21 January 2017

How to define ‘good’?

Every morning I remind myself of my personal life goal, my purpose as I currently define it.

So far I have only shared this goal with a few select people.

When I have shared it there always seems to be a follow-up question. A question that is just as important to me as the goal.

For the first time publicly I’m sharing both my goal and my answer to that common followup question.


I want to be a force for good in the world


Okay, that sounds great… but how do you define ‘good’?


Good is something experienced by sentient beings when their flourishing is maximised, suffering is minimised, rights protected and their agency balanced with the deterministic aspects of life. This is often achieved through a practice of virtuous behaviours and universal rules. It is ‘good’ to balance the competing goals of ‘goodness’ using rationality and critical inquiry. We experience ‘good’ as we engage with the richness of life in all it’s complexity, happiness, hardship and joy.

There is a lot packed into that definition and ‘being a force for good’ with that definition is an incredibly challenging goal that I’ll only ever be taking small steps towards – but it’s the kind of goal that keeps me honest.

The links in the definition are the best ones I can find right now, I plan to update them as time goes on. All of the aspects of ‘good’ packed into this statement are major premises that I would always love to talk about or be challenged on. To define them best I think I’ll need to write about what they mean to me and unpack it in further detail – for the sake of myself and for others.

This is my ‘draft’, my working definition. I look forward to its continuous development and seeing how it changes over time as I grow and as I am challenged.

1 post this week


10 January 2017

Summer Hatin’

The joy of my job is that I get to sit in air conditioning, where I set the temperature.

However for about a month I’m filling a different role and that means out in the big wide world, with no temperature control. 30+°C days are horrid. I don’t know how people do it day in and day out – work outdoors. I’m a sweaty mess. I’m incredibly glad I have the next few days off where the 40°C will be pushed.

But it’s nice to mix things up a bit. I was very anxious about a different role – about having to interact differently with colleagues I don’t really know, and with the general public. Thankfully it hasn’t been too stressful or awkward. So far.


10 December 2016

Woolworths vs ACCC

So it looks like the ACCC lost it's "unconscionable conduct" case against Woolworths. The judge didn't think there were any laws which covered the behaviour, so even if the behaviour of the Woolworths seemed harsh it wasn't actually illegal. However, I think the ACCC fought the wrong case. It was a classic case of extortion, no different in any fundamental way to organised crime groups extorting local businesses.

It seems that Woolworths wrote to it's 821 "Tier B" suppliers, demanding one-off payments to "support" Woolworths. The payments were not part of any contract or agreement. They were motivated by missed profit targets, that Woolworths had set for themselves. They demanded around $60 million and apparently received around $18 million.

In Australia, extortion is defined in the 1899 Criminal Code as:

    (1) A person (the demander) who, without reasonable cause, makes a demand— 
        (a) with intent to— 
            (i) gain a benefit for any person (whether or not the demander); or 
            (ii) cause a detriment to any person other than the demander; and 
        (b) with a threat to cause a detriment to any person other than the demander; 
    commits a crime. 

If following through on the threat "would be likely to cause, substantial economic loss in an industrial or commercial activity conducted by a person or entity other than the offender", then the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

The nature of the detriment doesn't need to be defined. The threat doesn't need to be made privately.

Woolworths said this practice is quite normal in the retail industry. The ACCC said if it's not illegal then it should be. "Competition experts" said to win the case, the ACCC would have had to prove that the behaviour went beyond industry norms. However, Coles has been to court for the same things and the two companies are over 70% of the industry. Which would suggest their behaviour largely dictates industry norms. Imagine if the ethics of all behaviour was determined purely by narrow peer group norms.

So in summary, they should have ran an extortion case.


9 November 2016



I have loved following the U.S. election. It has been great entertainment. It has had a great villain (or two, if that’s how you feel), and it has be fun to watch and hold on to the sure fact that sanity will prevail. The good guys will win in the end.

Today as I watched the election results it all seemed surreal. How could this happen? Everyone said it wouldn’t. The polls, the experts, the internet, everyone was sure the racist, sexist, lying, boastful abuser wouldn’t get in. But he did.

I’ve spend most of the night trying not to focus on what has happened. And simultaneously wanting to scroll Facebook and commiserate with most of my newsfeed.

Being in Australia, I feel perplexed and bewildered. This new presidency will happen to us, and we didn’t get a say. It will happen to many countries, many worse off than ours, and they didn’t choose it. Being a white, middle-class man, it is perhaps a rare feeling of insecurity and powerlessness that I am feeling right now. I suspect many people feel this most of the time.

Perhaps this won’t be as bad as we think. Perhaps the collective depression that is being felt by all the like-minded people on my newsfeed will just turn out to be for nothing. Perhaps he’ll turn out to be as inert in office as he was explosive in campaigning. Who knows?

I said to Em tonight “I know I don’t normally go in for there being good years and bad years, but I think I can say 2016 has been an exceptionally bad year.” Not just in the world, or in politics, but in almost everything, 2016 has not been the year I would have predicted or wanted.

Whatever shining hopes there were in 2008, or 2010, or 2015, almost everything seems tarnished and dull now. I have had hope in politics, and economics, and jobs, and leadership, and general human goodness to make my world a good place, but they have all let me down. This failure reminds me what, on brighter days, I sometimes forget: that everything is broken. We’re all broken. I’m broken.

Someone posted a quote purportedly from “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S [...]


July 2015



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A Good Story

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