Thursday, January 12, 2017

Some Quick Thoughts on Ethics

Over the past years I have developed into a kind of ethics "consultant", workshop leader, and a champion of ethical behavior. While mine has been in the health care field ever since I was in grad school in the early 90s, I am very aware of the wide-branching of ethics - and its lack in our society. A friend of mine has commented that many of the big problems we have faced over the past couple decades (or more) are due to the fact that we don't teach or talk about ethics.

Actually, I am not sure we ever have. Or at least we have never connected ethical behavior with day to day life. We allow ethics to kind of hang out in the cosmos with no clear application. Instead we take the position that the "ends justify the means." (Actually that is an official ethical principle, albeit one that I generally find hard to justify.) In any case, we have certainly heard a great deal about "ethics" in recent weeks with the election of Mr. Trump. Those who held Mr. Obama to high ethical standards are now ignoring the low ethical standards of Mr. Trump. 

His seeming unwillingness to follow certain legal issues- or spinning them into irrelevance (son-in-law as Sr. Advisor; not divesting things that could be conflict of interest) or just moving past them as if they didn't exist (I got elected. Now I don't have to show my tax returns.)

Ethics is a tough field to explain, expand on, and get people to understand. "So what," some might say, "if he's honest we don't have to worry. If everything comes out all right, well, ethics be damned." Until of course it's someone you disagree with. Round and round and round it goes.

Instead we get into heated arguments about celebrities making statements while ethics is set aside. Or we get the President-elect raising other issues instead of his personal ethics. (CNN is "fake news" so I don't have to answer their reporter's question.)

I will end this brief discussion quite simply:

  • If we ignore ethics, we are doomed to be taken advantage of; if not by Trump, then by the next one who will follow the precedent.
  • If we ignore ethics, or follow the "ends justify the means" thinking, we leave ourselves open to follow the whims and ideologies of whoever happens to think they are in charge this time.
  • If we ignore ethics, we are ultimately ignoring the role of oversight of our elected officials, something the Founders would shudder at.

Just some quick thoughts, as I sit and watch in uncertainty and disbelief that this is really happening right here. Under our noses.

And we are letting it happen. 

Hence I continue to wrestle with my dark night.

1 comment:

Greg Chamberlin said...

As I read your post to its conclusion I thought it begged the question, What are the ethics of revolution?