Thursday, October 16, 2008


1. What is your principle on RESPONSIBILITY. And how does that play out in your life? (principle defined as: set of beliefs that guide your actions).

The Australian Bar Exam which I took earlier in the year, imbues each aspiring lawyer with a strong sense of the importance of professional responsibility. It is perhaps a measure of how far the reputation of lawyers has fallen as a result of a few taking advantage of legal privileges and exploiting their power advantage over clients. Lawyers who screw their clients (literally and figuratively); lawyers engaged in fraud, malfeasance, crime and all kinds of other nefarious activity. These people failed to recognise that responsibility shadows rights and privileges – this is I suppose my own guiding belief.

Living in a civil and functioning society requires all members to be fundamentally responsible. Having said this, to err is to be human and all of us sometimes fall short of acting responsibly.

2. Where does the principle of responsibility come from? Does it come from religious beliefs? As an offshoot from philosophical principles like “the golden rule? Does it rise out of fear? Is it a requirement of being human?

I think it was Socrates who spoke of the ‘first moral reaction of man’. What do you do when you see a person bleeding and in distress in the street? What do you do if a group of thugs threaten a stranger in the subway car you are riding? What do you do if you learn that your colleagues are involved in corporate fraud as Sherron Watkins did at Enron? These situations require great personal courage and a sense of higher responsibility.

For me the sense of what I would personally do in these kinds of situations arises from what Freud would describe as a strong ‘super-ego’ developed by my parents who embody the principle of ‘self-sacrifice’ and higher purpose.

3. What is something you learned from being irresponsible

I guess like many young people going through their rites of passage, I had an especially bad night when drowning in a toilet became a real possibility after downing far too many tequila shots. The next day I vowed never to be so cavalier with my life again.

4. What is an example in the world today in which you, or someone greater than you needs to take more responsibility?

I’m writing this the day after the Dow dropped another 8% or so and in the week after Richard Fuld (former CEO of the now bankrupt Lehman Brothers) did his best to justify the half billion dollars or so he ripped out of the company.

Clearly the issue of corporate responsibility has become acute to the point of potentially becoming a more significant issue then global terrorism. Certainly its absence has threatened the world in a way that terrorism hasn’t.

Our stewards of industry, leaders of banks, regulators and individual shareholders and consumers need to build a far more sustainable capitalist model in which we all exercise greater responsibility and restraint.

5. Is everyone in the world “responsible” for everyone else in the world? Is a country responsible for something greater than their country?

I think everyone in the world has a responsibility to protect and uphold human rights. Rick mentioned Darfur and I note that in one of the recent Presidential debates, Obama was asked a similar question. His answer was brilliant – if we had chance to prevent the Jewish Holocaust of course we would. The world may have had a chance to intervene in the Rwandan genocide but failed. The problem is that these global situations are almost always nuanced and occasionally factually ambiguous – yet where there is clear evidence of severe abuse of human rights, history tells us we should act.

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