Sir Anthony Giddens, a left leaning sociologist turned philosopher and the man behind Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’, is ‘responsible’, among other things, for re-stoking the ‘who came first, structure or agency’ debate.
And he issued a very powerful warning (my words): ‘No agent, no matter how wise or well intended, is able to foresee and control all the consequences of his actions and decisions’. He refers to this phenomenon as the ‘unintended consequences of modernity’.
About the same time as Giddens issued his warning in Britain across the ocean, in Chicago, Milton Friedman refocused the economic thinking: “companies should “make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.” “
It seems that nowadays nobody heeds any attention to any of them.
On the left the progressives try to bring about ‘their’ progress through ever more byzantine rules and regulations imposed by the governments they control while on the right some people act as if money is the sole legitimate goal which may be pursued at all costs. Long forgotten are both Giddens’s warning against the arrogance of the decision makers and Friedman’s counsel: “while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom”!
Is there anything to be done about this?
Forty years ago some Romanians were sent by a state owned company to Germany to do some lengthy repairs. Their car needed an oil change so they did exactly what they were accustomed to: puled over to a quiet spot near the apartment building were they lived and performed the operation on the curb, collecting diligently all the used oil. In five minutes the police was there. The Romanians were flabbergasted: “OK, we understand that this is against the law in Germany. We didn’t know this but we are not going to contest it. But how did you find out? No living soul came near us since we started.” “Look over there!” the policeman pointed to a window. “Somebody called us!”
Maybe this is the explanation for Germany’s success. Everybody is free to do whatever he wants but simultaneously everybody else is watching AND not accepting any bullshit from anybody.