Saturday, August 04, 2012

Greed wasn’t good in the Middle Ages – historian looks at medieval business ethics

ith business and financial scandals common in today’s new headlines, the axiom ‘Greed is good’ often seems to be the working philosophy of many wealthy executives and businessmen. But greed hasn’t always been popular in Western societies.

 Stanford historian Laura Stokes is uncovering how attitudes toward “acceptable greed” have done a turnaround in the past 500 years. Self-serving behavior deemed necessary on Wall Street today might have been despised in medieval Europe. One might even have been murdered for using wealth as a justification for circumventing societal norms.

 Capitalism, Stokes has found, managed to flourish in the intensely community-conscious culture of medieval times. Men of business successfully built financial empires based on trade and credit, even though unbridled greed was universally condemned.

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