making local government more ethical

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Misuse of Office/Special

Robert Wechsler

Many local government attorneys insist that government ethics laws should not apply to them because they are covered by legal ethics rules. In fact, some government ethics codes have express exceptions for attorneys. I have always insisted that the two are very separate and should not be confused with each other. A recent Ohio Board of Professional...

Robert Wechsler
What are the government ethics implications of private security when it goes beyond protecting specific businesses, malls, universities, and gated communities, becomes an adjunct to or replacement of an ordinary police force, and is done in conjunction with the public police force and, often, using off-duty public police officers?

One problem is that such private forces generally protect the most wealthy neighborhoods. Setting up a neighborhood force with the...
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.

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...