making local government more ethical

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Larry Lessig's opening talk for the conference on Institutional Corruption (May 1, 2015) is now up on YouTube:  Opening Discussion: Lessig/Thompson    

I was there at the conference and it was a real treat to see Dennis Thompson, founder of the Harvard Ethics Center, and Larry Lessig discuss corruption and potential solutions. Larry advocates changing the system by "...


We have just returned from attending the final conference of the Lab on Institutional Corruption at the EJ Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.

The kick off presentation was a discussion between Larry Lessig, Director of the Lab and Dennis Thompson, the founder of the Ethics Center at Harvard. The link to this presentation, and all others of the confererence, will be posted on this site soon.  Carla Miller, Founder of City Ethics, presented a workshop on "Innovations in Ethics...

Robert Wechsler
At the Institutional Corruption conference sponsored by Harvard's Safra Ethics Center last Saturday, Ann Tenbrunsel, co-author of Blind Spots (see my blog posts on this book), noted that people act not only against what is written in ethics codes, but also against their own values. And they don't realize they're doing it. She portrayed the process by which we act as broken into three phases:  prediction,...
Robert Wechsler
At the Institutional Corruption Conference sponsored by Harvard's Safra Center last Saturday, Bruce Cain, a professor at UC Berkeley, pointed out that the permeable boundary between government and business (and, I would add, business law) brings into government many individuals who have a different concept of ethics. That is, in the business world, loyalty to one's supervisors (or clients) and to the company is the most important thing. In government, loyalty should be to the public. Of course...
Robert Wechsler
Lawrence Lessig, who heads the Safra Center and hosted the event, started by defining institutional corruption as:
A situation where influences within an economy of influence tend to weaken the effectiveness of an institution, especially by weakening public trust of the institution.
This is an academic definition. What's important to take from it is (1) the fact that institutional corruption is a situation rather than an act (and it is hard to deal with IC situations...
Robert Wechsler
On Saturday, I attended a one-day conference on Institutional Corruption sponsored by the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University (videos of it will eventually appear here). Although local government was scarcely mentioned (there was one image of a painting that portrayed the 1930s machine in Kansas City, MO), many ideas that were discussed are applicable to local government ethics.