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.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Integrity and Ethics

Love of public ethics - fairness to others - should trump my love of my personal values and beliefs, when they conflict in the public space in a civil democracy. Personal integrity is about sustaining personal beliefs in the personal space. Both personal beliefs and one's ability to sustain them individually are individual - not public - matters in a civil democracy. Similarly, public ethics are about fairness - and not imposing my set of personal beliefs on others - in the public space. Public ethical integrity - one's ability to sustain support for fairness to others who have different personal beliefs - is a public matter necessary to sustain a civil democracy.

With these clarifications in mind, one has to ask why people continue to describe someone imposing their personal beliefs on others in a public decision, as integrity. It can be described as personal integrity if the decision is only about something that affects just that person or their own family or group, but is not public integrity or public ethics if it is an attempt to force one set of personal beliefs on everyone else, when making decisions that affect fairness in the public space.

Choosing to use the clarifying adjectives - 'personal values' and 'public ethics', helps clarify the underlying questions about integrity, and makes a clear distinction between personal integrity about beliefs within personal decisions, and public integrity about public decisions for which the ethics affect others who hold different personal beliefs.

Try applying this simple clarification to major decisions of the day, like whether to vote for Health Care or not, and it can help sort out who is being a bully and who is being a mature citizen or statesperson.