making local government more ethical

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Book Reviews

Robert Wechsler
This is the third of three posts on how Richard W. Painter's recommendations for federal ethics reform in his book, Getting the Government America Deserves: How Ethics Reform Can Make a Difference (Oxford U.P., 2009), may be applied to local government ethics programs.

Lobbying is not as big a problem for most local governments as it is at...
Robert Wechsler
An op-ed piece in the New York Times Sunday Review today looks at 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...
Robert Wechsler
Two weeks ago, the Better Government Association-Alper Services Integrity Index was published, the first since 2008. It grades each state's conflicts of interest, freedom of information, open meetings, and whistleblower-protection laws.

As far as it goes, this is an excellent report. It sets forth best practices and shows how each state has fallen short. With 100% as...
Robert Wechsler
Edward T. Hall's classic book, Beyond Culture (Anchor Books, 1976), is not a government ethics book. But a lot of the wisdom in this brilliant book can be applied to our field.

It's hard to describe this book. It is an examination of certain aspects of culture and of how difficult it...
Robert Wechsler
I don't get it. Such a big deal has been made out of the Bell, CA officials paying themselves big bucks. This was considered the big local government ethics story of the last few years. The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitizer Prize for uncovering it.

Yes, what happened in Bell was appalling. But what happened in Luzerne County, PA was far, far worse. And yet, for example,...
Robert Wechsler
In ethics, there are two basic approaches: (1) an ends-based approach, also referred to as utilitarian or consequentialist; and (2) a means-based approach, also referred to as rules-based or deontological. Government officials, and most people when speaking about government, generally use the former, while government ethics uses the latter. This causes a lot of problems.

Therefore, it is very heartening to see an academic taking a critical look at ends-based approaches to solving a...