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Paul Babie – Law School
One sentence sums up the work of Associate Professor Paul Babie: It’s all about choice. Ever wondered what drives that must have car purchase? Why you have to have the latest pair of fang dangled running shoes? Why you bought that house on the hill with the excellent view, tennis court and sparkling pool? STOP! You might think we’re about to talk about how a cleverly constructed TV ad created by some crafty marketing executive influenced your latest purchase.....you would be wrong. The influence to own something goes much, much deeper. One way of explaining what Paul Babie does to make a cracker is to say he teaches and researches Property Law and Property Theory with a bit of study on Law and Religion thrown in for good measure. Snore.... Whoops, sorry to put you to sleep. The exciting explanation is Paul wants to know why you make the choices you do about the stuff you own. Why do you choose what you choose? Do your cultural beliefs, religious beliefs, political beliefs or moral beliefs influence the choices you make about the things you purchase or own? Let’s say you need a new fence between yours and your neighbour’s property. Before you even get to that point, you’ve already been through a category of choices (without possibly realising it): You chose a neighbourhood. You chose a mortgage. You chose a bank to provide the mortgage. You chose a certain type of house to live in......but sadly, you didn’t choose your neighbour. And guess what? Mrs ArebuckleBusyBody wants one of those short friendly neighbourhood fences so she can get a good gander at your smalls on the clothesline. You, on the other hand, want a tall fence that provides privacy. Before you even get to make a choice or come to a happy arrangement about the fence, in fact, what you both want is already governed by your local council regulation which says the height of your fence should be XYZ....so now it’s about what other people want and say you can have. Do you dispute the decisions (choices) made by others? Do you demand a lawyer to sort it out in court? Do you pay your neighbour a financial sweetener so you can get own your way and put up the Berlin Wall? Or do you throw your hands up in the air, move out and sell at a loss because you can’t be bothered with the fight.....the choices are endless. What Paul Babie does is to try to understand the psychology of property. What we think we can do with what we own. How the laws we have, have created a framework and boundaries for those choices. The obvious question is: Did one of Paul’s siblings steal his toy car in the sandpit and he’s never really recovered from the experience? Is this what drives his irrepressible need to understand why people want to own/possess something? Actually, no – Paul was not a victim of highway Matchbox robbery at an early age. Paul has had a strong sense of justice for as long as he can remember. Homeless people sleeping on the streets just didn’t seem right to him when other folk had shelter, a fancy roof over their heads and hot food in their bellies. Even though Paul considered himself a ‘have’, he says many of his friends were ‘have nots’. This idea intrigued him – that someone could own something, while another could not. His father (a lawyer) and his mother (a nurse) no doubt had some influence instilling strong values of equality, but his Canadian public Catholic school education didn’t particularly plant any seeds. By his own admission, he didn’t really excel at school because he wanted to ‘go his own way’. Sneaking a peak of The Day of the Triffids in English class was so much better than some boring old Shakespeare claptrap he was supposed to be reading. Surprisingly, despite this boredom, Paul didn’t lose his hope or optimism for the world, that things can change and life can be improved – and a thirst to make that happen. And he didn’t disappoint.
Paul’s business card looks, if anything, slightly over-crowded: a Bachelor of Arts (Calgary), a Bachelor of Theology (Flinders) – (Yes, he’s also a Priest! – we’ll get to that bit) - a Law Degree (Alberta), a Masters of Law (Melbourne) and a Doctor of Philosophy (Oxford.) There was an initial deviation into Pre-Med after school (Mr Hindmarsh, a seductively inspirational Australian Biology teacher led him astray....), and Paul sometimes laments a degree in Urban Planning might also be useful. Who wouldn’t? Paul is obscenely passionate about his research. He feels a moral calling in his role as an academic to lead by example and demonstrate to students we can do better. He eats books for breakfast, choosing to read from dozens of viewpoints: Philosophy to Social Theory, from Historical Biographies to Jurisprudence. (His library card is a little on the tattered side.) Wide reading broadens Paul’s knowledge and understanding about how what he researches ‘fits’ with the rest of the world. He also practices what he preaches, particularly in relation to environmental law: he drives a Prius, pays to off-set carbon emissions when he flies, chases after his kids turning off the lights..... But Paul doesn’t ever switch off from his research because to him, it is a way of life. He sees what he does as building on the shoulders of giants; connecting into the broader development of ideas and a way to influence government policy and incite change. His publication record proves he’s no slacker in this department. As if all this weren’t enough, on his ‘day off’, instead of preaching at the lectern, Paul preaches at the pulpit. He is the Assistant Priest at Woodville and Wayville Ukranian Catholic churches where he gives homalies on Sundays. Paul sees religion as another way of ultimately understanding justice, for the equitable distribution of possessions has heavy religious influence. Paul established the Research Unit for the study of Society, Law and Religion at The University of Adelaide because he realised nationally there were a group of scholars all studying the role religion plays in the law. It made sense to bring these people together, to network ideas, present papers and collaboratively obtain research funding. Paul hopes to continue to broaden his research about the psychology of property and produce a set of data representative of Australia that supports his theories: Is it human nature to be selfish about property and not care about the impact on other people or the environment? Did the industrial revolution and capitalism create a more self-interested society? Can this somehow be rectified? The benefits of such research can actually be traced back to an individual level. If we have a society that allows an individual to prosper, to become wealthy via opportunity, how can we look at ways to sustain those opportunities for the future? How can we make things better so others don’t lose out? If Paul could wish for anything it would be greater funding for his research, an administration fairy to handle the little stuff and the opportunity to dine with some dead folk. Hang on a minute. Say what? When asked about the three people Paul would most like to invite to dinner, he answers: 1: Learned Hand (no kidding, that’s his name) US Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge, because of the affinity Paul feels with Learned’s writing struggles. 2: Sociologist Talcott Parsons; Paul is fascinated by Talcott’s attempt to develop a grand theory to explain the whole of social action. And 3: 1900’s baseball player Ty Cobb who played for the Detroit Tigers and who possesses the highest batting average of all time. The last choice is rather fitting. Why did Paul pick Ty? Because Ty didn’t just stand there and hit home runs. He was a strategist who worked his way through the options, who meticulously planned his next move, who never ever took his eyes off the ball....who examined all the choices. Funny ‘bout that.
Words by Allayne Webster The Professions The University of Adelaide, AUSTRALIA 5005 Ph : +61 8 8313 0225 Fax : +61 8 8313 4843 e-mail: email@example.com
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