The Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law

Necessary Evil: How to Fix Finance by Saving Human Rights

A book talk with author David Kinley on his latest book "Necessary Evil: How to Fix Finance by Saving Human Rights"

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 world’s total financial assets (valued at a staggering $300 trillion) being four times larger than the combined output of all the world’s economies, there is, apparently, plenty to go round. Yet, while finance points 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% 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 ten years ago in 2008? 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 economy’s servant not its master, and regain the public trust and credibility it has so spectacularly lost over the past decade - all by helping human rights, not harming them. 


Professor David Kinley is 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 specializes in the area of the global economy and human rights and has worked for more than 25 years with governments, international organizations, law firms, corporations and NGOs in the field. His recent books include Civilising Globalisation: Human Rights and the Global Economy; Principled Engagement: Promoting Human Rights in Repressive States; and The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (with Saul and Mowbray). His latest book, Necessary Evil: How to Fix Finance by Saving Human Rights is being published in the US in February 2018 by Oxford University Press. He also has a TEDx Talk: How Much Do Banks Owe Us?