Jan. 25th, 2014

miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Corruption is a real, creeping problem and many of society's standard tools fail to stop its encroachment. It seems to be destroying democracy in many parts of the world. The USA is a case in point, where it is simply accepted that politicians accept bribes from big corporations. Australia has been hurrying down the same path too. We now don't even raise our eyebrows when a politician lies or steals money or diverts the public good to benefit rich mates.

This has bothered me for some time and I have seen no easy way around it. I've often gloomily wondered if time was up for western civilisation and we need to fall to make way for more vibrant societies. But I don't like that idea because it would hurt many people. There should be some ways to set rules for society that change the way things work. If they are carefully aimed then they could go a long way toward fixing many of society's greatest ills.

Here is an attempt. Please tell me what you think.

Rules for politicians and others who hold positions of public trust


Violating any of these rules would mark an individual as unfit to hold public office and unable to properly serve society, requiring them to be dismissed from office.

Certain people and groups who benefit from positions of power and influence in private industry may have some of these rules applied to them too if they misuse that power and influence to the detriment of larger society.

The first 6 rules should apply not only to politicians and others in public office, also all companies and corporations.

* * *

  1. They must not promote hatred against any group, nor use their position to disadvantage any group. 1(see notes below)

  2. They must not mislead the public through lies of commission or omission.

  3. Discussions and debate must be conducted rationally, and answers to legitimate questions must be promptly and clearly given. Failure to answer a legitimate question clearly must be considered a lie of omission. Calling people names, shouting at people, evasion, clouding the issue, obfuscating, and using tricks of emotional persuasion in lieu of logic can not be tolerated in people entrusted with great power. They are techniques for people who are not comfortable with the truth, so unsuitable for those in public office.

  4. Secrets can not be tolerated. Secrecy always invites corruption. Transparency is the only way to prove dealings are honest. Dishonesty and corruption must be made incompatible with positions of power. 2(see notes below)

  5. They must not misappropriate or steal money from the public purse for themselves, their family, or friends. This also applies to goods such as materials, services, or contracts.

  6. They must not accept bribes of money, or favours, or promises of them, in return for actions.

    ---- the items below apply only to people in public office ----


  7. They may not receive gifts, donations, or promise of employment from companies or organisations. All donations must be from individuals only. All donations, no matter how small, must be registered in a public list (amount and donor) easily available electronically for easy monitoring to avoid the risk of bribery. It should be clear that anyone objecting to this has bribes to hide.

  8. During and for a period of 10 years after their term of public office they must not accept any position for money or favours with any private company or non-government organisation. Accepting such returns should be penalised by imprisonment (fining such abusers is no deterrent). 3(see notes below)

  9. They must demonstrate more than a current high-school level of understanding of broad fields of science and history. Modern society depends deeply upon science. Any position of power requires a broad understanding of the sciences. History is important because those who don't understand it are doomed to repeat its mistakes. A high level of knowledge is needed because in today's world ignorance can do far too much damage when coupled with great power. We require a certain level of competence when someone gets behind the wheel of a car or airplane; so it should be for steering a nation.

  10. They may not use, for themselves or their family, private transport, private education, or private health care where public alternatives exist. To hold public office requires that they have that intimate understanding of public systems that only comes with their regular use. Any public official who is insulated from public services can not possibly understand them or that large part of society that depends upon them.

  11. Due to its dangerously divisive nature, religion must not be any part of public office. If religious views are held, they have no place in public and must be kept absolutely private. History shows religion can too easily be used to deceive and to rationalise actions that disadvantage members of other religions and those who have no need for religion. A person in public office must be capable of fairly representing all of society, and one who loudly proclaims their religion is clearly unable to do that.



Notes:

1 [Rule 1] It is sadly predictable that it will be argued that using tax and the law to remove some excessive wealth and power from some individuals and groups "disadvantages" them. This twists the intent of rule 1. History shows that it is necessary to properly tax the wealthy and remove excessive power from those who misuse it in order to prevent disadvantage to large parts of society. Those taxes actually benefit the wealthy. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr put it, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

2 [Rule 4] This refers to secrets held by those in power. Individuals are entitled to personal secrets, but groups and companies are not -- they are not people. Secrets are widely assumed to be necessary in some circumstances. I have never heard a logical argument for why this could be so. Some activities might only be possible through the use of secrecy, but those activities are almost never in the best interests of society. Those few that might actually help society (I've never heard of any) can be safely relinquished because of the great risk of corruption they always bring with them. Open Source programming has shown clearly that removing secrecy actually increases safety and security. The cult of secrecy is based upon an outdated and dangerous misconception.

3 [Rule 8] This is to prevent the common practice of a public figure making decisions to benefit a group during office and then being rewarded after public life by receiving a lucrative job with them. This is simple bribery and corrupts every level of public office. It must be stopped. It is unfortunate that there will be cases where an ex-official wants to work honestly for a company where they can deliver genuine insight and expertise, but this must be renounced in order to prevent a massive form of corruption continuing unabated. Ex-officials are already well rewarded financially and there are plenty of pro-bono activities that would benefit society.

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