About John Lilburne



Three articles on ethics and politics

I am particularly impressed with the three articles I have linked to about ethics and politics.

The Religion Report is a radio programme which I listened to this morning. It interviewed two professors in the field of ethics who I thought had some excellent things to say.

Damian Grace: Well look, regulation won't do the job by itself. The fact of the matter is you do need regulation, because you need some supporting structures for individuals to be able to lean on. To load up individuals ­ their sense of virtue, their character ­ and say "you're responsible for this" is unfair. You have to go to structures which will support them. That means legislation, and regulation, and it means enforcement. If a corporation has a notion that what's legal is ethical, it won't succeed, because it'll aim too low. It's more or less like shooting an arrow over a distance ­ you have to aim high. So in order just to meet the minimal requirements of regulation, you have to have an ethical culture. And so building an ethical culture is an important consideration for every corporation.
Stephen Crittenden:
And how do you build an ethical culture?
Damian Grace:
Well, all the evidence suggests that you start from the top and you work down. ...

Damian Grace: I think it's very unfortunate, having seen my daughter go through the HSC, and deal with literary studies as they're taught today, I think it can give the impression to students that science is bogus and that crystals will do as well as physics, religion has absolutely nothing to say to the present, that history is bunk, and history's made up by whoever's the victor in any kind of conflict. These are not the sorts of values which build citizenship, they're not the values which build corporate responsibility, and I don't think they're very useful for people in building good families. ...

Stephen Cohen: I think the answer to the question is yes, people do behave differently. It's important that notion that Damian was talking about, at all levels, this idea of "tone at the top" being very important. People do take more than just a cue from the people they recognise as their leaders, sometimes former leaders, they actually act according to the way these folks behave. They get licence, or don't get licence from the way these people behave. And answering the second part of the question, I think the way that a number of people often cope with this is they leave their private morality at the doorstep. They believe that the way things are done in a business or wherever there's leadership, is simply a matter of, and simply is maybe the wrong word to put here, it's a matter of doing what the leaders actually expect and give licence to, or more likely identify themselves, that is what the leaders themselves identify as the values around here. So if theirs don't coincide with the values you've got, well just tough, leave yours at the door, this is the way things are done around here. ...

Angela Shanahan's article appeared in The Australian newspaper today. It also had part of Tony Abbott's speech earlier in the week.

Posted by J.R. Lilburne 7 August 2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

"The sins of the CEOs" on Religion Report

"Sacred life knows no church" by Angela Shanahan

"The spectator in the breast of man" by Tony Abbott, 3 August 2002