Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Is it right?

At Nuremburg, the defence offered by some of the accused was that they 'were only following orders'. It's on nothing like the same scale – and I certainly wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm really comparing either the individuals or the situations - but the recent penchant for saying that 'I was following the rules' does seem to suggest a broadly similar mindset.

The mindset that I'm referring to is one that allows us to abrogate all responsibility for deciding for ourselves whether something is wrong or right. Whoever wrote 'the rule book' has already decided that for us. But at what point did our own personal or collective sense of what is right and wrong get replaced by a set of rigid rules? How and when did the idea take hold that anything goes as long as it isn't specifically banned?

The most recent example, perhaps, is the furore over the massive early pension given to a man who presided over the collapse of one of our biggest banks. It's a 'contractual obligation', it seems. But 'Is it right?' is the question that everyone seems to be asking.

The government, from the prime minister down, seems to be asking the same question – but there is an element of double standards here. It seems to be OK for the politicians – Labour and Tory alike – to say that there is a moral dimension as well as a legal dimension when it comes to the claimed misdemeanours of someone else (such as the rich banker, for instance). But when it comes to their own actions, they're just as quick to hide behind 'the rules'.

The Home Secretary's absurd claim that the back room of her sister's house is her main residence, whilst the family home in Redditch is a second home was 'checked with the officials' and 'within the rules of what's allowed'. Yes – but is it right?

Nick Bourne's purchase of an i-Pod was 'cleared by the officials', and 'within the rules'. Yes – but is it right?

The Tories have accepted vast sums of money from the speculators and gamblers who have done so much to wreck the economy. They've 'done nothing illegal'. Agreed – but is it right?

The gamblers and speculators themselves, the people who've been betting against the interests of ordinary people, have 'done nothing wrong'. They claim that 'the regulators didn't tell them that they couldn't'. Agreed - but is it right?

Certainly, there's a moral dimension to the huge pension being paid to Sir Fred. But that same moral dimension applies in a whole host of other areas as well. Politicians can't really expect to get away with saying that what they've done is alright because it's within the rules and then expect a higher standard of morality from others.

I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that we all have a responsibility to satisfy ourselves that what we are doing is right and proper, as well as simply being legal. Hiding behind a set of rules simply can't absolve people from the responsibility to use a little bit of judgement as well. No more than following orders.


Anonymous said...

I hope and trust that Mr Goodwin keeps the loot as he will be a living reminder as to how stupid HMG ministers are. The Jac-qui Principle is running riot through all Parties and in Plaid the AMs and MPs past and present have failed to deliever the Party Aims .However, they are/will all be living on their fat pensions.
What a bunch of lurkers.

Senn the Cartoonist said...

what is right and proper, and what is legal can be obtusely conflicted.
Your right, it is not right that big sums are paid to bankers when there is an unemployment problem which may get worse, repossessions etc
thougtful post