lessons in balance from law and ethics

I’m studying a subject on law and ethics at the moment, and we’re trying to work out answers to complicated questions. What does it take to keep people doing the right thing? What consequences can be built in to a system so that people are motivated to do the right thing?

We build giant, unaccountable companies that scale up at a tremendous rate, based on the concept that there are infinite resources, or infinite customers, or infinite computer power, but of course, on a finite planet, there are finite resources, finite customers, finite computing power. 

Finding a short-cut to making money, or to growing, companies will take that short-cut, and pay the fine, or take the penalty on the chin, whatever that may be. The challenge with regulation seems to be balancing the cost to the public purse of operating a regulatory body, with the benefit of regulation – keeping groups honest, making a level playing field, and seeing justice carried out.

More disturbing is watching the human consequences when these power structures fail the vulnerable people they’re meant to be caring for. How do you keep people safe, while still running activities that pose a non-zero risk? 

Do you cut down all the trees, so that no-one is hurt climbing them? But what if the trees are full of drop-bears? And is there even a way to present this argument in a way that people will be able to hear it, rather than staying with their particular tribe and automatically take their side?

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