Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blagojevich or Madoff, can you really trust anyone?

Year after year, we see a succession of people in positions or trust and authority who let us down. Whether they are politicians - see the number of ex-Governors or members or Congress who get sent to jail - or business people - from John Rigas to Stephen Gardner; Ken Lay to Conrad Black - it never ends. In all probability more people get away with it than get caught. Furthermore, many who do get caught manage to rehabilitate themselves, and few show any shame.


Jonathan said...

People like to think of morality as something that's definite, fixed, and objective. But in fact morality is subjective and varies from person to person. I don't know of an objective way of distinguishing good behaviour from bad; it's a matter of personal opinion.

Society tends to encourage a vague similarity of opinions about morality (at least within one country or one religious affiliation), but this disguises the fact that all people disagree about morality in small ways, and some disagree in large ways. Thus, some people feel no shame about actions that others regard as grossly immoral.

I think this is an inevitable result of human diversity. Society tries to manage the resultant confusion with written laws, which attempt to set a agreed standard; but of course many people privately disagree with any particular law because it's out of tune with their personal morality.

Jonathan said...

So I'm afraid the answer to your question is no: you can't really trust anyone, because you're unlikely to find anyone whose morality is exactly the same as yours.

Jonathan said...

Like most people, I'm quite pleased with my own morality, and I think the world would be a better place if everyone else adopted it. I think there's only a small minority of hypocrites who have a morality they'd prefer others not to adopt.