Monday, 18 February 2013

Fairness, trust & honesty . . .

Horse meat lasagna tastes not bad, I'm pretty sure no-one worked out that there was a problem with the stuff based on taste. Same goes for the burgers I suppose, I doubt the current problem was flagged up because someone thought that their burger didn't taste bovine. I think the problem in most peoples mind centres around two things. One, we the good people of the UK are a bit squeamish about eating something that most of us would regard as one of the cute lovable animals, and two, more importantly we don't like being lied to. 

It strikes me that in recent times we've seen scandal after scandal, this could well be the status quo and  now that I'm  a proper adult, politically aware and interested I've only just started to take notice. I don't think that's the case however. There has been scandal and political problems for as long as there's been people. It strikes me however that the majority of the problems in recent times, from phone hacking, MP's expenses and lies about WMD's in Iraq, to banks mis-selling and fixing the libor rate through to the recent horse meat scandal all revolve around the issue of honesty and trust.  

The purpose of the law is to regulate society, make sure we behave ourselves. It works pretty well when dealing with obviously criminal behaviour, thou shalt not stab people etc etc. It does however seem to be lacking when it comes to regulating the dishonest behaviour of those in power. There was a case of a successful conviction for fraud in Scotland where a man tricked a woman into sleeping with him by pretending to be her husband (William Fraser, 1847 ARC 280). Another case where fraud was held to have been committed was where a miner who changed the labels on a bag of coal to try and earn a bonus (Adcock v Archibald 1925 JC 58), he didn't get his bonus by the way, unlike the bankers. 

So fraud can be relatively simply defined as "the bringing about of any practical result by false pretenses." It strikes me that fiddling your expenses might qualify, or lying to people to make them buy your financial products, or even telling people that they're eating cow rather than horse. I can't help but ask myself why, in these troubled times where dishonesty from above is causing so many problems, in so many industries, on such a grand scale, effecting the lives of so many, fraud convictions aren't going through the roof. 

I am aware that I may be oversimplifying things somewhat, but I do feel quite strongly that the law is failing in its role when it comes to the regulation of the behavior of those within a great many industries upon whom we rely daily. How long will we accept the justification of dishonesty under the banner of "every body else is doing it" or the Nuremberg defense when it comes to those acting within big corporations or blatantly hiding behind the corporate veil to avoid any kind of personal responsibly? 

Just some thoughts on the current state of affairs, I need to run, my dinner's on the table, Quorn lasagna tonight. 


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