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.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Perhaps Its Time To Re-examine The Reagan Values Revolution

Ronald Reagan is justifiably famous for touting Family Values as the core of good citizenship. His powerful message conveniently ignores the fact that family values are all about taking care of 'people like us', which is at best embarassingly egotistical and at worst ripe justification for bullying anyone different. After all, even a mafioso loves his family, but that doesn't make him a model citizen. The self-serving primacy of 'my kind of people' values conveniently ignores the fact that a sustainable civil democracy and economic framework beyond tribal boundaries requires accomodation of people with many different values and goals, and pride in contributing fair dues to help sustain the whole County club, not just the personal country club. This accomodation of different values is what in turn enables safety from prosecution and freedom for individuals to enjoy their various shades and hues of lifestyles and faiths within a heterogeneous society without fear or bullying. Perhaps Reagan's Values revolution had it wrong. The right has always been distainful of 'kumbaya' liberals, but it is the religious and political right that thinks everyone must have the same values as 'people like us' in order to get along. Reagan's right also points to the rich as a model for initiative because those people 'succeeded', and therefore they should only have to share their winnings with people like themselves. This principle is laughable because winning without fair rules and a level playing field is not really winning, and keeping all the benefits of good fortune when the whole team helped do the work is greed without honor. Even a cursory review of history is sufficient to show that countries founded on homogeneity of values and the primacy of religious or economic ideology make great kingdoms, closed theocracies and powerful oligarchies, but seldom good democracies. A love of public ethics and pride in contributing to civil society - good govenment, multilateral arbitration of rules, relatively impartial justice, real science, public education, fair pay, and fair play - are the real values required to sustain and improve our shared endeavors.


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