Today on Blogcritics
Home » A Paradigm of Ethical Accountability

A Paradigm of Ethical Accountability

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Along with the rest of the world, I listened closely to President Obama’s inaugural address, which moved me to discuss one key point of interest. President Obama noted that, “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” The importance of this claim rests in the fact that President Obama has denied the old politics of power and corruption in favor of a return to government by and for the people. The cynics are always skeptical of change. They hold firm to the nostalgia of the past and some would argue they are anti hope. In fairness to the cynics, however, one could instead argue that they are governed by self-interest.

In suggesting that the cynics fail to understand that the ground has shifted, President Obama makes the deeper claim that the very foundation from which government is conceptualized, and protocol enacted, has changed. Change, in fact, must occur from the ground up. It is no longer business as usual. A Kuhnian paradigm shift has effectively occurred within the discourse of American politics.

Although Kuhn argues that his concept of a paradigm shift only applies to the "hard" sciences, it serves to describe this transition of power as well. If President Obama is capable of accounting for all the political and judiciary stances which in the past made America strong, but is also able to account for a more effective regulatory body, then his account is better. Why? His account gives us the best of the old accounts of government, and, in addition, something new. For example, government must allow markets to determine cost, which enables free market economics to foster competition and technological advances. This is key to the old way of describing market functions.  President Obama is certainly not rejecting this notion. He is only mandating increased regulation. So the claims that President Obama is a socialist are patently false, he is more of a realist. The truth is, markets need to be regulated, period.

The cynics, however, fail to realize that times have changed, and one can no longer allow the market to run without strict regulatory guidelines in place. In theory, some would argue, though I would not, the unregulated market is what’s best for a capitalistic society. President Obama, then, is informing the cynics that the markets will remain in place but not without regulation. Thus, his account is better than the old account because market trends will still determine cost, but the added regulation will ensure that it is difficult, if not impossible, to game the system. This is but one example of the ground’s shifting, the changing of the guard, and ultimately the paradigm shift we so desperately need.

The ideology of conservative and trickle-down economics is equally fallible, since it assumes the nature of capital is to flow from positions of power. Economically speaking, those who have the money, have the power. With this power they can employ, rebuild and so on — in theory. In practice, however, economists and statisticians must factor greed into their equations. Though he may be no economist, President Obama has factored the greed of many men and women into his ground shifting stance. Without regulation we will assuredly fall deeper into this recession.

The cynics are anti hope, because they must protect their own interests. They are anti regulation because regulation constrains their exorbitant profit margins. They are, in effect, the old way, the old model. The new way, the new model, must be built on the foundation of accountability and market regulation. Ethics, which have for so long been absent in political discourse, must be reintroduced in the form of effective regulation. The cynics have had their day; their time has come and gone. Now it is a new day, and the economic responsibility for securing market conditions must shift to this new paradigm, namely, a paradigm of ethical accountability.

About Jason J. Campbell

  • Arch Conservative

    “The cynics are always skeptical of change.”

    So are you saying that all change is good and no one can be just when approaching change with any degree of cynicism or caution?

    Also you call for market accountability but not personal responsibility among citizens. Don’t you think our nation would benefit most by having both?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Great article, Jason,

    I like your description in terms of paradigm change. Of course, it’s been ongoing in many people’s minds for quite some time; but it’s a very positive thing to have it articulated from the top. The message is more likely to get through and people will get clearer.

    I also agree that a form of “free market” economy is still the best bet for liberal democracies. I have a piece about to be published here, “The Hidden Dimensions of American Politics, Part III,” with extensive quote from the introduction of Forster’s Howards End. He was very much exercised by those questions. In any case, there is a gap between the notion of freedom and that of justice, which will never be bridged unless the markets are regulated in a sensible way and ethics re-introduced to political discourse. So perhaps you can look at my piece once it comes out and give me some feedback.

    Nice job.

    Roger

  • Brunelleschi

    Jason-

    Nice work!

    Philosophy pre-dated Christianity by at least 300 years, and continues to evolve, but in a tiny community. We have just been ignoring it. Religions have hijacked it for their own agenda (coercing followers to believe and obey, etc).

    Our own constitution was written by people influenced by philosophy in their search for a paradigm shift. Since then, parties formed and thinking about philosophy was displaced by power games and people trying to justify their actions on self-interest.

