Values: the Gauge of Honesty

Discourse, futuretalk.co2 Comments

I’ve been talking about improving society as a process of making society more honest, but the only evidence I offered that society is not honest is that you can feel it.

To really appraise the state of society and suggest reasonable changes, we need a better way to describe honesty.

So let’s carry out this metaphor by comparing the individual with society. A dishonest person holds private thoughts or feelings that are different from what they express outwardly. In other words, there is a disconnect between the things that make up their identity, and the actions they perform that express that identity.

What does this look like on a societal level? What can we say to explain what we mean by society is dishonest? What does it mean to say that society does not reflect its members?

Where the individual performs actions that either express or disguise their identity, society’s “actions” consist of the use of power. So the public identity of society is embodied in the places where its power is concentrated–in bodies of authority.

What is the difference between legitimate authority and illegitimate authority? It’s subjective, isn’t it?

The difference is whether or not we perceive that the authority shares our values. When companies, government, and community groups use their power to strengthen things we believe in–things like justice and equality–we support their efforts because we perceive value congruence.

When authority is used in the pursuit of goals that conflict with our values, then we get angry and want to reform or overthrow.

Can you figure out how Circumvention lends itself to more legitimate authority?

SorenValues: the Gauge of Honesty

2 Comments on “Values: the Gauge of Honesty”

  1. D-train

    This makes me think of the old saw “honesty is the best policy,” and after reading this post I immediately felt like the word “policy” is so fraught here. Policy at what level, individual, corporate, or government? And if you run, say, a campaign platform with honesty as your main policy, what does that mean? I mean, “policy” ultimately derives (as far back as we can trace it) from the Greek idea of the Polis, that is, the place that is made up of πολίτης (polites, or people). So perhaps what is truly meant by the old cliche is that the best city, the best way to group people together, is founded in honesty, in the open expression of intentions matched by actions (which, of course, consist in the use of power).

    And then I was trying to think about how policy is expressed and how it is carried out now, and I think that the problem is that “policy” is now an expression either of wishful idealism, of campaign promises, or a code-word for current abuses of power. Case in point: The Cato institute’s 300 word mission statement uses the word “policy” 4 times as the talisman libertarian freedom, yet the Koch brothers deem them, as a “public policy shop” a perfect platform (http://nyti.ms/wiWksD) to use to perpetrate continued economic injustice (founded in the dishonest use of economic power). So perhaps it’s not so much that society itself is dishonest, but, as you say, that governments and corporations and organizations hide behind “policy” as a way to make their stated “good intentions” cover for their dishonesty.

  2. Ellington3

    It is rather flummoxing. It is like being surrounded by a whole hoard of Iagos.
    What ever gets them what they want is what they will do or pretend to support.
    Rather than saying honesty is the best policy, how about honesty is the best purpose or best practice?
    When I hear the word policy I think of insurance and or warranties and they hardly ever hold or come through when something breaks down.
    I do not think that one can circumvent and or build a sound practice or purpose on a foundation or policy that has been built on dissembling. You need a firm “salted’ ground, so you know where you stand per se.

    (am I making any sense?)

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