No complaints this week - RSA

No complaints this week


  • Social brain

Another great week of events at the RSA.  As well as the Ken Robinson tour de force on Monday, we had a really lively debate last night on the subject of privacy, which involved evidence and interrogation from 9 different people.

Yesterday afternoon I chaired the lunchtime debate with Julian Baggini, philosopher and author of Complaint, which I referred to earlier in the week.  There were 2 particular observations I thought were worth sharing.

The first is his insight that risk aversion can be equally understood as responsibility aversion. When we say we are not willing to take a risk, equally we are saying we won't take responsibility if that risk fails. So the problem with over-regulation and a litigious culture makes us fear we will be held responsible for the failure of risk.

The second is a rejoinder to those who equate risk aversion with an overbearing nanny state.  Baggini argues convincingly that it is in fact the individualistic sense that if anything goes wrong in life, we should be able to blame someone, allied with the aggressive marketing of 'no win, no fee' compensation lawyers, that is an important driver.

As Fellows will know, we have our own Risk Commission here at the RSA and we are currently trying to raise money for a project on risk and aging to go alongside our successful risk and childhood work.  Baggini's perception is a useful corrective to some of the lazier thinking that can take place around risk.

I am continuing to work away at my 30 June lecture, veering between moments of inspiration and periods of panic!  This morning, however, I found a single line which encapsulated the core argument I intend to make.

It is in the first chapter of Drew Westen's influential book, The Political Brain.  In arguing that politicians, particularly on the progressive wing, fail to understand the profound emotional nature of political affiliation, he described Democratic Party strategists as having an irrational emotional commitment to rationality.

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