Paul Brandeis Raushenbush: You said earlier this is not necessarily a religious thing. How do you talk about a moral sense if it is not the “voice of God”?
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: I’m saying that we in the religious community have taken the lead in creating a normative community of business people and financiers who have ethical expectations of one another. It’s done by creating the standards that people expect of one another if they are part of the community.
And this leads to a discovery in a different area that Robert Putnam made in his book “American Grace.” He points out that it’s not so much what you believe that makes the difference; it’s being part of a community. Science Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr had a horseshoe over his door, and he was visited by a fellow scientist, who was amazed and said: “Niels, surely you can’t believe in that superstitious nonsense.” And Niels responded: “Of course I don’t believe in it, but the thing is, it works whether you believe in it or not.”
That is what Robert Putnam was saying about community, and it is what I am saying about community: It works whether you believe in it or not. In the end, our business ethics association works because the leading business people had an influence over their peers and said: We have power, therefore we have responsibility.
If you have questions for Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, leave them in the comments below, and we will forward them along during the Q&A!