Democracy is a form of government built on a foundation of ethical truths, and it cannot survive without them.
By Kat Brady
November 11, 2022 · 4 min read
Values matter because how we adopt laws is as important as the laws we adopt, and all of us are charged with protecting the self-governing principles that are the foundation of our democracy.
The corruption in Hawaii that has been and is being uncovered by the federal government and media should have us all asking, “Is this democracy?”
The hastily passed resolution (House Resolution 9), without Senate participation, raises again the question, “Is this democracy?”
The Commission to Improve the Standards of Conduct that HR9 established has been meeting and drafting bills and rules to address the corruption in the state and counties to protect equality of participation and the varied interests of all.
There must also be transparency and accountability, not just from the federal sector and media, but from fellow lawmakers without a circle the wagons mentality of protecting each other.
What has been missing in these discussions are the principles and values that should underlie all the recommendations. How can Hawaii pass laws to stem corruption when we ignore the principles and values that are the foundation for our democracy? How can any organization thrive without principles and values?
Values statements are the core, guiding principles of an organization; they define what the organization believes in and how people in the organization are expected to behave — with each other, with everyone who comes before the government, and with other stakeholders. A values statement is, in essence, the moral direction of the organization that guides how it works, how it makes decisions, and how it takes action.
Democracy is a form of government built on a foundation of ethical principles and it cannot survive unless those principles are honored and protected.
Values-based leadership is essential to preserving and protecting democratic principles and there are at least three widely recognized moral virtues that are central to ensuring that the governing process is democratic: truthfulness, justice, and temperance.
Truthfulness. Untruths hurt our democracy because when our leaders deceive us, it becomes more challenging for the public to learn the facts and that makes it more challenging for citizens to provide meaningful input. This undermines the all-important role of the citizenry in the policy-making process.
Justice. Justice exists only when there is fairness in the process of governing. It requires those in leadership positions to consider the varied interests of all and to protect equality of participation.
There must also be transparency and accountability. Voter suppression of any kind is unjust and a threat to democracy. For example, how we draw congressional district maps influences the fairness of our elections.
Temperance. Temperance is also central to democratic leadership. In democracy we do not each get our way, but we must respect the right we all have to work with our fellow citizens and address our challenges in a way that moves us forward as a people.
Respect for the rights of others is essential. Good leaders do not divide and conquer, but rather, they bring people together through the democratic process. We are all in this together and we must all work together for the greater good of Hawaii.
Elected officials and those working in government should understand that they hold a sacred trust as public servants. They are not in their positions to serve themselves, but to represent their communities through their good examples and leadership.
When they fail, they take not just themselves and their families down, but they take down the community, the state, and the people’s faith in the communal good and institutions of government as well.
Democracy is a principled form of government in which we all matter, and values-based leadership is central to preserving and protecting this great democratic experiment.
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Kat Brady is the coordinator of Community Alliance on Prisons and a long-time advocate for those whose voices have been silenced by incarceration.
Mahalo, Kat. I’m sure some readers will think that your three values are nice but impossible to uphold, especially in government. I would challenge that view. It’s why we have ethics commissions at the county and state levels, why most professions have codes of ethics, and so on. We must set high standards even when we know that individuals will certainly fail from time to time. And who holds the “bad guys” to account? All of us. I was sad to note that our voter turnout rate was less than 50% of eligible voters. Maybe we should be like Australia and make voting mandatory. It would be useful to know what the real majority of our citizenry think of our public officials.
· 5 hours ago
Some critics say what we have broadly, is a Representative Oligarchy. I see it differently. Greg Palast says it best. We have the best democracy money can buy. Character and values do matter. Maybe not as much as the fundamental features that serve stakeholders as the foundation of our system, but still matter. Well written piece.
· 6 hours ago
I’ve noticed it’s the person who has the ear of the legislator/mayor/governor who gets heard. These big guys have more skin in the game, so it’s their full time job. The lone resident is rarely heard even though we take the time out to testify. So many times I’ve seen the same people speaking up against something even though they are biased, and the resident is afraid to testify because they are worried about backlash. It’s unfair.
· 6 hours ago
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Why Isn't Hawaii Talking About Principles And Values? – Honolulu Civil Beat