Millennials and Public Ethics

The millennial generation, those born since about 1990, generally eschew marriage preferring to bear illegitimate children and cohabitate. That is certainly their choice, however troublesome it may turn out to be for them in the long run. But there is another side to this: its impact on public ethics. If one were a public official, say Director of Public Works for a small Village in Upstate NY, hiring one’s son-in-law would raise ethical, if not legal, issues. But if that official’s daughter were simply cohabiting there is nothing to prevent him from hiring her consort. But what is the difference between the two situations? Nothing. The young man may not legally be his son-in-law, but he certainly benefits from his familial connections. How can we know whether a more qualified person was not passed over in favor of this young man? We cannot, because ethics laws do not apply. Is it not time to update our ethics laws to reflect the reality of today’s lifestyles? Public employment should never be a perquisite extended to family members whether those family ties are legally recognized or simply de facto.

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