Monthly Archives: March 2012

“Character” the word for governing

Found 4 articles that are related by one word — character, and perhaps a second word – morals.

David Brooks penned an essay obit regarding Dr. James Q. Wilson — a social scientist extraordinaire:

When Wilson wrote about character and virtue, he didn’t mean anything high flown or theocratic. It was just the basics, befitting a man who grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1940s: Behave in a balanced way. Think about the long-term consequences of your actions. Cooperate. Be decent.

He did not believe that virtue was inculcated by prayer in schools. It was habituated by practicing good manners, by being dependable, punctual and responsible day by day.

And, in Brook’s column, a link to a Wilson essay on Character promoting the importance of the “development of character in citizenry”.  In the 1985 essay, Wilson said “a variety of public problems can only be understood — and perhaps addressed — if they are seen as arising out of a defect in character formation.”   He refuted the notion that good behavior is best “incentivized”, (he says conservative and liberal policymakers cling to this idea).  “In the long run, the public interest depends on private virture.”

Character is demonstrated by this young man’s essay on how students must look to the “superman” within themselves and be accountable for their achievements.

  While PTAs and school boards can be great instruments in advocating for students, they often focus on the school administration, faculty, budgets, and long-winded policies. They overlook — or at least under-emphasize — the responsibilities of the student.

Lastly, this essay from WP notes 4 steps to demoralize an employee —

  1. Never allow pride of accomplishment
  2. Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects
  3. Give yourself some credit (for the contributions you make to bad morale)
  4. Kill the messengers

Citizens, legislators, board members — read this essay — teachers and other public employees shouldn’t have to work in demoralizing environs, should they?

If we are of sound moral character, then our government will be of sound moral character.

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Data, Knowledge, Transparency, Politics

Data contributes to knowledge.  Knowledge,when shared, contributes to transparency.  Politics dilutes transparency.  One can say politics abhors transparency.  How can one accumulate and wield power if your opponents know what you do?

IBM has a very interesting initiative, Smart Cities, that has applications across all levels of governing and across all sectors (private, public) of organizations.  Substitute your favorite vertical industry in place of city — and think of what can be had…


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