Why We Need to Put Morality Back at the Heart of Politics

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed at the U.N. in September 2015, together set out a vision of a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world.

The vision is of a world in which no one is poor or hungry, where a sustainable model of economic growth benefits everyone and combats climate change, where there is greater equality within and between nations, and where every individual is treated equally regardless of gender, race or religion. Achieving such a vision will, in turn, require national and global institutions that are capable of delivering greater equality and fairness for all.

Unfortunately, however, our major political and economic institutions have been moving in the opposite direction for decades. As a result, inequalities have increased and self-interest now dominates societies, to the neglect of the common good.

A central challenge posed by the SDGs is to shift the cultures of our political and financial systems from self-interest to concern for others, and demonstrate once again that morality is a viable option in the modern world.     Continue reading

Psychology and the U.N. Development Goals

Before the end of 2015, the leaders of the world’s nations will attend two major summits. Their task is nothing less than to change the course of history.

This week in New York, the U.N. post-2015 Development Summit seeks to agree a set of goals that together aim to create a more peaceful and equal world by 2030. Then, in December, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference will aim to reach a legally binding agreement on climate, with the goal of keeping global warming below 2°C.

A discussion of human psychology, however, will be largely absent from both of these crucial meetings. Laudable as current international efforts are, they are unfortunately doomed to failure if they do not pay more attention to some unpalatable facts about the psychology of our species.    Continue reading

Is Humanity Psychologically Capable of Building a Fairer World?

The United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda will be held from 25 to 27 September in New York. The summit will adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve.

The summit sets out the following vision for a more peaceful, sustainable and equal world:

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Psychopaths and the Rule of Law

Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.

                                            John Locke

The spread of democracy has been one of the most profound political changes in human history, and provides an indispensable defence against those who abuse power by oppressing others. But as many pseudo-democracies attest, elections on their own provide only a weak and often impotent defence. In many countries today that are deemed to be democratic, elections are simply a sham used by leaders to legitimise autocratic rule. The fundamental pillar upon which democracy must rest, and without which it becomes a mockery of itself, is the rule of law.    Continue reading

Do Psychopaths Rule Corporate Finance?

‘In the name of innovation, a sinister alternative financial universe had been created, in which customer care and ethics had been swapped for pure greed and down-right treachery.’[1]   Iain Martin

Fred Goodwin, the former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, illustrates the difficulties we face when we try to identify the role of people with dangerous personality disorders in contemporary events.      Continue reading

Kleptocracy and the Arab Spring

When institutions are strong, citizens demand rights; when institutions are weak, citizens beg for favors.[1]

In many countries today, governments are designed not to govern but to serve the personal enrichment of ruling elites. Under such kleptocratic systems those in power do not exercise the functions of state but concentrate instead on extracting resources for personal gain. For such regimes, governing is just a front activity.[2]

Kleptocracy is a major factor fuelling instability across North Africa and the Middle East, and is a major cause of the rise of Islamic extremism across the region.     Continue reading