Daniel Greenberg, Parliamentary Lawyer

The Big Book of Magic Stuff tells us that things can be legal but still not ethical. Thank goodness for my Big Book of Magic Stuff, you wouldn’t believe what I’d get up to if I could do anything that wasn’t illegal.


11 thoughts on “Daniel Greenberg, Parliamentary Lawyer

  1. Good morning Peter – yes, I guessed you wouldn’t be impressed! And your summary is as accurate as usual. Yes, one doesn’t need a magic book in order to behave decently. But I find that some of the details in the Jewish religious code of business ethics do add a certain amount of value to what I regard as intuitive. The “mi she’pora” declaration that I mentioned this morning is quite helpful in concentrating minds on the ethical implications of gazumping, late cancellations and so on. So although I hope I wouldn’t get up to anything too horrendous without my magic book, I do find that it adds helpful context and focus. Sorry to disappoint again … (Of course, my thought this morning was partly to remind myself and other religious people not to forget the ethical underpinnings of religion, which is always a danger with highly-ritualised religions such as orthodox Judaism.) Many thanks, Daniel.


    1. Good morning Daniel, and thank you, once again, for taking the time to reply to people on my little blog.

      “I guessed you wouldn’t be impressed!”

      A long, long time ago, probably over 10 years, one report on TFTD described my attitude to it as “remorselessly dismissive”. Of course, in those days I used to write lengthy parodies that tried to cover everything raised by the presenter. So you can count yourself lucky that my dismissal now comes in the form of a more succinct one liner. (OK, in this case, a three liner.)

      “Sorry to disappoint again”

      Please don’t worry, I’m never disappointed by TFTD.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The question left unanswered by Daniel Greenberg this morning is ‘who is my neighbour?’ The HoL case he cited suggests that the answer is ‘anyone who might be affected by my actions’. The rabbis whom he calls in evidence seem also to have arrived at a similarly broad interpretation.

    Yet the original texts that purport to tell us what the IMF had in mind are quite clear: a neighbour was a fellow Israelite. Members of other tribes or ethnic groups were fair game: indeed, the IMF issued quite detailed instructions as to what should happen to them, which certainly would not have got past the HoL in 1931.

    So what we have today is the end result of a process of re-interpretation and modification of old rules, and the invention of new ones, in the light of changing conditions and facts on the ground. We could have got there without any of the religious myths that surrounded the original rules. And many of us would argue that religious myths are now a serious encumbrance to the establishment of universal rules for today’s human beings.


    1. Thanks Stephen – no, the word “re’echo” in the Bible does not mean another Israelite – it is a different word and clearly means something wider, although different people interpret it to different extents. A fairly modern interpretation which I favour is that it includes anyone who subscribes to a rule of law system, whether or not the precise rules of that system correspond to the Biblical laws. And you are also wrong that Lord Atkin suggested that neighbour means ‘anyone who might be affected by my actions’ – he said expressly that it does not mean that, it means someone in respect of whom I have acquired a duty of care – and there are as many interpretations of that in secular law as there are interpretations of “re’echo” in Jewish law. Sorry to be argumentative, but I think you are just wrong on those two points. On your final point, that “religious myths are now a serious encumbrance to the establishment of universal rules for today’s human beings” I would not disagree with you.


  3. I find it very sad that someone has to make up a whole religious faith with all the incumbent thou shalls and shalt nots in order to answer the ethical question of “Can I, should I”. I can see that 25 centuries ago, without recourse to the knowledge learnt since then, that is what would have seemed a reasonable thing to do. For example, an ancient person would have looked up and said, “I have no idea what those twinkly lights are in the night sky and therefore a reasonable explanation is that a god must have put them there”. Given our modern knowledge of the universe that is indisputably wrong. To make it seem a true statement you have to make up all sorts of religious rules. To continue those rules and regulations into the modern day is absurd.
    Deuteronomy says “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” Is that true? Of course not. Neither are the stars put there by god.
    Daniel says that the biblical injunction that “Though shalt love thy neighbour as thy self” becomes in civil law the proposition “You must not injure your neighbour”. But I would say that in all societies around the world humans have a rule about not injuring your neighbours and it is the religious groups that have simply taken up the civil rule and stuck a “God says” injunction onto it.
    You do not need a religious instruction to regulate your conduct by ethics as much as by law. To say that you do links you back to those ignorant (in the unknowing sense) ancients who couldn’t understand what the stars were.


    1. Thanks Paul – as I said in my first comment to Peter, I completely agree with you that one does not need a religious instruction to regulate one’s conduct by ethics as much as by law (and in my TFTD I tried to avoid suggesting that one did, hence “most people act in good faith …”). As I said to Peter, personally I find that my own religion adds some helpful detail in relation to business ethics in relation to non-binding arrangements; but I can understand why you find that irritating, so as I said to Peter, sorry for disappointing again. Daniel


      1. I’m sure that if you looked you could find non-religious texts that add helpful detail. Resorting to a particular religion then ties you in to all kinds of superstitious nonsense that must distract you from a purely secular or rational view. I reiterate the Deuteronomy text on menstruation which I understand some Jewish groups still abide by. Does god want you to stick to his unbreakable given laws or make your own mind up based on better knowledge?


  4. Paul – thanks – yes there are also non-religious texts that add helpful detail – and I enjoy some of them as well as religious texts – I don’t mind being tied in to the nonsense, which I enjoy and find helpful, although I try to avoid the superstitious bits. many thanks, Daniel


  5. The big takeaway, then, is that when it comes to fundamental altruism and benevolence, religious codes are, at best, utterly superfluous.

    Anything else seems to be purely an argument from tradition, as demonstrated above.

    Great respect to Mr Greenberg for engaging, it’s much appreciated. I hope any exasperation expressed towards him here isn’t confused with incivility.


    1. Matt – absolutely not – no incivility at all, and I genuinely value seeing what this forum thinks about my pieces, even when as this morning I feared that there wasn’t going to be much if any helpful common ground – thanks for commenting – Daniel


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