    This is far from early philosophy’s ideal of “Philosopher Kings” that use their knowledge for good. Kings are obsolete, but philosophy isn’t. Too bad we have been ignoring it.

    Write some more. Good stuff.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Well put, Brunelleschi. For all their faults and attachment to old ideas, there WERE thinking men.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    According to the author,

    The cynics are anti hope, because they must protect their own interests. They are anti regulation because regulation constrains their exorbitant profit margins. They are, in effect, the old way, the old model. . . . The cynics have had their day; their time has come and gone.

    Inspirational, perhaps, but while some cynics, doubters and skeptics are as described, some are not. It is entirely possible to be cynical without merely seeking to protect one’s own dubious interests or exorbitant profit margins. It is also possible to be four square in favor of change and hope without offering adequate substance to create good change or viable hope.

    There have been far too many poorly written laws and regulations and, without skepticism, all of the hope in the world won’t help much.

    The efficacy of regulation depends, to a very great extent, on the regulators and the statutes under which they operate. I have experienced many career regulators in “expert agencies” who were quite capable of functioning and rising in their bureaucratic environments but nevertheless had very little understanding of the industries they were charged with regulating. Such understanding is needed, and unless more of a true pig’s breakfast than already exists is to be created, the understanding has to be more than academic or ideological. Unfortunately often, political hacks are appointed to guide regulatory agencies and, despite their political savvy, have even less understanding of the industries they are charge with regulating than do the career employees under them.

    Many in the legislative branches have even less understanding of commercial realities than do the regulators, and quite often the laws which they pass reflect this lack of understanding. It it far more difficult to enact laws which work well and benefit the public than it is to enact laws which — despite the best and most idealistic of intentions — don’t. Once the laws have been passed, it is far more difficult for the regulatory agencies to adopt salutary regulations under those laws (particularly ill thought out laws) than it is to adopt regulations which neither work well nor benefit the public. I am concerned that the notion “Ready; Fire; Aim” may be more prevalent in Hope and Change than is likely to be beneficial.

    Healthy doses of cynicism, skepticism and doubt are not only good; they will be necessary if the offered changes are to be for the better.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Looks like we’ve grown too big for our breeches, then. For if such indeed are the difficulties facing us, we’ll always be in a mess.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Roger,

    Possibly so. The world is complicated and for the United States (with a population exceeding 300,000,000) to revert to a simpler existence in an increasingly global environment seems highly unlikely. My point was not that there is no hope, but rather that unless the situation is now so horrible that any change would be an improvement, which I seriously doubt, some skepticism is a good thing. At the very least, recognition is needed that some changes would be bad and that some changes would be better than others. Total faith in our leaders is totally misplaced, even though limited faith may not be.

    There will still be a mess, but perhaps a less odious mess; that, I think, is an optimistic conclusion.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    I agree with you, Dan. It’s just scary that there are no clear viable solutions one could latch onto. Unless of course there will be a major breakdown, which will necessitate a fresh start. Or the world government, which would be only worse. Perhaps that’s how things happen in history, not by design or the human hand but in the course of unfolding events.

    Roger

  • (Mark) Eden

    We are all unintended consequences.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Come one now…only one of my kids was unintended!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Come on, Mark. That’s not Marx’s view of history.

  • (Mark) Eden

    So, he got the whole direction of history thing wrong…what can we say? Perhaps we should subscribe to the Leibowitz theory of social development.

    Andy, I’m looking for a youtube rimshot for you. But let’s examine the logic of our condition…as you were clearly a mistake (and, being a real bastard myself, I mean that in the best possible way), what does that make your kids?

    xxoo

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    What I meant, you omitted consciousness from the equation. Didn’t you?

  • (Mark) Eden

    You’re right…I should have said ‘directionality thing’.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Look, just because my birth certificate dates 6 months after my parents wedding certificate doesn’t mean I was a mistake! But…but…you don’t know me!! hehe

  • Cindy D

    I have experienced many career regulators in “expert agencies” who were quite capable of functioning and rising in their bureaucratic environments but nevertheless had very little understanding of the industries they were charged with regulating.

    May be why the law might be written by the very people it might benefit. If a legislator has no real deep understanding of what the industry does or how it works, relying on the industry itself has proved an effective way of writing law.

  • (Mark) Eden

    (Actually, Roger, I was just trying on your Perhaps that’s how things happen in history, not by design or the human hand but in the course of unfolding events. I kinda like it, as it resonates with my experience.

