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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SUVS - An example of Values based cheating

The unregulated roots of the current economic crisis coincides not remarkably with the unregulated advent of the SUV. This is a case study in the unsustainability of putting personal values above public ethics. Folks may think a SUV represents family values and safety, but the true hallmark of the SUV that differentiates it from a car is cheating, plain and simple. SUVS cheat on fuel efficiency and emissions standards, often burning twice as much oil and creating twice as much global warming as a car, to go the same distance with the same number of occupants. SUVS cheat on safety standards with high-set bumpers, oversized tires, and overweight mass that cause SUV's to gain safety at the expense of cars in SUV-car collisions. SUVS look 'good' only if one is willing to put self-centered values above shared safety and shared interests in keeping oil consumption, global warming, and costs down.

So the perfect storm of economic crisis and oil crisis is no coincidence, and in fact the SUV is a major contributor to both. The most important thing an SUV owner can do is fess up to the fact that no good comes from cheating on everyone else in the name of family values, and then to do something about it. A good start would be to vote for fair public leaders and programs that implement fair shared regulations on safety, emissions, and mileage, not just self-serving (and unsustainable) values.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When Values Are Not Enough

The premise that family and group 'values' should also define what we do in the public space, has gone largely unquestioned the past two decades. Now the fruits of unchecked self-serving values lie rotting on the market floor, the pain and cost of ill-advised values-based unilateral conflicts continue their circle of violence, and the vision of the white city on the hill literally washes away in an unchecked flood of the growing effects of global warming.

So what do we turn to when Values are not enough? Looking back a bit to the dawn of the Enlightenment we see a model based on mature citizens and worthy leaders putting public ethics above personal values when making choices in the public space. A fair game takes teams that respect shared rules, and strong referees, not just strong teams.

Ethics - the law, scientific facts, multilateral solutions, due process, and oversight - must trump values in the public space, no matter how dearly held, secularly blessed, or transitionally profitable our various personal and group values appear to be. Perhaps we should try putting our public ethics above our personal values when we vote for leaders in the public space?

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