but guffaws and hoots of derision from the public.
Their charity defense reminds me of a story from Earl Long, former governor of Louisiana. It’s about a rich man who died and showed up at the Pearly Gates, demanding entry into heaven. But you can’t just walk in. An angel stands out in front of the Gates and reviews your life. Then St. Peter decides who gets to come in.
The Angel found that this rich man had been a selfish, no-good so-and-so his whole life. But, the man said, “Wait a minute, I actually have a consistent pattern of charitable giving.” He said he’d once tossed a nickel in a beggar’s cup. Plus, a poor woman he encountered needed help, and he gave her a nickel. Then there was the time that he put a nickel in the Salvation Army kettle.
Hearing all this, the angel turned back to St. Peter and asked, “What in the world are we going to do with this man? And St. Peter said: “Give him back his 15 cents and tell him to go to hell!” That’s a story that every big shot banker needs to hear… and ponder.
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