Sat. Jun 8th, 2024

Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees

The following Principles of Ethical Conduct are an excerpt from Executive Order 12674 of April 12, 1989, as modified by Executive Order 12731. These Principles apply to all employees of the Federal Government.

Part I-Principles of Ethical Conduct

Section 101. Principles of Ethical Conduct. To ensure that every citizen can have complete confidence in the integrity of the Federal Government, each Federal employee shall respect and adhere to the fundamental principles of ethical service as implemented in regulations promulgated under sections 201 and 301 of this order:

  1. Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.
  2. Employees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty.
  3. Employees shall not engage in financial transactions using nonpublic Government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest.
  4. An employee shall not, except pursuant to such reasonable exceptions as are provided by regulation, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary value from any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the employee’s agency, or whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s duties.
  5. Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.
  6. Employees shall make no unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the Government.
  7. Employees shall not use public office for private gain.
  8. Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.
  9. Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.
  10. Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with official Government duties and responsibilities.
  11. Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.
  12. Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those such as Federal, State, or local taxes that are imposed by law.
  13. Employees shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.
  14. Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards promulgated pursuant to this order.


Civic Responsibility

Comprised of actions and attitudes associated with democratic governance and social participation, civic responsibility can include participation in government, church, volunteers and memberships of voluntary associations. The importance of civic responsibility is paramount to the success of democracy and philanthropy. By engaging in civic responsibility, citizens ensure and uphold certain democratic values written in the founding documents.


Civic Responsibility is defined as the “responsibility of a citizen” ( It is comprised of actions and attitudes associated with democratic governance and social participation. Civic responsibility can include participation in government, church, volunteers and memberships of voluntary associations. Actions of civic responsibility can be displayed in advocacy for various causes, such as political, economic, civil, environmental or quality of life issues.

Civic means, “of, relating to, or belonging to a city, a citizen, or citizenship, municipal or civil society” (ibid.).

Responsibility refers to “the state or quality of being responsible or something for which one is responsible such as a duty, obligation or burden” (ibid.).

citizen is “a person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or union” (ibid.).

Citizenship means “a productive, responsible, caring and contributing member of society.” (ibid.).

Historic Roots

Civic Responsibility dates to ancient Rome whose citizens wanted to contribute to Roman society. Civic responsibility may have started with Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus in 519 BC.

Although Civic Responsibility has existed for centuries in society, it was officially sanctioned as a blueprint for democracy in 1787 by the ratification of the United States Constitution. The Constitution declared, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.”

In the 18 th and 19th centuries and through the 1930s, civic responsibility in America was tied to a commonwealth perspective. From voluntary fire departments to the public arts to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the 1930s and 1940s, citizens participated in projects that shaped communities and ultimately the nation. Due to civic responsibility, citizenship was understood in terms of the labors of ordinary people who created goods and undertook projects to benefit the public, as opposed to the high-minded, virtuous and leisure activities of gentlemen. This kind of civic identify helped create an important balance between pursuit of individual wealth and the creation of public things (Boyte and Kari 1999)

In the 1960s, community responsibility and civic responsibility became more popular. The Cold War and nuclear threats were common fears that coalesced citizens of the United States (Swanson, 1999). Combined with opposition to the war in Vietnam, grassroots organizations to fight environmental pollution and college campus protest demonstrations, citizens learned the value of expressing civic responsibility through civil disobedience. People relied on each other in order to correct injustice and achieve greatness in the nation.

During the 1960s, 62.8 percent of Americans voted in presidential elections. People were involved in political organizations and community action groups because modern technology allowed more free time to society (Putman 2000). Participation proved successful in the Civil Rights Movement lead by Martin Luther King and later failed in the 1980s with the Equal Rights Amendment initiative.

In the 1980s and 1990s, many organizations lost membership. For example, new memberships for the organization of Business and Professional Women declined 89 percent by the end of 1997. Memberships for the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) declined 60 percent, memberships for the League of Women Voters declined 61 percent and memberships for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) saw a 46 percent decrease in membership (Swanson 1999).

In 2001, 44 percent of American adults volunteered in organizations compared to 55 percent in 1999. Financial donations declined in 2001 with 89 percent of American households giving an average of $1,620 compared to 70 percent with an average of $1,075 in 1999 (Independent Sector 1999, Independent Sector 2001).


The importance of civic responsibility is paramount to the success of democracy and philanthropy. By engaging in civic responsibility, citizens ensure and uphold certain democratic values written in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Those values or duties include justice, freedom, equality, diversity, authority, privacy, due process, property, participation, truth, patriotism, human rights, rule of law, tolerance, mutual assistance, self restraint and self respect. Schools teach civic responsibility to students with the goal to produce responsible citizens and active participants in community and government.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Civic responsibility is tied to the philanthropic sector in many ways. By citizen and corporate participation, nonprofit organizations prosper from their giving of time and money.

Service learning directly relates to civic responsibility and ties to the philanthropic sector by students learning through the completion of projects within communities. Examples of organizations supporting service learning include Youth Service America, the Points of Light Foundation and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.

Key Related Ideas

Service-learning is a process of learning civic responsibility that involves problem-solving and learning about issues and interacting with community. Through service learning, citizens participate in projects to help or serve the identified needs of the community. By learning about community assets and needs and actually doing work, citizens experience the value and impact of giving to people and learn to be productive members of society.

Volunteering is a form of civic responsibility, which involves the giving of time or labor without the expectation of monetary compensation. Many people volunteer through local churches, animal shelters or food banks. Volunteering allows citizens the opportunity to share their skills and talents as well as the to learn new skills while helping those in need of assistance.

Civic Education is a method in which to teach civic responsibility. According to the Center of Civic Education, it is a way to promote and enlighten responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles. Civic education is a means to actively engage people in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries (Center for Civic Education). source

Citizenship is rare in human history but essential to free government. Today, the constitutional rule of citizens in America is threatened by a new form of government, unaccountable to the people, in which power is held by a ruling class that seeks to transform our society.