The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief is under investigation, accused of violating state ethics laws by filing financial disclosures with shall-we-say errors. Innocent oversights, I’m sure. Rounding errors. Inadvertent slips of the old abacus.

socratesWhatever, we’re used to this shit here in the nation’s dicktip and in fact, in every jurisdiction across the fruited plane. (Or “plain,” as I’ve seen it often in local papers. The same ones that complain about the quality of public education.) We understand that the sole reason elected officials seek office is to enrich themselves, and implicitly understand that anything goes until they’re caught — but that’s what PR agents and lawyers are paid to smooth over.

Nothing to see here, people. Just keep moving. Have a nice day. Thank you.

This story emerges at a time when Broward County is considering the appointment of an “Ethics Czar,” an independent official whose job would be to “uniformly interpret the Code and provide precedential advisory opinions to those who must live by it, [assisted by] a panel to comprehensively review ethics issues.” —Sun Sentinel

Just for the record, there already exists an ordinance establishing a Broward County ethics commission. It’s supposed to be 11 members, 9 of whom appointed by the very criminals-in-waiting whose conduct those ethical standards would govern. No credentials are specified, although the ordinance notes “Financial Disclosure not required.”

Good start, clowns. But fear not — it’s not clear from my research that even this miserable attempt at reining in the thievery and corruption has been successful. That ordinance is from 2010 — Does this commission actually exist? Where are they? Who are they?

Which brings me to my point: membership. What qualifies a citizen to evaluate policies and activities from an ethical perspective? For some reason, nobody ever seems to come up with the most logical answer, even though it’s actually contained in the question itself.

When establishing any regulatory panel, it makes sense to select individuals who are experts in the field. (The danger, of course, is that these same experts also have personal and financial interests; and that’s the lone floating turd which fouls the entire punch bowl. But leave that aside momentarily.) You want somebody to regulate plumbing, electricity, auto safety, nuclear power plants, etc., you don’t bring in cobblers, musicians, political scientists, or surgeons. So why the hell would you ever want (e.g.) lawyers to regulate ethics?

Isn’t it obvious that ethicists should be part if not all of the equation here? Individuals with advanced degrees and expertise in philosophy specializing in moral science and ethics? You’ll find these exotic species on most college campuses — they wander dreamily in clouds of dust created by book-stuffed offices where the works of Aristotle, Hume, Mill, Kant, and Rawls live on. . Follow the trail. Or maybe they all have Kindles now.

These are creatures who can discuss (endlessly) and apply principles such as deontology, utilitarianism (both rule- and act-), pragmatism, consequentialism, etc. They have no qualms using words like “right” and “wrong,” “justice” and “fairness,” “good” and “evil” — in fact, they’re experts! And unlike your average bloated politician sucking on government teat while inviting his lackeys to the table, they grasp basic concepts — like “poor” and “wrong” aren’t opposites.

Just a stray thought, one that will certainly be as thoroughly ignored as the serious contemplation of effectively governing the conduct of elected officials. We’re too damn busy.

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4 Responses to The Good The Bad and The Ugly

  1. Private Partz says:

    In Florida, people think “ethics” are some kind of lizard.

  2. Beardsley says:

    I love the idea of a panel of philosophers empowered to evaluate policies and procedures on ethical grounds, if only because it would actually provide employmenrt opportunities for hapless graduates with degrees in philosophy. Like yourself!

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