How Greed in the Financial Sector Tramples on Human Rights (Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy)
What is at the root of what’s wrong with our economy and our civil society? Weaving the issue of the U.S. death penalty into the global financial crisis, columnist Guido Rossi of Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore is unequivocal: our system of ‘financial capitalism’ has slowly but surely eaten away at the fabric of society, which demands protecting the rights of not only the powerful and well-connected, but of the average person as well.
Nearly unnoticed, a shocking piece of news recently passed newspaper front pages. It concerns the recent imposition of the death penalty against Troy Davisz, a Black man accused of having killed a White policeman more than 20 years ago in the state of Georgia, where racism is a very rooted phenomenon.
At this point, one might ask why, in my opinion, a death sentence in the state of Georgia bears such serious reflection during this devastating economic crisis. The connection is obvious, for the incapacity to resolve the crisis is on every side attributable to the weakness of governments and political institutions. The crisis is therefore more institutional than structural.
A striking example of how far down the U.S. Supreme Court has fallen is last year’s decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Relying on the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the human right to free of expression – it chose to protect the freedom of large financial companies to spend unlimited corporate funds to help elect political candidates. This encourages a dangerous overlap between business and politics and opens the door to the phenomenon of bribery.
It is the cultural dominance of the financial economy that has removed the fundamental rights of the citizen and weakened protections for workers and the lower classes, transferring such guarantees to consumers and the interests of speculators. But even as economists dare to continue declaring that America is certainly in a better situation than Europe, going to far as to cite their Nobel prize winner Gary Beckerz, who said that the state has a “moral obligation” to use the death penalty, they may soon come to realize that the true crisis that led to the dominance of the financial sector over the real economy and the impact of financial capitalism on democratic institutions is what has rendered us powerless to resolve our problems. Fear, insecurity, hard to assert rights, an unbearable gap between rich and poor and unstoppable economic decline are not only due to a lack of European leadership, which European Commission Chairman Jacques Delorsz lashed out against. Nor are these problems due to the political incapacity of Obama, who is often oblivious to international law and human rights. Nor can they be simply attributed to the dictatorship of a shameless parliamentary majority in Italy.
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