Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Stocks, shares, morals and ethics

I have given some thought to my own morality and how this corresponds with how I would buy stocks and shares, I shall try to share these thoughts with you, but its around 4am when I'm writing this, so it could be a bit woo.

I used to have morals and stuff, or I thought I did, within my own smartie tube. Moral justification for my actions even when I was being a bit of cunt. But some time around 2003 it all got a bit blurry and I didn't give much thought to such things. But now I'm grasping around for some moral framework. Kropotkin and his mutual aid seems to be a bit unjudgemental, too evolutionary to be a moral framework. I feel more at home with Epictetus and his stoicism, "Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them”, by not giving a shit, a shit is not given, or something.

Right now I'm reading Kant, his categorial imperitive sounds cool "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.".

I'm not sure how it corresponds but I'm quite ambivalent about tax avoidance, its legal but certain quarters frown on it. Tax evasion is illegal, down with that sort of thing. One of UKUncut's things about tax avoidance is that whilst its okay for individuals to have ISA to avoid paying personal taxes, when multi-national corporations do it for hundreds of millions of pounds, then its not okay. The categorical imperitive dictates that this is invalid, tax avoidance is either univerally okay or universally not okay. Maybe its a continuum fallacy, I dunno, I don't care either.

So just to err on the side of caution, I'm going to give the tax avoiding benefits of ISAs a miss and pay full tax on any savings, and be damned. Its the sort of thing that The Man Who Hates Fun would do.

However, that still leaves me trying find something to do with the great piles of wealth I have accumulating around me. So on to stocks and shares.

After reading some Guardian artical on ethical investing, I don't think I trust other people's judgement on what's an ethical investment or not. Is investing in guns and nuclear power bad, but investing in tax avoiding companies good? Is investing in human trafficing bad, but in RyanAir good? I'm not sure.

However, whilst I'm uncertain about investing ethically, I'm absolutely certain that in terms of spending my ethics are the greatest, I know how to spend my money better than anyone else, the more money I have to spend, the better the world will be, on my terms, by my own morals whatever they be. Other people could disagree with that, but then, that's just them saying their morality is superior to mine.

Anyhoo, given that ethically the more money I have to spend, the better, then the return on investment of my investments is more important than the morality of the companies I invest in.

For example, if I buy shares in British American Tobacco, who've been steadily delivering 25% year on year for the past ten years then that is a morally good investment. BATS make their money from willing customers willingly buying their tobacco products, they don't make money out of me buying their shares, I make money out of them. Other people could own their shares, but then other people would be getting that 25% year on year and then possibly spending it in ways that aren't as ethical as me.

On the other hand, shares in QinetiQ, the global defence company, who make weapons that kill people, have given a relatively crap return on investment over the past five years, in fact their price is 40% down over five years. Regardless of whether they sell weapons, they are a morally bad investment.

Of course, all of this is hopelessly naive. I know little about morals, or the difference between morals and ethics. And also, I'm not too good at stocks and shares.

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