The ongoing popular witch-hunt of Sir Fred Goodwin over his pension is an interesting case. Principally the events show how weak a grasp that most politicians, journalists and the public at large seem to have over the theory and practice of justice.
Sir Fred Goodwin clearly made mistakes in the running of RBS and he lost his position accordingly. Putting aside the recriminations as to whether or not he should have been sacked, the fact is he wasn’t. As a consequence he is to (and certainly should) receive his £703,000 per year pension.
Gordon Brown argues that he shouldn’t be rewarded for failure, but since when have pensions been performance related? If they were, most civil servants would see little of the final salary pensions they still retire on. But more importantly than this, justice demands that contracts are honoured. The type of kangaroo court that Harriet Harmon has set in motion, based as it is upon a perceived court of public opinion, runs counter to the sanctity of contract.
It is a slippery slope from here. The demand for the head of Goodwin subverts the foundations of true justice in favour of the perverse relative of ‘social justice’, a concept that is firmly and convincingly challenged in an excellent article by the sublime Anthony de Jasay. In the same piece, de Jasay in passing suggests that the only real-world example where the equality of social justice exists is in prison camps. A stark warning of the path this country is currently on.
Apparently Goodwin might leave the country. And why not? If they could, witches on trial in early modern Europe - who were massacred for another perverted vision of justice - would have done much the same thing.