Ethics Dunces: Half of the U.S.A.

“Who’s Plato?”

According to a recent  Pew poll, almost half of the U.S. is still unaware of last week’s landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, limiting Congress’s power to control private choices through reliance on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and flagging the Democrat deceit in passing a substantial tax on the middle class while hiding the fact in public and political discourse. 15% of the public must have been watching Fox and CNN the way listeners of Orson Welles “The War of the Worlds” listened to the 1938 radio broadcast, turning the dial before misinformation was clarified. These trusting or lazy souls still think the ACA was over-turned. This is, admittedly, better than thinking the world has been conquered by Martians.

The poll means that as we head into a watershed election that challenges the nation to make hard choices about its future course in tax policy, addressing the debt and deficit, foreign policy, commitment to national defense, entitlement reform, immigration, education, infrastructure renewal, employment, financial regulation, and equally vital matters that could have a decisive impact on America’s success, stability and even survival, one half of the public lack the interest and initiative to  stay current with crucial national developments.

This is sad, if not especially startling, news. Obviously the two political parties suspected it, since their campaign ads, including those approved by the President who once promised to be straight with us, are filled with half-truths, misdirection, spin, falsehoods and outright fabrications, perfect for persuasion of the dim, the slothful, the apathetic and the barely-awake. Yet on the day after America’s birthday, it is especially disheartening to be reminded that such a large glob of our countrymen (and women) happily abdicate their duties as engaged citizens in a republic, making good and responsive government more difficult for the rest of us to achieve, and paving the road for liars and scoundrels to drive the United States to disaster.

It is not as if the ethical duties of citizenship are something new. Plato had it right 2500 years ago, when he wrote (in Greek, in “Laws” ):

“A citizen already has a calling which will make full demands on him, in view of the wide practice and study it involves….a task that permits no relegation to second place.”

Willful ignorance of civic affairs and national issues burdens the rest of us. The bewildered 45% aren’t merely useless, they are an anchor on the success of our society. The proper response to your ignorant friends and associates is anger and admonishment. They are, quite simply, not doing their job as Americans.


Pointer: ABA Journal

Facts: Pew

Graphic: Listas

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

9 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Half of the U.S.A.

  1. I’m genuinely surprised it’s only 45%. I would have guessed 60%.

    Looking at the questions, they’re badly worded.

    All of the enforcement provisions were removed, so if you don’t want to pay, you don’t have to, there’s no penalty the IRS can assess. If you can’t get family health insurance for less than 8% of average income, there’s no charge. The devil’s in the details.

    IANAL but you’d have to look at the judgement, and all 1900 pages if the law, to figure out the true situation.

  2. I do not understand – in this supposedly wide-open society of free speech and press, in an election year, to boot – why there is not far more widespread (even pervasive) and passionate (even ferocious) public discourse about the Budget Control Act and the sequestration (of funds) which that act has locked-in. It seems like Americans are content to live as the residents of Pompeii did in the shadow of Vesuvius in A.D. 79 – despite knowing (unlike the Pompeiians) what the signs in plain sight portend.

    The feds can pass a Budget Control Act; they can pass what passes court review as a tax. But they can’t pass a budget. Go figure.

  3. Pingback: Ethics Dunces: Half of the U.S.A. | Ethics Alarms « Ethics Find

  4. A long time ago, we had a class of citizen called the journalist. The job of the journalist was to keep the public informed of vital information from their locality and around the nation. If there was a crime spree, if a corporation was defrauding people, and if important legislation was up for debate, journalists were there to let people know what was going on. They had catchy sayings like Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How to help them remember all the points that needed to be covered in any reporting. Alas, the species died out. The journalist was bumped out of its native habitats (the newspaper newsroom and the back rooms of TV studios) by a new species, the celebrity newsperson and the activist.
    The celebrity newsperson reports on the trivial and the sensational. If it can’t be summarized in a tweet, they won’t cover it. Who, what, when, where, why, and how have been replaced with Who is hot?, What should you buy or be wearing?, When and where are the rich and famous vacationing?, and Why the world could end tonight, details at 11! The activist is the closest thing left to the journalist. They pretend to be journalists, but they are actually PR warriors for their ideology.They present articles that they pretend are news, the articles contain much actual information, but they are really only clever propaganda.
    Lets have a moment of silence for the journalists. They may not have been as noble as they intended, they may not have been as impartial as they pretended, but now that they are gone, we see how important they were.

    A few points:
    The effect of the celebrity newsperson: I was unaware of the Budget Control Act. A search of the news outlets in my state only mentioned it in the 4th paragraph of an article detailing that 1000 jobs would be lost in the state. I don’t mean it only mentioned it recently, that is the only mention in any of their archives. The debt crisis was covered, but the Budget Control Act was never mentioned under that name.

    A good (mostly nonpolitical) example of the activist is an article about Chrysler’s profitability. The article mentioned that their sales are up and that their profits are up. It mentioned that the company has great hopes for their first new models to be released after the bankruptcy including the Dodge Dart. Seems like news, right? Then the last sentence, “Chrysler sold 200 Dogde Darts last month”. It sounds like a reporter who is short-selling automotive stock but it is more likely a reporter who hates the American auto industry. They didn’t mention that only small numbers of Darts made it to some dealers in June and they didn’t arrive until June 25. The sentence also didn’t flow with the paragraph it was in, it stuck out like a sore thumb. A news article might have mentioned the miraculous recovery of the US auto industry. Chrysler, which was written off for dead by most news agencies, is profitable, and not just a little bit. Fiat Group posted a profit last year. The only profitable division was Chrysler. Chrysler, the most US-centric of the big three, not only turned a profit, they covered the losses of Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari worldwide.–finance.html

  5. More on the Budget Control Act and and what looks like inevitable, imminent sequestration…if the figures at the following link are to be believed, the Act kicks the “can” of bankruptcy about as far down the road as possible while (1) tilting ever more decidedly toward “butter” in the guns-or-butter phony dilemma, and (2) initiating unilateral disarmament-by-any-other-name (“sorry, gays – far fewer soldier jobs; sorry, veterans – no more pensions; sorry, contractors – you’ll just have to contract, as in, shrink”):

    Maybe the Act will eventually get a latter-day nickname, like the Go-Ahead-China-Seize-Taiwan-and-the-Philippines Act, or the Go-Ahead-Iran-Nuke-Israel Act, or the Surrender Dividend Act, or the Strategic Defenselessness Initiative…

  6. I have to admit: there’s one thing about this article that bothers me a little.

    The reason the U.S. is formed as a Republic is because everyone can’t possibly make it their full-time jobs to be 100% informed on everything. A very reasonable compromise is to elect government representatives (Federal and State) whose full-time job it IS to do just that.

    The real duty of the citizen, then, is to know enough about the candidates running to for office to be able to make a decision on which one would most likely vote the same way that the citizen would.

    Frankly, the average citizen has no power to DO anything about the SCOTUS decision anyway, save one: the power to elect (or re-elect) candidates to represent him who WILL have the power to do something about it that is in line with the general wishes of that citizen.


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