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, January 15, 2009

Sustainable Public Ethics Requires Enforcement

Just as surely as a nation's forward-looking statements promote ethics and the rule of law in the public space, so must a nation's backward-looking history enforce them to sustain a civil democracy. Mature citizens and statesmen recognize the need for due process including judicial review and enforcement against actions at odds with constitutionally based ethical codes and laws, to avoid a legacy of special cases leading to unilaterally justified disregard for ethical codes and laws in the future.

Just as Torture is both ethically and legally wrong, even when justified by the protection of strongly held values, so is watering down the definition based on whether it 'works' or not, and lack of enforcement based on circumstantially perceived values-based short term benefits.

Torture is Terrorism - Both Lack Basic Ethics

Torture represents a withdrawl to the pre-Enlightenment model of rule by unilaterally justified brutality, just as surely as that pre-Enlightenment model applies to Terrorism. Both assert the ultimate primacy of personal and group values, above civil interests and public ethics. This is the hallmark of bullies from schoolyard to throne.

Post-Enlightenment civil democracies (as opposed to 'clubhouse democracies' that benefit those within the group while ostracizing those not in the group) uphold the primacy of Public Ethics - fairness, rule of law, and multilateral arbitration including escalation of force where necessary - above personal and group values. This is the foundation of civilizations that accomodate more than one viewpoint, race, and religion, and the definition of personal and civic maturity.

Good citizens support Public Ethics in bad times as well as good, and accept dependence on multilateral - not unilateral - institutions and enforcement that define the circumstances of personal freedom, and the personal risks that accrue when not allowed to act as judge, jury and executioner by using a personal weapon whenever self-justified, or enabling others to do so as illustrated by the blatantly values-centric and unethically premised TV series, '24'.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Work Ethics

We routinely use the phrase 'good work ethics' to describe folks who put dedication to fairly supporting good processes, open communication, and a commitment to meet the public interest as well as the business interest, above short-term personal or business gain that might shortchange or cheat on long term business or public interests. Similarly we use the phrase 'good business ethics' to describe folks who put dedication to fairly supporting all participants in a business - including workers, and a commitment to meet the public interest as well as the long term business interest, above short-term personal, management, or shareholder gains. We don't use the word 'values' to describe these kinds of ethics, because 'values' is too ambiguous and does not capture the essense of ethics - the love of fairness above selfishness, the love of good process above special cases, and the love of long term interests above short term gain. Let's apply this same love of ethics over values, to our work, our business, and our government as we support fair solutions to our environmental and economic challenges in both good and bad times.