Necessary Evil: How to Fix Finance by Saving Human Rights

ISBN : 9780190691127

David Kinley
304 Pages
164 x 242 mm
Pub date
May 2018
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  • Authored by a world-renowned scholar of human rights law
  • Marshals a wealth of material from bankers, economists, lawyers and politicians, as well as human rights activists, philosophers, historians and anthropologists, alongside the author's own experiences working in the field
  • Powerfully demonstrates that finance has always had a social function above and beyond the profit motive
  • Argues that finance's wealth-creating capacity has improved standards of living over time, but that the current allocation of finance industry wealth is deeply problematic
  • Outlines a way forward for cooperation between government and finance that can promote human rights and social justice


Finance is the evil we cannot live without. It governs almost every aspect of our lives and has the power to liberate as well as enslave. With the worldâs total financial assetsâvalued at a staggering $300 trillionâbeing four times larger than the combined output of all the worldâs economies, there is, apparently, plenty to go around. Yet, while proponents of finance-driven capitalism point to the trickle-down effect as its contribution to wealth redistribution, there are still nearly a billion people across the globe existing on less than $2 a day; 14 percent of Americans are living below the official poverty line; and disparities in wealth equality everywhere have reached unprecedented levels. Evidently a trickle is not enough.

How can this be when so much wealth abounds, and when finance is supposedly chastened and reformed after its latest global crisis? How, especially, can it be in an age when human rights are more loudly proclaimed than ever before? Can the financial sector be made to shoulder more of the burden of spreading wealth, reducing poverty, and protecting rights? And if so, what role can human rights play in making it happen?

In answering these questions, David Kinley draws on a vast array of material from bankers, economists, lawyers, and politicians, as well as human rights activists, philosophers, historians and anthropologists, alongside his own experiences working in the field. Necessary Evil shows how finance can shed its conceit, return to its role as the economyâs servant not its master, and regain the public trust and credibility it has so spectacularly lost over the past decadeâall by helping human rights, not harming them.


Taming the money monster
The argument
The research journey
The finance/human rights relationship
Stages in the relationship

Chapter 1 Strange bedfellows
Finance as a utility
Financial ownership
Financial weapons of mass destruction
Transformative powers
The poverty prism
The public problem of private poverty
Incentives and exceptionalism
Anthropology on Wall Street
Mission statement

Chapter 2 Living together
Ends and means
Money as an instrument
A common liberal heritage
Human rights globalization
Paying for rights
Finding rights
Human rights and the global economy
Rights Politics
Complicated confederacy
Speaking different languages
Missed opportunities
Human needs and human rights
Rights differences
Rights impacts

Chapter 3 Flirting with Risk
The attraction
From boring banking to fantasy finance
The majesty and tragedy of leverage
Human rights risks
Rich world austerity
Poor world impacts
Faith no more
Greed in finance
When risk goes bad
Risky lessons

Chapter 4 Private matters
What money can buy
The generation and investment of wealth
Remittances and credit
Capital and tyranny
Capital gains
Responsible capital
The business of impact
Equity and inequality
Rewarding capital
Consequences of unequal wealth
Wealth and giving
The givers
The Receivers
Mixed motivations
How much is enough?
The private/public connection

Chapter 5 Public affairs
The voice of human rights
Public funding of human rights
Taxation, representation and rights
The consequences of levying tax - a brief history
Of ghosts and icebergs - the consequences of lost tax
Tax as a force for good
Aid and debt
Development and human rights: more awkward than intimate
Partnering with the private sector
Getting the mix right
Does 'new' aid work?

Chapter 6 Cheating
Deceit and subversion
Illicit finance
Tax evasion
Tax free
Tax sport
Questions of impunity
Regulatory capture
Legal smoke screens
Denial in finance
Denial in human rights
Wishful thinking
Measuring progress

Chapter 7 Counseling and reconciliation
What sort of counsel?
The long shadow of financial exceptionalism
Attitudes and culture
Capacity for change
Regulatory intervention and risk
Identification of risk
Allocation of risk
Risk and the rule of law
Reaching across the divide


About the author: 

David Kinley, Chair in Human Rights Law, University of Sydney
David Kinley is Professor and Chair in Human Rights Law at the University of Sydney, and an Academic Expert member of Doughty Street Chambers in London. He is a former Fulbright Senior Scholar at American University Washington College of Law, and has taught at Oxford and George Washington Universities as well as the Sorbonne. He is a co-author of The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (winner of an American Society of International Law Best Book Award) and author of Civilizing Globalization: Human Rights and the Global Economy. Born in Ireland and somewhat educated in England, he now lives in Australia.

"[A] provocatively argued book ... thoughtful reading for the humanitarian audience." - Kirkus

"David Kinley's Necessary Evil not merely serves to demystify finance, but in so doing he renders accessible to the lay reader an understanding of the possibilities and the language with which to debate those possibilities." - Alice de Jonge, Journal of Business Ethics

"David Kinley's latest call to arms represents indispensable reading for all those who care about and are working toward more sustainable finance, business, and global good governance." - Chip Pitts, Lecturer, Stanford and Oxford Universities, Former Chief Legal Officer, Nokia, Inc., and former Chair of Amnesty International USA

"Kinley reminds us that the financial system should work for the benefit of society and not the other way around." - Natalie Bugalski, Co-Founder, Inclusive Development International

"When we get to the point where well-known financial figures refer to the sector as a 'weapon of mass destruction,' a book that explores how we got to this depressing point - and more importantly - where we go from here to repair the 'necessary evil' is most welcome." - Margaret Wachenfeld, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Human Rights and Business

"This important new book is a powerful and eloquent demonstration of how costly this apparent separation between finance and human rights is to society and of how much we can gain from incorporating human rights considerations into finance." - Danny Bradlow, Professor of Law, Washington College of Law, American University

"A profound human rights analysis of the financial system that offers a disturbing insight of how finance has often failed to advance the human condition. But Kinley's book goes further by offering much needed suggestions for policies that can actually help make finance work for human rights." - Nicola Jägers, Chair International Human Rights Law, Tilburg Law School, Commissioner at the National Human Rights Institute

"A challenging and engagingly written book. Kinley's analysis is impressively wide-ranging, encompassing private and public finance issues including investment, tax and aid; risk and financial regulation; and human rights-impacting shortcomings in global financial architecture. He sets out a convincing blueprint for rendering the global financial system supportive rather than subversive of human rights." - Aoife Nolan, Professor of International Human Rights Law, School of Law, University of Nottingham

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