Sunday, 1 March 2009

The patron saint of politicians

Concerning Goodwin's pension, one of this blog's readers - electro-kevin - reminded me of a passage from the play, "A Man For All Seasons". The play re-enacts the life of Saint Thomas More.

The passage is worth serious study, since it outlines the importance of respecting the law, even when dealing with unpopular and morally reprehensible individuals, which I think safely covers the best attributes of Sir Fred.

By the way, Saint Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians.

Alice: Arrest him.

More: Why, what has he done ?

Margaret: He's bad !

More: There is no law against that.

Roper: There is ! God's law !

More: Then God can arrest him.

Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.

More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.

Roper: Then you set man's law above God's.

More: No, far below. But let me draw your attention to a fact - I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God.

Alice: While you talk, he's Gone !

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law !

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil the benefit of the law !

More: Yes. What would you do ? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil ?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that !

More: Oh ? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat ? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then ? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

A thought provoking passage.

QG said...

An excellent and very timely post Alice. NuLabor are obviously trying to deflect attention from their own failings. Nomatter how much I dislike the fact that Sir Goodwin is being made rich for failure, retrospectively changing pension law is an attack upon private property rights which we should resist - however much we disklike Sir Goodwin. Laws aren't just for popular people.

Anonymous said...

I remember doing "A Man..." for O Level English.

This was pre 1989, so the rule of law theme wasn't brought to our attention at the time.

Shame, really.

dearieme said...

"The play re-enacts the life of Saint Thomas More": only in fictional form. A fuller version would show you Protestants being tortured in Sir Thomas's own home for his pleasure.

So17 said...

New Labour has had its finger in every pie concerning how the great unwashed should lead their lives.
Smoking,Drinking,cannabis,driving a car,raising your own children,you name it they have made a law or directive about it.
However in the case of the largest housing price bubble ever seen,nothing, nada, nixipooch.
Gordon Brown was lauded for handing over interest rates to the BoE.
I now see that move as a first step in 'plausable deniability'.
Fred Goodwin is just a rat being shot at by the ships captain as he tries to leave the sinking ship.

Anonymous said...

The market needs to know how Brown will manage to bring the deficit under control in the future. The answer is that the obligations of occupational schemes are rewritten. The British public are so stupid they deserve it.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this argument is that the current law is crooked. We have EU law which is designed by lobbyists to prevent competition, thus entrenching large corporations. We also have weak punishment for white collar crime, again at the behest of lobbyists often for benefitting city types.
in addition we have the fiat money system, which enables bankers and government to legally rob us.
In this case I don't think we should have any respect for the law, because it is an ass. If people who want to change the system don't point this out then the robbery will continue, within the letter of the law.

ed thomas said...

The question I have is whether Sir Fred ever signed anything saying he would be a responsible manager, or words to the effect. Can it be he signed a contract which didn't specify any responsibilities? I am sure that if he did a motivated lawyer could prove that Fred violated his contract first of all, and could calculate the penalty for that...

Can't be having true responsibility though, can we? Might have an effect on the politicians.

cambstreasurer said...

I'd be more than happy to see the bank see where they could get by suing Sir Fred, but if politicians start ripping up contracts to serve a greater good, where does it stop?

There already seems to be a campaign to remove security of tenure from council house tenants. I'm not keen on the idea of re-enacting the Clearances in Birmingham.

electro-kevin said...

I'm humbled that you think this worthy, Alice. Thank you for publishing.

To Anon's pertinent point at 06.24 that the law is an ass:

Here we have a fast, reactive, knee jerk response with all the hallmarks of Nu Lab governance. More wrongs don't make more rights and let's remember that this was an issue of abbrogation of responsibility by our Government to regulate. The law is NOT an ass - it simply hasn't been applied properly.

Here we witness Harperson muddying waters, diverting fire ... duping an easily lead electorate and effectively fomenting a hate campaign against leading bankers. (A similar tactic was deployed against Dr David Kelly.) I am convinced that our Government are complicit in stoking up a riot so that they can invoke the Civil Contingencies Act and suspend democracy.

But of law in general - Blair/Brown have been like a couple of cowboy builders let loose in an ancient Cathedral with a Kango hammer.

Will the relationship between the banks and Government ever be the same again - bearing in mind that this is our principal 'industry' ?

(I place an awful lot of importance on semantics - the abuse of the word 'industry' has caused much oversight in our economy.)

electro-kevin said...

And of that easily lead electorate:

There is a dream of human progress which makes it to consist in a gradual easing of the lot of man, in the gradual lightening of his task, until the last straw of difficulty has been lifted out of his path, the last peril extinguished, the last lee-shore weathered and all smooth sailing for ever afterwards. May it never come true! Man is not made to live under those conditions; the lines on which he is built are far too high and large to fit into them. He will never accommodate himself to an easy life unless we are to assume that his nature has degenerated in the meantime.

Ill adapted for living an easy life, he is well adapted for living a difficult one. It is precisely when his circumstances are easiest that he gives the poorest account of himself, and the best when he is fighting against odds. Never is he more at home in this universe that when he finds himself “upon an engagement very difficult”. “It behoves the son of man to suffer many things, that he may enter into his glory.” Give him a life in which suffering plays no part, and you defraud him of the core of his being. You say to him: “Be a hero no more. Henceforth, take your ease; eat drink and be merry, be Fortune’s darling and a smiling fool.” A wise man turns his head from your offer with loathing

L.P.Jacks.

Anonymous said...

Ed Thomas, I wonder if they can somehow contractually oblige people use 20/20 hindsight for running companies. He does have a fiduciary responsibility which is to maximise share price and until summer of 2008 he did a pretty good job. Then the government forced the banks to raise money at the worst possible time, leaked a rumour about how the banks were going to be part nationalised and forced to re-lend. They also lied about the hands off approach and apparently lied to Mr Goodwin about the need to give his pension. So if you are looking to hang some crooks from a lamp post may i politely suggest you are looking in the wrong place.

ed thomas said...

"I wonder if they can somehow contractually oblige people use 20/20 hindsight for running companies. He does have a fiduciary responsibility which is to maximise share price and until summer of 2008 he did a pretty good job."

Is his only fiduciary responsibility to maximise share price? Over what time period would that be? Until the summer of 2008 it wasn't all that hard apparently to drive up share prices. I'd say he did a helluva job at that.

Anonymous said...

ed thomas, over the time period he was CEO. If you think it was so easy then it is a shame you didn't give up a CEO job at another bank, move over to a sleepy local bank, transform it by taking over a much larger bank and deliver billions in profits.... you too would get paid for "nothing". Oh and you need to become one of the youngest partners in a major accounting firm and successfully liquidate one of the largest - at that time - bankruptcies in the world.

Easy really, don't know why everyone doesn't do it rather than doing the rocket science job of teaching their native tongue or being voted into a safe labour seat

ed thomas said...

"If you think it was so easy then it is a shame you didn't give up a CEO job at another bank, move over to a sleepy local bank, transform it by taking over a much larger bank and deliver billions in profits...."


Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Look, if you have a working system and you break it, I want some accountability for that. I could 'a broken things too, I tell ya.

ed thomas said...

Same goes for Gordon Brown, by the way.

Anonymous said...

ed thomas, he was asked to leave and gave up over a years worth of pay and share options. When a student of yours fails to speak perfect english at the end of your class do you show the same level of accountability?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous- why don't you become a little braver and shed your anonymity. It's always fun to be singled out on the basis of a personal judgement by someone who doesn't know you- you surely wouldn't want to miss out.

On the question of accountability, it is fairly obvious that I would expect to be held accountable in proportion to my income :-).

Ed Thomas