Main content

Reith Lectures 2020 – How We Get What We Value

Mark Carney’s Reith Lectures will chart how we have come to esteem financial value over human value and how we have gone from market economies to market societies. He argues that this has contributed to a trio of crises: of credit, Covid and climate. And the former Bank of England governor will outline how we can turn this around.

Lecture 1: From Moral to Market Sentiments

(9am, Wednesday 2 December 2020, BBC Radio 4)

In this first lecture, recorded with a virtual audience, Mark Carney reflects that whenever he could step back from what felt like daily crisis management, the same deeper issues loomed. What is value? How does the way we assess value both shape our values and constrain our choices? How do the valuations of markets affect the values of our society? Carney argues that society has come to embody Oscar Wilde’s old aphorism: “knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing".

Mark Carney

Lecture 2: From Credit Crisis to Resilience

(9am, Wednesday 9 December 2020, BBC Radio 4)

Dr Carney takes us back to the high drama of the financial crisis of 2008, which ended a period when bankers saw themselves as unassailable Masters of the Universe. More than a decade on, how much have the bankers changed their ways? How far has the financial sector changed? Carney says that we must remain vigilant and resist the “three lies of finance". If we don’t, he warns, we will live with a system which is ill-prepared for the next crisis.

Lecture 3: From Covid Crisis to Renaissance

(9am, Wednesday 16 December 2020, BBC Radio 4)

Dr Carney observes that the pandemic has forced states to confront how we value health, wealth and opportunity. During the first few months of the crisis, most states chose to value human life more than the economic well-being of the nation-state. But if that seems to be changing, how do we assess value in this sense? Carney elucidates surprising differences in the financial value put on a human life in different nations and goes on to argue that this reductionist approach fails to take into account deeper thinking about the worth of human existence.

Lecture 4: From Climate Crisis to Real Prosperity

(9am, Wed 23 Dec 2020, BBC Radio 4)

In this final lecture, Dr Carney turns his attention to climate change, arguing that the roots of our environmental emergency lie in a deeper crisis of values. He suggests how we can create an ecosystem in which society’s values broaden the market’s conceptions of value. In this way, individual creativity and market dynamism can be channelled to achieve broader social goals including inclusive growth and environmental sustainability.

The series is chaired by Anita Anand. And for the first time, you will be able to watch all the lectures on BBC iPlayer.