Is it bad to be greedy?

Ulrich Wickert: It is not the system that is greedy, but the person

It is not easy to rail against the excesses of the present without falling into the attitude of the cultural pessimist. But you can do it. One can denounce the decline in values ​​without murmuring the downfall of the West. If you are well informed. When you mention dates and facts. If, in one word, you argue rationally. And Ulrich Wickert does that like few other opinion makers of our day.

He has already shown this in "The honest is the stupid" or "Crooks you have to call crooks". Now he is continuing his committed but never enraged criticism of the times using the example of today's financial management. "Money talks, the world is silent. What values ​​must be worth to us" is the title of the book, perhaps with an all too catchy borrowing from the proverbial vernacular. But that shouldn't deter anyone from reading it.

Because as specifically as Wickert reminds us once more of how irresponsible, even unscrupulous, business with human greed has been conducted in recent years: At its core, it is about an ethical problem. Wickert wants to show that the ruthless enforcement of profit maximization is not only morally contestable, humanly unsympathetic - but also detrimental to the matter itself, in other words to economic strength. Financial leaders have been preaching for years: When it comes to money, you have to elevate egoism to a virtue.

But Wickert is convinced of the opposite. Using the example of great entrepreneurs from the past and, thankfully, the present, he can show that business flourishes where decency, honesty, helpfulness and solidarity prevail. Not only does he think of the often quoted Robert Bosch.

Rehabilitation of social virtues

In addition, Wickert also deals with the general climate in the West, where greed and avarice thrive so well. He attributes this to the dominance of what he calls "systemic thinking". "In fact, greed is no longer seen as a personal vice, but as something that is encouraged by the system." But that is, regardless of whether it is put forward by financial experts or neoliberals, nothing but a lazy excuse, because: "It is always the person who acts."

And, Wickert also takes a look at that, in our jurisprudence and incidentally also in the Christian religion, the ideas of good and bad, just and unjust are thoroughly intact. Overall, Wickert's rehabilitation of social virtues is a good defense against fog throwers from high finance.

Ulrich Wickert: If money talks, the world is silent. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg. 206 pp., 21 euros.