Monday, May 18, 2009
Morality and Ethics in Government
Throughout my little over half century of a lifetime, I have always been attracted to the complexities of "contradictions"...or maybe more specifically "oxymorons". You know...those two words that in practice never seem to go together. Some of my favorite examples of late are "holy war", "safe investment", "smart bomb", "bankrupt Millionaire", "easy payments", "free trade", "flexible budget", and now "moral Government". Yes my friends, it is now very difficult to point anywhere in the world to a government who you could truly call "moral".
First, what does it mean to be moral? Morality and moral "behavior" can have a wide range of meaning and connotation depending on what culture or religion you grow up in, but I think there are some basics a vast majority of the world would agree add up to acceptable or obvious attributes for being "moral". Let's try listing a few of these features:
Speaks the truth, doesn't lie
Follows the rules, doesn't cheat
I could go on but you get the point. Most moral people are good people, productive and provide balance to a world that is oft times not very moral. The biggest problem with morality is it’s not something that can be mandated or forced by rule of law. True morality is part of who a person is and what they believe. There are so many variations to it that in my opinion most morality cannot be "legislated" even though our world governments seem to be going more and more down that path...the path of heavy rule of law and the continuous battle of enforcement.
Let's back up first to a core understanding of what "purpose" government serves. From my understanding, the fundamental purpose of government is the maintenance of basic security and "public order". In the USA constitution, we establish a democratic system for government "of the people, by the people and for the people". This means government is meant to "serve" the people it governs...securing the peace and settling disputes that arise between individuals or business concerns. Unfortunately this basic, core government role has expanded greatly in modern times to many areas unforeseen by our forefathers. Government now is seen as providing economic security, Social security, Environmental security and even a further extension to "morality policing".
While I could probably turn this into a book, let me cut to some short specific views I'd like to share where governments throughout the world are now overstepping their purpose and morality. Let me preface by saying, governments normally rule at the acquiescence of those being ruled...so most people in the world have the government they "deserve". Most people in the world have been well trained by their culture and or government to follow and support their government or their "nationality". It is looked at as "unpatriotic" to question or criticize your government in most places in the world, and actually in most places governments have made it ILLEGAL to do so with little respect for free speech or individual human rights. Autocratic rule, often times connected at the hip with religious intolerance, make up a large percentage of the governments ruling our globe. I fear the USA is going down that same path to its demise.
I would like to present the case of how "the State" is supposed to act and stay within its justifiable role:
Governments should never intervene or interfere with "markets". It upsets the natural order of free trade or market driven economics. When governments step in, it always favors one faction over another and normally immorally colludes with government "benefactors". In other words, big money behind governments always has the upper hand over individual or small business concerns. To me this is against core morality standards covered in natural law and most of the religious holy books. Supply and demand was a system I believe set up by God from the beginning. There is a natural order to most everything under the sun...but modern day governments and big money want to try and change that order. They want to control markets by their power and influence, not by pure trade. They want to protect losing business propositions while sucking the life out of new businesses and technologies that would destroy the "status quo" or compete with them. We see this happening in the USA major industries of automotive and financial companies. Nothing good will come from this government interference accept to put off the inevitable and make future generations pay for our mistakes of yesteryear.
Price or market fixing necessarily demands that someone will win and someone will lose...as determined by government intervention. It is immoral to tell a farmer he MUST sell his crops or livestock at a set price and MUST limit his scope to domestic sales. It is also immoral to take MY money and give it to a farmer so that he DOESN'T plant a certain crop or pursue productivity. It is immoral to place wage decrees on employers or set limits on the profits a company or individual can earn. Yet this is what our whole system has become dependent on...and in my opinion it is a "house of cards". Let the natural laws of supply and demand perform its function and level out the field of competition...both nationally and internationally. Governments need to GET OUT OF THE WAY of progressive markets and business development. Yes, governments need to intervene for CRIMINAL activity, but that is the limit.
Government should not be in the "charity" business. Charity starts at home, the local community, and state which will ultimately lead to a more healthy and charitable nation/state. Our pyramid is upside down where each individual first looks to the "state" to bail them out of difficulty or guarantee their next meal. This has never worked in the history of governments and civilizations.
Socialism is the "religion of man", a product of humanism. Instead of depending on self, our brother, or God as champion of our security...we have replaced all that with "the State" as provider and sustainer. Socialism is a power theory where the individual lives for the good of the masses, controlled by the majority State. By rule of socialism, "someone" is always left holding the bag of debt or loss to cover someone else misfortune or error in judgment. For me this totally goes against traditional truths like "he who works eats" or "it is better to teach a man to fish than just give him a fish". These are fundamental truths that haven't changed from the beginning of time.
Coercion is always required at some point to enforce and control the "will of the State"...which is why governments want to control all the guns and not let their citizens freely own any. Governments should obviously have guns and military to DEFEND their borders and security...but they should not be used in aggression or coercion of it's own citizens unless of course they are threatening the rights of another individual citizen or group. To use arms to quell dissension of a citizen or group of them who are PEACEFULLY protesting an act of government is immoral. The arms race between governments is in my opinion also totally immoral, and we are reaping what we are sowing as we continue the un-winnable arms race. The world needs some good old fashioned "turning of swords into plowshares". If we spent on the business of food production and trade what we spend on armaments, I would argue there would be no hungry citizen on Earth. Poverty and hunger is in direct correlation to our social immorality, or the enslaving borders we put up against our fellow man.
