Monday, 24 September 2012

Ethics in Governance: Introduction

Extract from ARCII. 

Ethics is a set of standards that society places on itself and which helps guide behaviour, choices and actions.
Corruption is an important manifestation of the failure of ethics. The word ‘corrupt’ is derived from the Latin word ‘corruptus’, meaning ‘to break or destroy’. The word ‘ethics’ is from the original Greek term ethikos, meaning ‘arising from habit’.

There are two, somewhat contrary, approaches in dealing with corruption and abuse of office:
The first is overemphasis on values and character. Many people lament the decline in  values and the consequent rise in corruption.
The second approach is based on the belief that most human beings are fundamentally decent but there is always a small proportion of people who cannot reconcile individual goals with the good of society. Such deviant people tend to pursue personal gain at the cost of public good and the purpose of organized government is to punish such deviant behaviour. 
In the real world, both values and institutions matter. Values are needed to serve as guiding stars. But values need to be sustained by institutions to be durable and to serve as an example to others. Institutions provide the container, which gives shape and content to values. This is the basis of all statecraft and laws and institutions.

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