Nepotism is not good for ethical reasons and for practical ones, because if a decision maker is hiring based on family relationships, he or she is not hiring based on merit. Setting hard rules from a distance and on a blanket basis in every situation is also not good, because it presumes much more sagacity than human beings can reasonably claim.
That’s basically the perspective with which I approach Walt Buteau’s reporting on what seems to me to be a non-story:
One recent example — Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon’s appointment of second cousin Tarah Provencal to the city’s three-member Board of Public Safety does not violate the [state Code of Ethics].
Common Cause Rhode Island Executive Director John Marion said while the nepotism line had to be drawn somewhere, appointing a second cousin would seem to violate the spirit of the law.
“You should not be given a position of public trust because a member of your family gave you that. It isn’t theirs to give away,” [John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island] said. “It’s the public’s to give away.”
At some point, this becomes silly. Yes, public appointments are the public’s to give away, but the public elected the mayor to make such decisions. I’d agree that a person should not be given a position of influence just because his or her parent’s cousin is the mayor, but should it really be the case that a person cannot be given a position of influence for the same reason?
We have to let our political system do its work, and a representative democracy is one in which elected officials figure out what they were elected to do and why, and it is for voters to figure out whether to reelect them. The more we take away those two instances of authority, the less we have a representative democracy, but rather an aristocracy that decides for us what decisions we can make and what we’re supposed to care about.