- Sam Bankman-Fried’s mother, a Stanford law professor, once wrote an article titled “Beyond Blame.”
- Barbara Fried asked what would happen if the focus was on fixing problems and not assigning blame.
- Her son Sam Bankman-Fried co-founded FTX, which last week filed for bankruptcy.
A series of essays written by Sam Bankman-Fried’s mother have come to light following the collapse of FTX, the crypto exchange he cofounded.
FTX filed for bankruptcy last week and Bankman-Fried says he’s scrambling to raise $8 billion to repay customers and FTX’s many creditors.
His mother is Barbara Fried, a former lawyer who has taught at Stanford Law School since 1987.
She has written pieces for the Boston Review, a quarterly political and literary magazine, arguing that attributing “personal blame” in times of crisis had “ruined criminal justice and economic policy,” suggesting it was “time to move past blame.”
“The fact that we have gotten so little in return for our blame mongering at least opens up the possibility that people would be receptive to a new approach,” she wrote in 2013.
“The next time something goes terribly wrong, suppose that instead of immediately asking who is to blame, we were to ask: How can we fix this problem?”
Fried declined to comment when contacted by Insider for this article.
In a recent Twitter DM exchange with Vox reporter Kelsey Piper, Bankman-Fried suggested his calls for crypto market regulation were publicity stunts, and that he didn’t believe his own rhetoric about the need to behave ethically.
And when asked by Vox if his colleague Nishad Singh’s reported guilt over losing depositors’ money explained Singh’s remorse, Bankman-Fried responded: “The world is never so black and white. I feel bad for those who got f***** by it.”
In another 2013 essay for the Boston Review entitled “The Limits of Personal Responsibility,” Fried argued that a better world was achievable “if only we could stop arguing about who is to blame for the one we are in.”
The academic defended the idea of risk in a world where personal responsibility had its limitations, saying “a world in which everyone is maximally risk averse is a world none of us wants to live in.”
“Instead of trying to change the public understanding of personal responsibility, we can try to change the subject to the collective benefits (in this case, economic prosperity) that could come from actually fixing the problems we face,” Fried wrote.
Discussing emotional empathy, she suggested: “Gut feeling may well have a constructive role to play in the political sphere, particularly when we think the tools of rational decision making are unreliable.
“But until people learn to think more systematically and globally about the consequences of different courses of action—even just the consequences to say—we will keep investing in the wrong policies.”
Fried’s writing ties into her family’s belief in “effective altruism”, a movement that uses calculations to understand how people can use their time, money, and resources to best help others, with a focus on the ends of an individual’s actions justifying the means of getting there.
Its detractors argue that effective altruism can overlook harmful outcomes from such action.
Some have been left wondering if Bankman-Fried somehow prioritized the expansion of FTX, given his belief in the benefits of cryptocurrencies, above all other considerations.
Indeed, in his exchanges with Piper, Bankman-Fried looked through his downfall through the lens of a calculation, where his efforts added up to bring the company down: “Each individual decision seemed fine and I didn’t realize how big their sum was until the end.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Department of Justice are understood to be investigating FTX for potential mishandling of client funds. The SEC is also said to be investigating Bankman-Fried himself.
Prior to FTX’s collapse, the crypto exchange reportedly transferred billions of dollars’ worth of client funds to Bankman-Fried’s trading firm, Alameda Research.
FTX’s new CEO John Ray gave a scathing assessment of the company under Bankman-Fried, describing “a complete failure of corporate controls,” underlining a divergence in the former CEO’s thinking that may have contributed to his downfall.
“A month ago I was one of the world’s greatest fundraisers. Now I’m a fallen wreckage of one,” Bankman-Fried told Vox.
“But there’s a thing about being fallen — there are people who know what that’s like, and who want to do for someone else what nobody did for them.”