Friday, 20 March 2009

Criminalising mistakes

Had a good chat with a mate yesterday about big mistakes and morals.

On one side of the conversation, I was putting forward the line that people are generally quite wrong, so mistakes - even very, very large ones - are hardly surprising, while on the other side of the debate, the point was made that these mistakes were sometimes knowingly made, and made for short-term gain at the price of others.

So I was thinking about this last night. At what point do mistakes become crimes? If short-termism was a crime, then we should all go to jail. And if stupidity is condemned then the police will certainly have a big job on their hands.

But then, but then, we do legislate to protect society, and the behaviour of banks has led to unprecedented taxpayer bailouts. We have had to pay for them, and that won't do.

Obama, last night:

Shouldn't someone go to jail, Leno asked, for what had happened to the economy? "Here's the dirty little secret," Obama replied. "Most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal. And that is a sign of how much we've got to change our laws." More "common-sense" regulation of financial products was urgently needed. Still, he went on, people "should have complete confidence in the banks … They shouldn't be putting [money] in their mattresses."

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