Shareholders can't force businesses to act morally. But governments can

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Even Adam Smith, whose writings have been misused by rightwingers, believed there was an ethical dimension to selling

Mark Carney stuck it to laissez-faire capitalists in his Reith lecture last week. There has always been a moral dimension to selling stuff, the former Bank of England governor told any listening free marketers. Their own bible would tell them so.

The bible in question was written by Adam Smith, the 18th-century Scottish moral philosopher and economist whose phrase “the invisible hand” is trotted out by every pro-market evangelist keen to justify the idea that governments should let businesses get on with selling, unfettered except by the most basic regulations.

Carney believes forcing companies to be transparent gives shareholders the ammunition to impose moral obligations on the managers of their assets

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