It is immoral for governments to control currencies. It would be better for the world to go back to one standard of value, whether that be gold, silver or "bananas" upon which to determine currency values. The international monetary system has become totally statist controlled or controlled by a few powerful rich factions who can manipulate currency markets. The Federal Reserve is a prime example of that in the USA. How can you have a moral, free system of enterprise if you have multiple currencies manipulated outside of the market? Impossible. Again, false manipulation of currencies always favors a winner against a "loser" just based on their geographic location...usually determined by borders of a State.
Slavery is immoral. Yet I would argue that a majority of the world lives in some form of virtual "slavery". Most governments have "taxation without representation" which means that a productive citizen in most of the world pays half or more of their income to the "government". In my opinion, it is another form of slavery to exchange your individual freedom to work or develop profits anywhere in the world for a government system of socialism. Just look at the percentages of GNP (Gross National Product) that go into covering the costs of modern day governments. Then imagine if these percentages were instead put into the local or international markets for trade and development. My observation is that Government sucks the life and profits out of business and trade. Looking back in history, only slave states gained this kind of income off the backs of its citizens. It is time for the world to put this tendency in reverse motion...before you lose what little that remains of your personal wealth and sovereignty. It will soon be revolt and revolution time all over again in this cycle of humanity, cause and effect.
Credit is immoral. Unless you have money or income to backup a loan, it is immoral to pursue credit. Yet modern day morality with government assent and even programs to stimulate more spending has put much of the developed world, and especially the USA, in a tremendous economic and moral crisis. Instead of "common sense" and natural behaviors of spending less and making more in order to correct an imbalance, our crazy world has embraced unrestrained and unlimited credit as an answer to our global economic dilemmas. As you see currently from the USA, governments are manipulating markets, running over creditors and shareholders, and entering immoral contracts leveraging potentially decades of future generation's wages and tax contributions to cover the failures and unsustainable systems of today. Governments are not allowing "some" failed institutions to fail while raising taxes and income from those few successful and profitable entities within the system to "bail out" the failures. There are no fundamental values supporting these issues of credit in either government or private sectors...so I argue that our government is acting immorally and irresponsibly to the current crisis...and more importantly, a majority of citizens are going along for the ride without dissent. Reap and reward (or lack thereof) is just around the corner because of "cause and effect".
Our legal systems are immoral. The USA is reaping its reward also in the area of justice and lack of morality in our whole culture. Without re looking up the detailed fact on this, I read a while back that lawsuits and especially tort law enforcement was eating up almost 30% of our annual GNP. The core fundamental of that means that our culture has grown to such a dishonest and immoral state of being to where only lawyers and court systems can determine or resolve conflict between people and companies. The USA has something like 75% of all the world's lawyers while having a very small percentage of the world population. What does that alone say about our morality? Every time I have a problem or disagreement with my neighbor or trading partner, I have to sue in the legal system in order to get justice? That has become part of our socialism my friends. In the Old Testament days if I had an issue with someone who was lying...or said I was lying...about an agreement we had, your first step was to get your own witness and meet with the person to try and resolve the issue with an impartial 3rd party. If that didn't work, you brought a group from the community together to hear and help settle the issues. Only after all that was the King or government of the day brought into the situation to render a judgment. Our modern system has bypassed what worked for millenniums, and justice has become a major industry within our culture, full of ambulance chasers and TV judges or lawyers all rendering their expensive verdicts...at a terrible financial cost to our whole economy. And every time something unfortunate or a mistake happens to us, we think "someone" needs to pay. There is no natural order in the universe that says governments or others are liable for every bad thing that happens to you. If someone steals from you, THAT PERSON should be forced to make restitution to you and pay a penalty. But, if you bought a cup of scalding hot coffee and spilled it on your lap with serious burns...how does that somehow become my responsibility or a business’s obligation to pay you MILLIONS of dollars? These things are immoral.
My final point today is that free enterprise and enormous capital investment will not alone change the status of our globally faltering economic system. There has to be a fundamental change in personal and government morality. "To whom much is given, much will be required". The "consume at all costs", me-first mentality of contemporary generations needs to be totally redirected. The focus of the culture needs to change from "things" to "values". We need to value our fellow human more than we value "things". We need to esteem "man" more than the edifices or creations of men. We need more freedom and interest in traveling to other cultures to know how to communicate and understand our neighbor before we can establish trade with them. We need to turn mutual loathing into mutual respect. We need to return to governments "of by and for the people" in place of "Uncle Sam" or "Big Brother"...which means we must take a more active role in determining those governmental forces. If we are not allowed an active role, we may need to leave them behind and vote with our feet and pocketbooks.
Morality and ethics in government start with the morality and ethics of the governed. If we want change, we must initiate it...and be living examples of how we want the world to be and interact. Only when government represents moral people will it be forced to act morally itself.