    But that view doesn’t neglect consciousness; it just acknowledges that consciousness is pretty poor at controlling long term outcomes.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    To tell the truth, Mark, I think that’s what’s going to happen. If the system breaks, we’ll be faced with circumstances and conditions we can’t even imagine. And then things will sort themselves out, somehow. The forces of history will provide a corrective, whether we like it or not. I’m not sure if you read anything by Karl Popper, on historicism and the view he was opposing. I’ll have to delve into it a bit to refresh myself. Also “Ideology and Utopia” by Mannheim; and Lukacs perhaps.
    Roger

  • (Mark) Eden

    Roger, I agree with you — except to emphasize that ‘things’ and ‘forces of history’ won’t do a damned thing. People will.

    We can compare notes on Popper if you’d like. IMO he too fails to demystify that directionality thing in historical movement despite all of his claims.

    Mark

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    I realize that, but what I mean by “forces” is simply that we don’t know what form people’s action will take, in what direction, and in response to what conditions. It’s a shorthand!

  • (Mark) Eden

    That’s why I was just adding emphasis.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    OK!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Cindy D,

    relying on the industry itself has proved an effective way of writing law. Sometimes and sometimes not. Industry (and, of course, other interest groups) pays lobbyists lots of money to get the legislative results it wants — or thinks it wants. I haven’t witnessed a lot of Congressional hearings on legislation, but those I have witnessed seemed to have been devoted more to the legislators making speeches in hopes of memorable sound bites being discovered by the media than to asking probing questions to attempt to determine whether what industry (and, of course, other interest groups) wants — or thinks it wants — would be a good thing.

    Change in this area can certainly be hoped for, but even now hardly seem inevitable.

    Dan(Miller)

  • bliffle

    Dan(Miller) says:

    The efficacy of regulation depends, to a very great extent, on the regulators and the statutes under which they operate. I have experienced many career regulators in “expert agencies” who were quite capable of functioning and rising in their bureaucratic environments but nevertheless had very little understanding of the industries they were charged with regulating. Such understanding is needed, and unless more of a true pig’s breakfast than already exists is to be created, the understanding has to be more than academic or ideological. Unfortunately often, political hacks are appointed to guide regulatory agencies and, despite their political savvy, have even less understanding of the industries they are charge with regulating than do the career employees under them.

    Many in the legislative branches have even less understanding of commercial realities than do the regulators, and quite often the laws which they pass reflect this lack of understanding. It it far more difficult to enact laws which work well and benefit the public than it is to enact laws which — despite the best and most idealistic of intentions — don’t.

    All true.

    At the same time, one can state exactly the same for many of the Executives who lead our major companies. They do not understand even their own company or it’s products, let alone the industry. What they understand is How To Get Ahead. They know how to get the job, but they don’t know how to do it.

    I have seen this so many times in the Executive Suites that I am purely astounded.

    The evolutionary schema that we have allowed to develop in the business world is very degenerate. It is so bad that one may conclude that ‘allowed’ is not the right word, that ‘encouraged’ is more appropriate.

    This problem is compounded by the FACT that the unholy alliance of government and business that has been encouraged the past couple decades has helped to insulate bad managers from the consequences of their malevolent actions. They designed it that way in their Board Rooms (which they occupied like it was enemy territory) and in the efforts of the congressmen that they hired as Influence Peddlers (politely called ‘lobbyists’).

    We are just coming out of 8 years of uninhibited business wildness. The result is not good.

    I think the solution is to change modern corporations to be responsive to a wider range of stakeholders. Corporate privilege has to be redefined, corporate Boards have to be re-constituted, corporate goals narrowed, etc.

  • Cindy D

    Dan(Miller),

    I’m trying to find out some things about the federal resreve. It’s a tough thing for me. There’s a lot of conspiracy stuff interwound in it–like people thinking it’s privately owned and what not. But, that thought was mostly about what I’ve been seeing about its initial regulation and operation. I don’t know if it’s true yet. I’m not sure of who is believable yet. But, supposedly, 6(?) banking men went into a hotel for a week or so with a legislator and came out with the basis for how it would work.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Bliffle,

    It’s pleasant to agree on something. However, I would like to modify your penultimate sentence as follows: I think the solution is to change modern corporations to be responsive to a wider range of stakestockholders. That seems a good start, and might even be feasible.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Cindy D,

    Lots of luck. You have carved out an Herculean task. This provides a modest start. It mentions Howard Hackley, who was General Counsel of the Federal Reserve Board back in, as I recall, 1965, when I was a Summer intern there. Mr. Hackley

    (formerly General Counsel and now Assistant to the Board) probably knows more about the evolution of Federal Reserve discount policy than anyone else currently in the System (as exemplified by his authorship of the comprehensive study, “A History of the Lending Functions of the Federal Reserve Banks,” mimeo., 1961).

