Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Defining Standards of Official Behavior

Both government and corporate officials must be held to high standards for democracy to function. Some examples follow.

It really is not that hard to define standards of behavior for corporate or government leaders that merit severe criminal penalties when violated. Examples of egregious official misbehavior that causes vast social harm are legion.

Cover-Ups. Democracy rests on knowledge. All cover-ups thus have unknowably profound consequences for society. Consider the recent allegations that BP covered up the failure of its equipment years before the poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico. Whether or not criminal negligence existed in either case, the mere fact that the initial failure was covered up greatly enhanced the likelihood that the second failure would occur. If it causes public harm, it is the public's business.

Standard #1. Punish the act of covering up, of hiding information that harms society independently from any judgments about the intent of those committing the act that was covered up.

Coming soon...
Candidate Standard #2. The Buck Stops at the Top. Make punishment of the boss mandatory in all cases of corporate misbehavior.

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