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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., June 4, 1998. Interview C-0328-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Honest people who do nothing allow unethical behavior to flourish in government

Holshouser argues that the greatest threats to ethics in politics are the honest people who do nothing about misbehavior. Their vigilance may be particularly useful a quarter-century after Holshouser's administration, he believes, because citizens are inured to dirty politics. He thinks that, in particular, those that serve on boards are commissions are more corrupt than their counterparts during Holshouser's governorship.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., June 4, 1998. Interview C-0328-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What do you think is the biggest threat to ethical behavior in politics and government?
Well I think it is when people who are honest and responsible are not willing to stand up to those who aren't and say we can't do it that way. I think the public is less inclined these days to be outraged. Maybe they have gotten, like people in Europe centuries ago, too jaded with things. There is not as much potential for political backlash as there once would have been in this country and in the state I think. Although I think we are a little bit better than maybe the country at large. It is hard to know. I think we are. And I said earlier there are some things that people fuss at you about today that they didn't fuss at you then. There are things today that are done that would have gotten a lot more outcry twenty years ago simply because I think there has been some lowering of the standards in some way or another.
Do you have an example of that?
I think people who serve on boards and commissions in some cases may think of themselves as wheeler dealers a lot more than people did twenty and thirty years ago. Now that may have been because I was more naive twenty and thirty years ago and didn't see some of the wheeling and dealing that's going on. But it seemed like to me that maybe it started during that period of big federal grants from Washington during the '60s and '70s. But it seems to me that people have become more aware of the potential for use of the public trough for their own personal benefit than they did back years ago. Sometimes personal observations sort of shoot from the hip. They may not be well founded but that is sort of the impression I have.