making local government more ethical

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Misuse of Office/Special

Robert Wechsler
Robert E. Goodin's book Manipulatory Politics (Yale Univ. Press, 1980) is valuable for its "cataloguing [of] various modes of political manipulation," as the author wrote in his Preface. Goodin found only a few of the cases "ethically worrisome," but the fact that I disagree does not make the catalog any less valuable.

Definitions
Goodin's definition of "manipulation" is "power...
Robert Wechsler

Last month, Jonathan Rauch published a sincere and well-written defense of political machines, entitled "Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy" (Brooking Institution Press; available free as a PDF or e-book). Although the essay scarcely mentions conflicts of interest, gifts, nepotism, and the like, and it makes no mention at all of conflicts of...

Robert Wechsler

Anyone who follows my blog knows that my favorite city to write about is Vernon, CA, the "Dream Machine," a city with lots of industry and no one other than city employees who might complain about what's in their backyard, or call for oversight.

But Vernon is not the only city of its kind, not even in Los Angeles County. This week, the Los Angeles Times wrote...

Robert Wechsler

I just read a classic work of philosophical psychology, Self-Deception (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), wherein Herbert Fingarette takes an interesting approach to a phenomenon common to politics, but which seems...

Robert Wechsler

This is the first of four blog posts in which I will look at Zephyr Teachout's excellent new book, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United (Harvard Univ. Press), from a government ethics viewpoint. ...

Robert Wechsler

An example I often use for why government ethics laws are only minimum requirements is that these laws cannot include friendships or romantic relationships, because these are impossible to define with any precision. When a relationship is not included because it is undefinable, this does not mean that one should not treat this relationship like any other special relationship and withdraw from matters involving that individual. One should go beyond the minimum requirements of the law and...

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