It is commonly accepted that society works largely by consent. Though we have laws to regulate how we treat one another, the myriad of transactions that people engage in on a daily basis are conducted, for the most part, in a spirit of trust. It's not that dificult to imagine the state we'd be in if everyone acted with unrestrained selfishness and suspicion. Mercifully, as it turns out, most people are prepared to work conscientously in exchange for reasonable rewards and to treat other people much as they'd like to be treated themselves.
This is what is so damaging about the news of Sir Fred Goodwin's £650,000 annual pension: it is an injustice so flagrant, an insult of such obscene proportions that it has the capacity to serve as the definitive outrage for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of ordinary people.
To argue daintily about contractual obligations and so on is - frankly - to miss the point, as the core issue is the glaring discrepancy between the simple facts as they have been revealed and any sort of rational and just basis for human society.
This has become a big story now and one that I believe the government should take very seriously. The true, long-term cost of this scandal is likely to dwarf Sir Fred's pension pot (£16,000,000) which - let's admit it anyway - is peanuts compared with the losses (£24,000,000,000) incurred by RBS under Sir Fred's stewardship.
If I were a car-worker threatened with redundancy, a postal-worker about about to be privatised on the brink of an economic depression or someone trying to steer a small business through a cash-flow crisis, I'd be tempted to view the whole Fred Goodwin debacle as giving me carte-blanche to do whatever I consider would best serve my own selfish interests - and God help us all, if that should come to be the common view.