making local government more ethical

Speaking of Ethics

Ethics is a funny thing. So is character. If you violate a law, you're unethical beyond redeem, and your character is worthless. It's so worthless, that you have no right to talk about ethics or character, even though you've been through the ethics grinder and have thought about it far more than the average person.

This is the situation that faces Eliot Spitzer. Nearly every article about a lecture he gave on Friday at Harvard's Safra Foundation Center for Ethics focused on whether he of all people should be giving lectures on ethics. Which he wasn't. He was giving a lecture on government participation in the market.

But that's not the point. Let's assume he was giving a lecture on the ethical behavior of government officials. What's wrong with that? He has a point of view to share. He certainly has the intelligence.

Don't forget that for many years, one of the most effective speakers on integrity in government has been Bud Krogh, who participated in Watergate. He learned his lessons the hard way, and he has been honest about what went wrong. Those in the trenches, even those who did wrong, are in a good position to let us know why these things happen and what can be done to improve government ethics.

But the press has focused on what Spitzer's madam has to say in her blog and in a protest letter. She thinks it was wrong to invite Spitzer to speak on ethics. Why does the press care about what a misinformed madam says? Couldn't they interview a government ethics expert instead?

I'm not going to bother linking to the articles. They're not worth the visit.

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics