As the Swamp is Drained

Grand Canyon of a Divide

After the Arab spring, it was visible to us all that just protesting and then having elections did not a democracy make. It also takes shared respect for our word of commitment and our institutions. When a population does not individually and collectively disapprove of deceit at a gut level, one gets corruption of rules, not compliance. The more honesty is disrespected as a code of honor, individually enforced, the more it costs to chase corruption of the rules.

Against this backdrop we have a Trump administration with a commitment to “deconstructing the administration state”. Broadly, that means canceling federal rules, in favor of having rules determined at a more local level. Every rule had an advocate, if not a lobbiest faction, and we hear many advocate’s screams amplified now in the media. As they seek to reduce the size of the federal government, eliminating many types of federal rules is crucial to them — it eliminates the maintenance and monitoring of those rules and it eliminates the costs of commanding compliance. Corporations and businesses will support it, not necessarily because they intend to be bad, but because it is costly to demonstrate compliance to government bodies, and it hampers creativity in how to comply with the underlying desired ethic.

Just because they have, for example, cancelled the rulebook for federal action on global warming doesn’t have to mean the globe will warm. We each have our free will. If we collectively want to live in a way that prevents global warming, we can. It may not be a federal rule anymore, but it can still be a value system that, as good stewards of the planet, is written “on our hearts” and in our cities and states. What the Trump administration has committed itself to is eliminating many federal rules, not changing individual values.

The challenge with a deconstructed federal state is that corporations, while treated as persons in the law, have no conscience and are global in scope. However, federal regulations were always an inefficient way to force psychopathic machine-like entities to act as if they had a conscience. Especially when many corporations are global, regulations were incapable of effective control. What can be done to cause better corporate behavior? If we don’t want to participate, short of removing oneself from the modern economy as the Amish do, are there other approaches?

Corporations want to sell products. Visible adherance to the ethics of the day does affect corporations in that it effects their brand and brand loyalty. Media, including traditional and social media, have a huge role to play in making good and bad behavior visible. If we the people want the world to be less warm, we can seek to learn about visible violations of our ethics and we must reward corporations with good behavior even when their products are not the least expensive. By voting with our feet, we exercise a different form of democracy.

Remember, the people committed to a different ethic weren’t obeying the spirit of the rules in the first place. They were just giving the rules enough lip service to keep the government out of their backyard. There will always be a grand canyon of a divide between those who take responsibility for stewardship of the community and those only out for personal gain. The administration believes the way to approach that is local (or at least more local than the federal government) for many issues.

The most local control of all is personal ethics. When we share an ethic, and each moves in concert with that ethic, is when we have our greatest strength. The traditional way for an ethic to become visibly shared is to have forums where views are formed and discussed, even debated and fought over. And that is why freedom religion (freedom of conscience) and freedom of speech must remain core values.

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