The debate was hosted in central London by the Charities Parliament, an initiative of Faithworks, bringing representatives of different sectors of society together in dialogue on topical issues.
John Christensen, of the Tax Justice Network, slammed the “extraordinary lack of ethics” in the banking system and questioned why so little had been done to investigate the banking practices that triggered the recession in 2008.
“We haven’t had nearly enough bankers put into jail yet. Many were selling products they knew very well were toxic,” he said.
Mr Christensen said it would be impossible to tame capitalism without tackling tax havens, which he said had “polluted the entire banking system”, undermined revenue, and amounted to an “attack on democracy and society”.
“We need more disclosure, more contributions to society. Tax is the way companies should contribute to society,” he said.
Tanya Paton, a member of Occupy London Stock Exchange since October 15, drew attention to the sense of frustration towards those in positions of power such as MPs and corporate AGM members.
“They have absolutely no connect whatsoever with the average person on the streets,” she said.
Ken Costa, former investment banker and practising Christian, argued that although there was “something seriously wrong” with the capitalist system there was equally “no reason to throw everything out”.
“We need regulation to set the limits and we need a change of heart,” he said.
He cautioned against the temptation for people on different sides of the debate to “caricature” one, saying that such preconceptions would have to be “broken down if we are to have any serious discuss”.
Theologian and King’s College professor Luke Bretherton said there was a need for more love in the capitalist system and clear limits on what bankers and the state can and cannot do.
He proposed a redistribution of power similar to the German model which has work councils to allow voices further down the chain to be heard.
“We need to embed the state and capitalism in human relationships,” he said.