At the state opening of parliament today (4 March 2014), the Queen announced the government’s plans for the coming year. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have said that their last Queen’s Speech before the 2015 general election will show that the coalition remains capable of “taking bold steps”, and that their legislative programme would be “unashamedly pro-work and pro-business and pro-aspiration.”

Yes, it is wonderful to be pro-aspiration. But aspiring for what? To aspire to be like Messers Cameron and Clegg?

It is great to be pro-work? But, what work and for what outcome? The same can be said about pro-business.

You see, it is always easy and cheap to make sound-bite statements, just in time for the news on TV and newspaper headlines. However, it is always more difficult to explain how the goals you have set for others to achieve can be realised. It is about time, we realise that without the right values nothing can be achieved.

For the last few years Messrs Cameron and Clegg have been telling us that the pain they are inflicting on us is worth it, as they are tackling the 2008 financial crisis. How? By being “unashamedly pro-work and pro-business and pro-aspiration”. Let me tell you why they have so spectacularly failed.

Today’s world, it seems, has become a world of continuing and deepening crises. Wisdom, if we have it, must surely compel us to ask: Why?

Today, we talk so much about the continuing financial crisis which began in 2008. But in 2008, we also had many other pressing catastrophes: energy, food and environmental crises, as well as other international and security emergencies.

These crises are still with us, deepening and continuing. Why?

Is it lack of money or resources? Or lack of technology and IT? Or lack of people with PhDs and MBAs that is causing these crises? Or lack of caring by compassionate and ethical politicians like Messrs Cameron and Clegg? No. What we lack is a moral compass and spiritual sensitivity. We lack wisdom and choose wrong, harmful, and worthless ways.

In short, our crises can only be addressed, reversed and sorted out, if we change direction, adopt new values and concern ourselves with life’s bigger picture. Let me elaborate a bit more:

The Dalai Lama was once asked what surprised him most. He replied: "Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Now let me share with you the words and sentiments of a young executive, a CEO, earning a lot of money, with bonuses, power, and more: “Now it's all about Productivity, Pay, Performance and Profit - the four Ps – which are fuelled by the three Fs: Fear, Frustration and Failure. Just sometimes I wish that in the midst of these Ps (& Fs), there was some time left for another set of four Fs: Families, Friends, Festivals and Fun.”

We need values, we need love, friendship, kindness, generosity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion to be the guiding principles of all we do. Otherwise, no amount of money, capital, technology, IT, theories and policies, can save us from our own mistakes, the crises of our own making.

As an economist with a wide range of experience, I do appreciate the significance of economics, business, work, politics, trade, banking, insurance and commerce, and of globalisation. I understand the importance of wealth creation. But wealth must be created for the right reasons.

Value-led wealth creation for the purpose of value-led expenditure and investment is to be encouraged and valued. Blessed are those wealth creators who know “Why” and “How” wealth is produced and, more importantly, when wealth is created “What” it is going to be used for.

Today’s business leaders are in a unique position to influence what happens in society for years to come. With this power comes monumental responsibility. They can choose to ignore this responsibility, and thereby exacerbate problems such as economic inequality, environmental degradation and social depravation, but this will compromise their ability to do business in the long run. The world of good business needs a peaceful and just world in which to operate and prosper: A world that is truly for the common good.

However, in order to arrive at this peaceful and prosperous destination, we need to change the house of neo-classical economics, to make a fit home for the common good. After all, many of the issues that people struggle over, or their governments put forward, have ultimately economics at their core. As I mentioned before, the creation of a stable society in today’s global world is largely ignored in favour of economic considerations of minimising costs and maximising profits, while other equally important values are put aside and ignored.

Economics once again must find its heart, soul and spirit. Moreover, it should also reconnect itself with its original source, rooted in ethics and morality. Today’s huge controversy which surrounds much of the economic activity and the business world is because they do not adequately and appropriately address the needs of the global collective and the powerless, marginalised and excluded. This, surely, in the interest of all, has to change. The need for an explicit acknowledgment of true global values is the essential requirement in making economics work for the common good. Economics, as practiced today cannot claim to be for the common good. In short, a revolution in values is needed, which demands that economics and business must embrace both material and spiritual values.

In support of the above, we couldn’t have clearer evidence than Lord Kalms’ letter to the Times (08/03/2011):

Ethics boys

Sir, Around 1991 I offered the London School of Economics a grant of £1 million to set up a Chair in Business Ethics. John Ashworth, at that time the Director of the LSE, encouraged the idea but had to write to me to say, regretfully, that the faculty had rejected the offer as it saw no correlation between ethics and economics. Quite. Lord Kalms, House of Lords

By now it must be clear that, given the state of our world today- a world of progress and poverty- the continuing and deepening global economic turmoil merely is a symptom of a much larger moral, spiritual and ethical crisis. In short, the world is facing a crisis of values.

There is no doubt that, we should see this multitude of crises as a wakeup call to action, to see things as they are. We should search with an open mind for the wisdom we need to transform our economic system to a sustainable path, grounded in ecological reality, with respect for justice and dignity for all, and our appreciation for nature and our kinship for all living things.

In conclusion, I wish to recall a few inspiring quotes to focus our minds on life’s bigger picture, what’s important, what’s right, what’s wrong, who we are and what is it that makes us truly human and humane. I only wish that somehow I was able to share these with Messrs Cameron and Clegg:

“He that seeks the good of the many seeks in consequence his own good.” St. Thomas Aquinas

"What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good." Aristotle

'UBUNTU': "I am because we are.”

“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” Buddha

Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value” Albert Einstein

Read more:

“A Better Path”: A Lecture at School of Economic Science

David Cameron: 'Profit Is Not A Dirty Word'- Is he right?

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