    In addition to being a very pleasant gentleman, he also had a vast fund of knowledge about the origins and history of the FED in general, and was kind enough to agree to write an article for the Virginia Law Review about “Our Baffling Banking System” which I was privileged to edit. If you can find a copy of the article, it might be very helpful in your search. It was published in 1966. In the meantime, this (in PDF format) might be useful.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Baronius

    This article is a great example of “poisoning the well”. By using this method, you don’t have to engage in debate with those who disagree with you. You declare them to be cynics, and speak with the authority of history that seismic change is taking place despite them.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Baronius,

    I don’t have any problem with being labeled as a cynic, skeptic or doubter. In fact, I rather like it; my only objection is to the pejorative sense in which the term is often misused.

    Applying a pejorative label to something is a fairly common, albeit in my view disingenuous, method of attack. As so used, “cynic” has about the same meaning as “Asshole.” Fun, perhaps, but not very enlightening.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    Dan -

    You’ll probably think this is nuts, but on the subject of cynicism, I believe in the old saying, “moderation in all things”. Just as one can be not cynical enough, one can also be too cynical…and the same goes for naivete – for such is one of the main ingredients of wonder – and once we’ve lost our sense of wonder…it’s then that we become old and bitter.

    I’m not saying you are or are not too cynical – I really don’t know. This is just something I felt should be considered.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Glen,

    I don’t think that’s nuts. “Everything in moderation; including moderation.”

    I really like chocolate ice cream with homemade caramel sauce (mainly butter and brown sugar). It’s absolutely yummy. Too much, however, makes me sick, and I don’t like that at all.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Cindy D

    RE #27,

    Thanks Dan(Miller),

    That 1st link is not available. Any chance you have the name of the article?

    I get this: “Session Cookie Error

    An error has occured because we were unable to send a cookie to your web browser.”

  • Cindy D

    You may like chocolate ice cream. Clearly cookies are not in your diet. :-)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Cindy D,

    But I like cookies — particularly chocolate chip.

    I just tried to pull up the first link and got the same message. It worked before and my computer accepts cookies, so I think the problem is with the site. If you want to try again in a while, that might work. However, I think the other links may serve your purposes just as well.

    Dan(Miller)

  • (Mark) Eden

    Cindy here’s the abstract…(you have to register with Wiley even to get there and then you have to pay for the full article.) Title is: MEMBER BANK BORROWING, PORTFOLIO STRATEGY, AND THE MANAGEMENT OF FEDERAL RESERVE DISCOUNT POLICY

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Mark,

    Notice, some of the comments between #22 and #23 got deleted. Am I hallucinating? Does it occasionally happen, inadvertently I mean?

    Roger

  • (Mark) Eden

    Roger, in the past entire sides of conversations have disappeared from the comments. This hasn’t happened in a while, and in this case I don’t think that our conversation continued beyond your ‘OK’.

    Mark

  • Cindy D

    Thank you (Mark),

    I may actually have to buy that if I can’t dig up a book or article somewhere. It’s getting too frustrating sorting through, well stuff…

    Wow, this punctuation is spreading.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Thank you for your response, Jason on my own site; it was kind of you and I posted a response of my own. Should have let you know sooner.
    I’m certain we’ll be able to talk at length as time goes by.
    Roger

  • bliffle

    Dan(Miller):

    I said ‘stakeholders’ on purpose, because there are more stakeholders in a modern corporation than just the primary shareholders. There are more parties with financial interest than merely those who own stock, for example, employees with financial interest in ongoing health and pension plans.

    In addition to direct financial interest, there are community members with stakes, for example, if a polluted river of effluent damages their environment and their home investment.

    There are other members of the extended business community, such as bankers, suppliers, customers, etc.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Bliffle,

    “unholy alliance of government and business”

    You’re plagiarizing, stealing my phrase like that without giving me the credit. Shame on you.

    Roger