Is ethical behavior by elected officials too broad to ask for?
Elect means to “choose out from” among a group. The clear implication is that one is chosen to represent the group. It is anticipated that the group has such confidence that the one “chosen out from” among them will consistently act in their stead as though they were each standing there themselves.
It takes some thought to digest that concept. One that is elected is not independent of the group from which he was chosen. In fact he is a strict representative of that group. Now, then, the group has a rightful expectation that the elected will represent them at their best, not at his best. Both the elected and the elector should understand that given similar circumstances (whatever they may ultimately be) any members would act the same if guided by ethics.
Thus, what then is ethics?
It is the consummate expression of preserving life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for every man, without the initiation of coercion, force or dominion.
Ethics is not a matter of transient religious views, culture, or customs. Ethics is a matter cooperative co-existence.
Religion, law, culture and even common decency says “do not kill”. Yet, when violence invades life and liberty killing may in fact be the most ethical of choices. Correspondingly, depriving a man of his right to pursue happiness may be met with extreme ethical force of resistance.
How does this relate to the initial question “Is ethical behavior by elected officials too broad to ask for?”
Ethical behavior would prevent an elected man from violating his obligation to the society which elected him to the extent he would chose never to be deceptive to his electors. He would harbor no secrets and certainly would not invade one man’s pursuit of happiness to shower greater happiness upon another.
What is most significant is that any member of the electorate, given equal information and opportunity, to act with a full measure of ethical foundation would chose nearly precisely the same.
Elected officials should perpetually ask themselves that very question. “IF another were given my authority and power, with an intact ethical mindset, would he do as I am presuming to do?” The only safe and reliable answer to that question is a sincere “YES!” Any other answer acknowledges that personal persuasions are playing a stronger role than ethical choices.
That self assessment is only “too broad to ask for” if the elected official has weakened his moral fiber to the point that ethics is a burden rather than a blessing.
Now, above I mentioned a justification of actions which are normally, and ought to be, reprehensible. However, great men have revealed to us the idea that it is the nature and disposition of just about all men once they gain a little authority, as they presume, they begin to exercise unthical behavior. They will seek to bear down upon other men with dominion.
When that happens they loose their strength in leadership and of being elected. For their own sakes, as well as for the community, the society must call into question their ethics. And, if justified they ought to be striped of authority.
Men of ethics would not oppose such sanction and course of questioning. How do we know that to be true? By asking that question “IF another were given my authority and power, with an intact ethical mindset, would he do as I am presuming to do?” Making poor choices is not an essential flaw in mankind. In fact, in some circles, men rejoice over making mistakes because it leads them to better correct their inclinations in future endeavors.
Seeking to hide the existence of poor choices is a fundamental flaw of mankind. Not only have they erred in their ethical decisions, but violate the trust of their fellow beings far more deeply by choosing to hide their mistake in the sackcloth of intentional deceit.
Far more important in life than winning the victory is “winning the choice between being ethical and unethical” behavior. A kind society will establish a means whereby the society may respond to the inevitable ethical flaws of its leaders. The leaders, more than any man unelected, should desire such a corrective process. The entire society should seek diligently for the day that such a process is no longer needed, rather than a time when it is no longer wanted.