Ethics vs. Accountability


            New Orleans        There are university professors and philosophers who specialize in ethics.  It turns out that for many, especially politicians and governmental big whoops, ethics is purely a philosophical concept having no relation to reality.  Ethics are synonym for rationalizations.  It turns out that it is acceptable in public parlance, because without accountability, ethics are self-certified as little more than personal privilege.

Take the United States Supreme Court Justices as just one of many examples.  Several of them, notably Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, seem to know few boundaries, and, worse, seem to talk to each other about advice and permissions to take every possible favor that isn’t nailed down.  As the cascade of outrage seemed to pour out on a regular basis of six-figure RVs, all-expense trips, and one luxury junket after another paid for by supposed “close friends,” many of which had business before the courts, it is fortunate that there aren’t many ethics cases that come before the court, because it seems like they wouldn’t be able to get a majority who even knew what the word might mean.  The US Senate has started to investigate and issue subpoenas to the donors, feeling that maybe the court should have a real ethical standard.  The Justices finally bent to the pressure, or so it seemed, and promulgated an ethics code.  Good news?  Not really, they left it so that each individual Justice would self-determine whether or not they had met the ethical standard, which is to say there would be no accountability whatsoever even to each other, must less the public.  Ridiculous.

Or, take the problem of the recently deposed New York Republican Congressman George Santos.  Among other things, he ripped and ran with donor monies for his personal use.  It turns out that the Federal Election Commission, which monitors campaign finance reports, has no ability to actually look at the real records, so all the reports, much like those of the Court, are self-certified.  Maybe this isn’t a total surprise, because the FEC has to be one of the most dysfunctional agencies in the government.  Remember, for years the supposedly bipartisan committee was unable to make any decisions, so there was no even play-pretend that they were on top of business.  Politicians don’t want any accountability in this area, so why would they want to legislate real accountability, I guess?

It goes on and on like this.  There are no ethical standards in public life, if there aren’t clear standards of accountability.  Trust and verify. The rest is fiction and spin.  It shouldn’t be this way, but it is this way.