Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ethics, Integrity and Governance!

The focus should be on e-governance and systemic change. An honest system of governance will displace dishonest persons. As Gladstone so aptly said, “The purpose of a government is to make it easy for people to do good and difficult to do evil”.

Napoleon who said, ‘Law should be so succinct that it can be carried in the pocket of the coat and it should be so simple that it can be understood by a peasant’

Building trust and confidence requires an environment where there is a premium on transparency, openness, boldness, fairness and justice. We should encourage this.

Interlocking accountability is a process by which evaluation could be done easily and accountability ensured
If governance is by men who are derelict, the governed will suffer.
We have to keep in mind Plato’s injunction:

“The punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in government, is to suffer under the government of bad men”

Good governance must be founded on moral virtues ensuring stability and harmony.

Confucius described righteousness as the foundation of good governance and peace. The art of good governance simply lies in making things right and putting them in their right place. Confucius’s prescription for good governance is ideally suited for a country like India where many of our present day players in  governance do not adhere to any principle and ensure only their own interests.

Confucius emphasizes the righteousness for life and character building. This is in conformity with Dharma or righteousness as taught by all religions in the world and preached in Buddhism very predominantly in its fourth noble truth. He also emphasizes that man himself must become righteous and then only there shall be righteousness in the world. This is comparable with what Gandhiji said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

{Ethics is a set of standards that helps guide conduct. One of the problems is that the present codes of conduct are not direct and to the point. They are full of vague sermons that rarely indicate prohibitions directly.}

The standard for probity in public life should be not only conviction in a criminal court but propriety as determined by suitable independent institutions specifically constituted for the purpose. We have broadly copied the British model of governance.
Ministers in Tony Blair’s government have had to resign on such minor improprieties as a telephone call to the concerned person to fast track the issue of a visa for the ‘nanny’ of the Minister’s child or the grant of British citizenship to a generous contributor to a cause supported by the Government. Such principles were upheld and pronounced by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Mudgal case in which the said Lok Sabha Member was expelled by Parliament on 24th September, 1951 even when the Member volunteered to resign.
The Mudgal case is often cited as the noblest example of the early leadership’s efforts at setting high standards of conduct in parliamentary life.

We need to reverse the slide by prescribing stringent standards of probity in public life instead of providing shelter to public figures of suspect integrity behind the argument of their not having been convicted in a court.

The standard should be one of not only the conduct of Caesar’s wife but of Caesar himself.

The solution to the problem of corruption has to be more systemic than any other issue of governance.

All procedures, laws and regulations that breed corruption and come in the way of efficient delivery system will have to be eliminated. The perverse system of incentives in public life, which makes corruption a high return low risk activity, need to be addressed.(here we are talking about consequences)

The focus should be on e-governance and systemic change. An honest system of governance will displace dishonest persons. As Gladstone so aptly said, “The purpose of a government is to make it easy for people to do good and difficult to do evil”.

Ethics in governance, however, has a much wider import than what happens in the different arms of the government. An across-the-board effort is needed to fight deviations from ethical norms. Such an effort needs to include corporate ethics and ethics in business; in fact, there should be a paradigm shift from the pejorative ‘business ethics’ to ‘ethics in business’

The Seven Social Sins, as quoted by Mahatma Gandhi in “Young India,” 1925
1. Politics without principles
2. Wealth without work
3. Leisure without conscience.
4. Knowledge without character
5. Commerce without morality
6. Science without humanity
7. Worship without sacrifice

"No one can pursue another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change, that can only be opened from inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or by emotional appeal".
--Marlyn Ferguson: 

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