Ethical Guidebook

A discussion of the difference between our personal values and our public ethics, how mature citizens can support both, and why our love for public ethics must trump our love for personal and group values when they conflict in the public space. Ethics offers a guidebook for evaluating public issues and finding multilateral solutions to endless cycles of values centric conflicts and unilateral violence.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Values Based Decisions Create a Bridge to Nowhere

After a major bridge collapse in Minneapolis, there has been an outpouring of heartfelt public concern about our shared lack of support for 'infrastructure’. This gets to the heart of the problem - what does it mean to support shared infrastructure?

Infrastructure fails because of a lack of support for all kinds of shared resources - roads and bridges, air quality, all free living things, health care, education, the list goes on. These do not 'benefit' from privatization and dollar-based valuation to the exclusion of other considerations.

The bottom line is that our shared infrastructure fails because this country has forgotten what it means to support Public Ethics. Instead, 400 years since the Enlightenment of growing Public Ethics, has instead disintegrated in recent years into rabid discussions of Values, as though Values are the answer to all our problems. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To sustain a healthy democracy - and it’s shared infrastructure and resources - all journalists, politicians, and mature citizens need to spend more time talking about and supporting Public Ethics - the rules of fair play, the processes and institutions that support them, and willingness to pay membership fees - taxes- that support solutions that help all of us, including those who choose to live differently than we do. A discussion of Values - even opposing Values - can never rise above a level of measuring everything in terms of personal benefits, and the result is clubhouse democracy that directs support and resources to those who are currently in a majority in terms of votes or power, and often 'to heck with everyone else'. Values alone are not inherently a problem, we all have them and they define our personal and group identifications. The problem is that we must each also support Public Ethics, and temper our Personal Values with Public Ethics when making choices, voting, discussing issues, and paying membership fees that support fair civil rights and shared public resources.

So it's not that hard. A sustainable, healthy country - and world - just needs to spend a bit less talk, money and resources on Personal Values, because Values based decisions will always tend to skew resources toward more extreme consumers (those who 'value' the resource the most) and skew rights toward more extreme and intolerant dogmatists (those who insist on their way or the highway).

The bridge to nowhere starts with a loss of Enlightened Ethics. Rebuilding starts with renewed attention to, and support for, mature Public Ethics when we make choices, vote, and discuss public issues about shared needs and resources.


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