Ethics in Democracy (Etika Demokratija)

I’m blogging “on the road” again. I’m at a conference in Riga, Latvia, called “Ethics in Democracy,” sponsored by the Canadian Embassy here and organized by some of my friends at the University of Montreal. The theme of the conference is broad — covering topics from “Pluralism and Citizenship” to “Corruption and Dysfunctional Democracy” to “Corporate Social Responsibility.” I’m presenting tomorrow on the relationship between regulation and business ethics.

As the conference begins, I’m struck by just how important it is. My feeling, anyway, is that this is maybe the most important conference I’ve ever been to, mostly because these issues are far from theoretical issues in Latvia, today. Latvia was formerly part of the Soviet Union, and many former soviet states are still struggling with establishing democratic institutions, and establishing the kinds of background conditions — including the rule of law and traditions of basic trust — that allow their populations to prosper. And just two days ago, there were protests here in the streets of Riga over a brewing scandal within the Latvian government. Oh, and just to make things interesting, we have a significant number of members of the Latvian parliament attending the conference.

I’ve been to lots of ethics conferences before, ones where the academics involved could afford to be aloof and theoretical, and where the business people involved could afford to be “philosophical” about the “need for ethics.” But today, it matters. People’s lives may actualy be affected in very concrete ways by the ideas presented here today.

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