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Since one of our most welcome participants is in the ethics business, and I queried him with whether, in his experience, people who deal with ethical questions professionally are any more, or less, likely to behave ethically when their personal or professional interests are at stake, but the string was an addendum to something else and got cluttered with pictures, I decided to re-post the issue anew, to see what it would bring in the way of a discussion.

Here's a couple of points.

In thinking about it, a lot of us are in the ethics business, whether we realize it or not.

Parents who teach their kids it's okay to lie about their age to get into the movies at a reduced price have taught their kids something about ethics, or, to be more to the point, about lying and chicanery.

Police officers who "fudge" their reports to justify a questionable search or arrest are dealing with an ethical issue. They've decided to protect their interests, not anyone else's. Oh, they may argue they're serving the greater interests of a safe society, but I ask whether the means justifies the end. Suppose it's you they're writing about.

Many judges, unsure of whom to believe in a swearing contest between a cop and an accused, usually a disfavored minority, automatically side with the cop. Otherwise they think the system will come to a grinding halt, which it may. So much for the ethics of the thing. Situational ethics, some call it. Thus we have sworn officers of the state, cops and judges, playing games with values you and I hold dear when it comes to o u r legal situation, ideas like truth and justice. Detectives and prosecutors occupy a special category, so numerous are their opportunities to act, or not act, ethically.

If you want to see some of the saddest people imaginable, talk to a cop who thinks the system is out to get him when he is accused of wrongdoing. Truth and justice become very important goals and values then.

Today's news recounts a Social Security Administrative Law Judge, who passes on the legitimacy of claims for benefits, indicted for lying on an application for benefits for her own daughter, claiming to have been married when she was in fact divorced. She claims that according to her recollection she was married at the time and, if wrong, the mistake was innocent.

Then there are lawyers. People in the principle business. If there's anyone who ought to recognize the lines not to trip over it's them, or us, to be more specific. You know the general regard in which lawyers are held. Almost as low as newspaper editors and reporters, another group of scolds who tell us how to behave with some frequency.

So it seemed natural to ask which group holds the monopoly on virtue. The ministers? Don't make me laugh.

Women?

Children?

I see the Political Correctness rearing its ugly head.

Attributing virtue to the undeserved would be funny if it weren't that many of us wrap ourselves in a mantle of righteousness. Or we attribute righteousness to groups we imagine are suffused with virtue because of the goals they supposedly reach for, or the supposed virtue of their members for sacrifice and service rendered.

"Children's advocates" who accept uncritically whatever children say, particularly when claiming unsupported sexual abuse, or acquiescing in the questioners grilling designed to make them say they were abused, are a case in point.

The American Legion, cited here recently for its views on the current war (the contributor did not argue that they should receive greater credit because of who they are, but I chose to make a point about ad hominem arguing anyway) could be another example.

"Support Your Local Police" types who let their sentiments interfere with their duties to judge cases independently when serving on jury duty, are another example.

My guess is that most folks whose professional duties require them to deal with well defined ethical precepts do no better than the common run of humanity in upholding them in practice. Why? Because all people have learned from childhood on that truth telling can be inconvenient when certain embarrassment looms.

Telling the truth when it is inconvenient is always a challenge.

How much value do we place on hypocrisy?

Could the system work without it?

What about cops who drink and drive?

Or parents who teach their kids its okay to lie if it means getting into the movies or amusement park cheaper?


Have you ever been screwed by a lie someone told about you?

What do you think?

-rs



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