Saturday, 28 February 2009

Diabolical morality

Many thanks to Guthrum for the pointer to DK, where the infernal blogger has some perceptive things to say about Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension, Iain Dale’s comments thereon, and respecting the law of contract. While perceptive, it’s not very polite, so I’ll copy a slightly amended version of the main points here:

First, the pension agreement will have been made previous to the mess-up, so it's hardly as though RBS haven't learned: it is simply that they respect the law of contract. It may not have been a very good contract, but the business has to stick to it. Because, you see, that's the way that the law works. . . .

if Goodwin does not act in a way that accords with Iain's personal sympathies, then the state should simply over-turn the law. Essentially, Iain's personal morals should take precedence over contract law. . . .

It is, after all, instructive to see how skin-deep the Tories' idea of liberty is, and what little difference there really is between the two main political parties.

And it is a very neat illustration of why personal morals should never be allowed to be involved in the making (or breaking) of laws.

Sorry, but I don’t think that the infernal one is right here. He appears, to me at least, to think that not breaking a contract is not a matter of morality, but of law. The truth of the matter is that keeping a contract (or keeping a promise or keeping your word) is a matter of personal morality. The infernal one appears to have a personal morality that believes that the rule of law is a good thing, and that keeping to the terms of a contract you make is a good thing. He appears to be criticising those who think that you can break your promise or change your contract on a whim. And if that is the case, he is completely right to do so, because it is immoral to break your word. The Bible describes the righteous man as one who “who keeps his oath even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:4).

In the end of the day, “morals” are about what is right and wrong, and “personal morals” are about what an individual believes to be right and wrong. And what you believe to be right or wrong will inevitably influence your views on what laws you make. To say that “personal morals should never be allowed to be involved in the making of laws,” is, I am afraid, complete nonsense.

1 comment:

patently said...

There is also the small moral issue of making an agreement in the autumn, and then going back on that agreement in the spring merely because there is other, worse, news about to break that you wish to hide behind a good old class-war greedy-banker its-not-my-fault-its-his-fault story.

Sir Fred is not the immoral one in this saga, I think.