Friday, November 25, 2011

"You can't legislate ethics!"

Those whose mantra that is, believe that you cannot pass a law that will make politicians and public servants behave more "ethically".

They believe that you cannot pass a law that will fundamentally change the character and courage of human beings.

Why are legislated ethical standards expected to change human nature, while legislated legal standards are not?

Neither legal standards nor ethical standards change human nature. All they do is draw lines between the acceptable and the unacceptable. Human beings will always make their own choice on which side of the line they walk.

The purpose of a standard is, to provide a clear and unequivocal articulation of expectations. The ideal standard is black and white; pragmatic standards allow some working room in the interests of justice, leeway the corrupt and incompetent politicians and public servants exploit to protect their own interests.

Those who oppose raising the standards of conduct for those who hold the public trust and treasure, argue that "ethics" can't be defined.

I agree, ethics cannot be (finally and completely for all time) defined.

Instead of waiting for some final resolution of the concept, let's start with what we know; any higher standard of conduct than the law requires, truth telling.

According to the law, lying is prohibited. The next higher standard of conduct prohibits lying and not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the ethically redacted truth. The next higher standard of conduct requires candor, and forthrightness, and honesty.

Telling the truth in politics and public service means the record of the spending of public power and resources, belongs to the people. Some part of that record is kept from public knowledge for good and ethical reasons. The part is separated according to the expressed will of the people.

There are only two legitimate bodies of governmental truth; the record the people get to see; and the record the people don't get to see.

In practice, corrupt and incompetent politicians and public servants hold another part; the record the people have a right to see, but that they don't want the people to see.

An illustrative example;

the Caswell Report on public corruption in the leadership of the APS and their Police Department.

It is a public record the people have a right to see, but corrupt and incompetent politicians and public servants don't want them to see.

APS Supt Winston Brooks doesn't want to explain why no heads ever rolled, and why evidence of felony criminal misconduct has not been turned over to the District Attorney before statutes of limitation expire.

He and his nefarious self interest, as is often the case, enjoy the aid and abet of his cronies in the establishment media; Kent Walz and the Journal for one.
We surrender control over a great deal of power and resources to politicians and public servants protected only by our trust that they will not abuse the power and squander the resources.

If we must trust them, then we have a right to expect them to be held honestly accountable to meaningful standards of conduct and competence, under systems over which they have no undue influence, and, that are powerful enough to hold them accountable, even against their will.

Truth telling is fundamental to every aspect of Democracy. Our legitimate questions are entitled to candid, forthright, honest and timely responses.

We can write a law establishing the right of the people, to draw the line between the record that is published and the record that is hidden. We can write a law establishing meaningful penalties for politicians and public servants who hide the truth in violation of the (spirit of) law.

We can in fact, legislate ethics.
"Because we cannot write every higher standard at once,
does not mean we cannot write one higher standard at once.

unk derived

photo Mark Bralley

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