Sunday, March 28, 2010

Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty is a cornerstone of a free society. Without honesty, there can be no trust, and without trust all that we depend on in our republic -- government, banking, commerce, education, etc. -- would all eventually crumble. Thomas Jefferson said that, “Honesty and interest are as intimately connected in the public as in the private code of morality.” The ‘interest’ he refers to is the self-interest we all have in earning a living and preserving the fruits of our labors, as well as in sustaining our private and public relationships.

With respect to trust in our government leaders, Jefferson referred to dishonest governors as “rouges.” He said, “rogues set out with stealing the people's good opinion, and then steal from them the right of withdrawing it, by contriving laws and associations against the power of the people themselves.” In order to maintain a republic, there must be a great measure of honesty and trust between those elected as our representatives and the electorate. Our elected leaders serve as the head to the body of the people. They must not “steal the people’s good opinion” and turn their power against the people themselves. This, Jefferson hoped would be “the age of experiments in government, and that their basis will be founded in principles of honesty, not of mere force.”

But the honesty required must be mutual (between both leaders and citizens) in order to achieve the desired results of security, peace and happiness. This Jefferson confirmed, stating, “I have such reliance on the good sense of the body of the people and the honesty of their leaders that I am not afraid of their letting things go wrong to any length in any cause.” Unfortunately, things do go wrong because of the choices and acts of dishonest persons. There are many evidences and stories in our day of dishonesty and its effects in our culture and government. We may ask ourselves, “What are some of the consequences of dishonesty in our society?” In our business dealings? In our personal and family relationships? Upon reflection, truly we can agree with with Jefferson, that “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

May we resolve to be honest in all of our dealings, and may we hold ourselves and our leaders to the highest standards of honesty, in order to prosper and remain strong as a nation.

"Honesty is the best policy." --George Washington

By: J. David Gowdy

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