TMI Seminar – Dr. Matthew O’Brien – Money, Manipulation and Mandarins: How Financialisation Frustrates the Common Good

27 October 2016

In the years since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, discontent has swept liberal western democracies in Europe and the U.S.A. Economic inequality is a chief target of populist ire, echoed by intellectual critiques from that of Thomas Piketty to that of Pope Francis. It has been exploited in the U.S. presidential election campaign by the protectionist nationalism of Donald Trump and the leftist rhetoric of Hillary Clinton. Discontent with inequality is genuine, but misplaced. Economic inequality is not itself morally problematic, but symptomatic of a trend that is, viz., financialisation: a disproportionate growth of the financial sector, but beyond that, a transformation of finance from its proper role as a service sector into a means for manipulation and control by the State (e.g., central banks’ ‘quantitative easing’ programmes), as well as for corporate rent-seeking in the private sphere. Rightly understood, finance is an essential, but limited and subsidiary, aspect of economic life, but the financialisation of the post-crisis era threatens the common good. Catholic social thought provides a unique resource for diagnosis and proposal of remedies.

Matthew B. O’Brien is an equity analyst with O’Brien Greene & Co., an investment management firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He serves as a board director and treasurer of the American Philosophical Association, and as board chairman at the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture at the University of Pennsylvania. Before beginning a career in finance, he taught humanities at Villanova University, where he was a Veritas Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Ryan Center in the Department of Political Science, and philosophy at Rutgers University, where he was a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy. He received his B.A. in philosophy at Princeton University and studied Greek and Latin in the post-baccalaureate program in classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin, and was sometime a post-graduate student in philosophy at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

If you are interested in attending please contact Miguel Alegre to receive an invitation.