Before I wrote this post, I wrote my resignation letter to my employer. Why? There were many factors, but my primary reason for wanting to leave was the ethical conflict that this job created for me.
In this awesome video, Josie asks a thought provoking question to police officers. “Is there anything the politicians could enact into law that you wouldn’t enforce?” Josie asserts that obedience is not a sufficient excuse for immoral actions and encourages police officers to decide where their boundary for obedience will be. I am not a police officer, but this is a question I have been pondering constantly.
For the past year, I have worked in regulatory compliance at a bank, focused primarily in lending compliance and the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act. Basically, my job has been to make sure government mandates are being obeyed by employees and customers. Every day I have struggled with the degree to which I am willing to engage in and perpetuate a corrupt system. I have bitten my tongue to hold back my anger and the urge to lash out at the injustice. Yet, with a few words to acknowledge my own disapproval of the rules, I directed people to obey.
When I took the job, I knew I didn’t approve of the rules I would be indirectly enforcing. My reasoning for accepting anyway was that businesses need someone to perform this function so they could continue to operate, and as a student of Economics during the financial crisis of 2007-08, I was interested to learn about the legislative response to the events I had witnessed. Besides, as an ambitious college graduate with no money, I was thrilled to find an opportunity outside of retail.
Although I certainly did learn some things and gain a unique perspective from the experience, I did not anticipate the negative impact this job would have on me. I found that the longer I stayed the more depressed and anxious I became. I finally realized why! As someone who believes that blind obedience is one of the biggest threats to liberty, my daily responsibilities were in conflict with what I believe and who I am.
When I describe this internal conflict to others, they often remind me that I was not responsible for creating the regulations nor was I ultimately responsible for enforcing them. Although I am not responsible for the corruption of this system, I’m not proud of the role I have played in it. By encouraging obedience, I was a part of the problem. No, I am not responsible for what politicians do, what regulators do, or what banks do, but that is no excuse. I am responsible for what I do.