Leadership Governed by Higher Principles

According to this Bloomberg trending topic, insider trading is alive and well. A post on this topic today asks, “How do we end this scourge, which erodes investor confidence? Or is the game so rigged that the Feds can only stop it at the margins?” Unfortunately, from a governing standpoint, this may be a self-obviating question. One look at insider selling illustrates the difficulty based on sheer volume. But there is a solution, also self-obviating.

“Relativity applies to physics, not ethics”

Albert Einstein’s comment presupposes what C. S. Lewis has suggested as “some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike.” When we adhere to such law, Epicurus has suggested, is when we are the happiest:

“Of all this the beginning and the chief good is prudence. For this reason prudence is more precious than philosophy itself. All the other virtues spring from it. It teaches that it is not possible to live pleasantly without at the same time living prudently, nobly, and justly…and the pleasant life cannot be separated from the virtues” (Epicurus, n.d.).

Of all the considerations on ethics, it just keeps coming back to guiding principles and character. It cannot be otherwise. Fear of consequences may keep someone in check for a short time. But anyone who has raised children (or is more than half done) knows that we can govern, manage and teach our children, but eventually they must choose their own way in life, and receive the benefits and or consequences for their actions. What’s more, they must embrace for themselves those things that will govern their own choices, even when there are no parents around to correct them. The result is maturity and firm character. It is amazing to think how adolescent some of the most powerful people in corporate and political America are. But that is nothing new. It is up to each person in successive generations to choose to be different, contra-culture (when culture is amiss), and leaders governed by higher principles – when no one is looking.


Epicurus (n.d.). Letter to Menoeceus. In The Moral Life. (Brown, C. & Luper-Foy, S Eds.). (1992). Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers.

Lewis, C. S. (1943). The Poison of Subjectivism. In The Collected Works of C. S. Lewis. (Hooper, W. Ed.). (1996). Grand Rapids: Eermans Publishing Company.

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