op-ed piece in the New York Times Sunday Review today
whistleblowing from the perspective of whether people lean toward
fairness or loyalty (those who lean to fairness are more likely to
blow the whistle on misconduct). This is, of course, a simplistic
approach, but valuable nevertheless. What is especially valuable is
the authors' recommendation of reframing whistleblowing. They want
to reframe it "as an act of 'larger loyalty' to the greater good. In
this way, our moral values need not conflict."
It's a great idea to try to frame something in a way where values
are less likely to conflict. But the problem with this framing is
that a determination needs to be made of what is "the greater good."
Is it transparency or national security, creating a scandal that
undermines trust and puts the other party in power or keeping it
quiet, where no one is harmed very much, following formal processes
or having an efficient government?
In government ethics, the framing of whistleblowing does not have to
be about a "greater good" that needs to be determined, (1) because
"the greater good" is clear: the public's interest in having
its community leaders act in the public interest rather than in
their personal interest; and (2) because loyalty in government is
also more clear. Yes, there is loyalty to superiors, to colleagues,
to party, to the agency or department. But these are, or should be,
secondary to loyalty to the people who have placed their community
in the hands of its government's officials and employees.