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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Years Resolution

I pledge allegiance to Public Ethics - the civil insitutions, due process and multilateral solutions of democracy that allow all people to freely hold and enjoy their many different born and chosen personal and group values, and that provide a fair means to allocate public dues, balance the impact of shortages and the benefits of excesses, insure the rights of minorities alongside slowly changing majorities, and enable us to fairly arbitrate both internal differences and external conflicts without reverting to unilaterally imposed constraints on the rights of others or unilateral escalation of violence.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time to Tax the Internet?

Recent news articles highlight a litany of state budget crises with an equally long list of proposed solutions, some spelled 'bailout' and some 'new taxes'. No one has yet stared down the real elephant in the room: the huge drain on the public and local economies, of internet sales with no state or local taxes. The economic crisis has made us acutely aware nothing is free, including our shared 'buying club' of publicly funded infrastructure and services. The lack of internet sales tax violates two principles of public ethics, the first being that taxes are fundamental to sustainable civilization in all aspects since the very dawn of non-tribal societies, and the second being that 'free' internet sales tilt the playing field sharply away from local purchases at a time when revitalizing local economies is paramount. One can only hope that the Obama economic plan includes a simple, innovative solution that will help state governments coordinate internet sales taxes, such as providing a means for the checkout step to display taxes due based on the ship-to ZIP code (the physical 'point of sale'), and to allow Paypal, VISA, and other payment coordinators to collect the tax. The alternative is the 'value' of a free lunch but no ethical framework to sustain a house to eat it in.

Chicago Ethics

A national news commentator suggested Illinois governor Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat, erred primarily in his affrontry, not his action. It was suggested that trading favors is unavoidable among public officials, and his sin was lacking the good form to do it with a surreptitious wink and nod. This shocking statement reveals an inability on the part of the commentator to distinguish the ethics of the matter, from the values. Good public ethics demand (regardless of legal nuance) publicly coordinating a multilateral input process for allocation of scarce resources (in this case a Senate seat) to advance shared public goals. What the governor is accused of doing is privately imposing a unilateral process to advanced what were clearly personal goals and values, at the public expense or in disregard thereof. Neither a surreptitious wink nor a blatant solicitation of a bribe makes the latter values-based sows ear into the former ethics-based silk purse. Winking at putting personal values above public ethics, is the first form of evil because it is only a short path from publicly acceptance to major abuse.

Monday, December 01, 2008

An Opportunity for Thanksgiving

What we are giving the most Thanksgiving for this year, and the only Christmas present we need this year, is already on its way to the White House - an opportunity to refocus our energy and enthusiasm on the shared institutions, due process, multilateral oversight, and fair principles that help us live together a bit more peacefully and sustainably. These are much more valuable and important than our various beloved home teams, differences in birth or circumstance, or what we have materially.