Moral HazardAuthor: Kate Jennings
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1. The issues of terminal illness and euthanasia are topical and could form the basis for a discussion with reference to recent Australian incidents.
2. The moral vacuity of corporate globalism is another theme: 'the real nature of the global financial markets: perilous, jerry-built, mortared with spit and cupidity, a coat of self-serving verbiage slapped on to tart up the surface and hide the cracks.' (p. 142) Read Naomi Klein's No Logo (Flamingo, 2000) or some of the books referred to by Jennings at the end of the novel, in relation to this discussion.
3. This novel is about 'the tendency to ignore the moral hazard involved in rescuing mismanaged financial institutions for the good of the entire system. ("Where's the incentive not to screw up?")' (p. 52) Discuss.
4. 'I kept my distance from diversity issues. I admired the people who put energy into the task, but they were Penelopes, always weaving, their work unraveling during the night… And to be honest I found young women bankers off-putting. They seemed to have perfected - indeed, made it into an art form - the kind of hand gestures that showed off large diamond rings to maximum effect. And they could be more obnoxious, more condescending, than their male counterparts.' (pp. 91-2) Has equal opportunity legislation been put to opportunistic uses? Discuss.
5. 'Traders are maggots on the meat of capitalism.' (p. 95) Discuss.
6. The inequity in the wages paid to high level executives as opposed to high school teachers is raised (p. 121). Do you think people who take large scale risks should receive greater financial encouragement than those who work in education or caring professions? Discuss.
7. Mike's dismissal and his subsequent decision to open a dive school is an example of how astute people are being lost to the workforce through unscrupulous work practices. Discuss.
8. 'The United States is a democracy, and yet it's powered by autocratic corporations. Its engines are fascist.' (p. 124) Discuss.
9. Hedge funds are explained (pp. 128-9). What do you know about them or any of the currently trendy financial theories?
10. 'Why was so much of our money invested in a country that has never had a market economy, never had the civil institutions that make a market economy possible? Not only that, but a country run by gangsters.' (p. 140) Is this an apt description of western countries' foreign aid programs in general?
11. This is a novel about New York, too. What impressions do you have of the city from reading this book?
12. 'The dailiness of life - that's what gets you through the hard times… that's what stops your heart from breaking.' (p. 171) How does Cath survive these years? Is it through strength of character? Discuss.