Sunday, January 4, 2009
Why a Public Ethic?
An Ethic is Public when it 1) is inclusive and accessible, 2) anticipates consequences on others, 3) advances public space, and 4) can be reformed. Transparency, responsibility, participative, and accountable are the hallmarks of a Public Ethic.
The piece in the NY Times today by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn demonstrates our need for a new Public Ethic. The ethical approach of a Bernie Madoff, Wall Street, and the SEC were totally guided by short term private interests of a few. They were elitist and secretive. They had no concern for the effect of their practices on others. They destroyed trust--the bonds of the public realm. They fought or hid from review and evaluation.
This is the ethic that has been promoted by our economic institutions and our political rhetoric and sanctified by religious doctrines and churches which teach private benevolence over social justice and personal mores over public good.
The challenge of new republican order, which will hopefully be created during the next administration, is to 1) reform the institutions (as Lewis and Einhorn are suggesting), 2) restore the trust, 3) limit private agrandizment, and 4) be open to all.
A renewed public ethic reconizes that a public is both constituted by and yet transcends personal interests, values, and affiliations and that the Public is constituted by and transcends all publics.