New York — Rudolph W. Giuliani is very nearly a household word in New York, if not around the nation. The Manhattan-based United States attorney is seen and heard frequently in press conferences that range from insider-trading scandals on Wall Street to the appointment of a trustee to oversee labor unions allegedly controlled by organized crime.
Mr. Giuliani has advocates and critics. He is seen by most as an ambitious, hardworking, outspoken man with a mission. Recently his name has been mentioned as a contender for the top spots at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Still others speculate that the Brooklyn-born Italian American has his heart set on public office, perhaps aiming at the governor's seat in 1990.
One strain seen in much of Giuliani's work - whether government corruption, organized crime, or insider trading on Wall Street - is a concern for ethics.
``Criminal behavior is not a function of economics in the United States, by and large,'' Giuliani says. ``It is a function of a lack of values.''
Law enforcement alone is not going to solve such problems as drugs or white-collar crime, he adds. Educational programs and role models are important. But even more crucial is dealing with some of the structural problems of society, he says, such as the breakdown of the family and community.
``We have to think of alternative ways ... of teaching values,'' Giuliani says. This means emphasizing ethical education in grammar schools, rather than waiting for high schools or colleges. It is too late, he notes, to teach ethics at business or law school.
``They can reinforce things you learned earlier. ... But if the base isn't there, they can't instill it,'' he says.
The best place for ethical education is in the family or in religious or community institutions, he says. But schools are the only place a democratic society can ensure those values will be stressed.
``And that doesn't mean teaching religion [or] ... denominational ethics,'' Giuliani says. It means exposing young people to the writings and lessons of such thinkers as Aristotle, Plato, or Socrates.
Giuliani concedes that such education is not a perfect solution, because some children grow up learning opposite values, or in communities where problems of poverty mean no opportunity, hope, or avenue for advancement.
``... you have to teach values, and then try new and creative approaches to solving the problems of poverty,'' he says.
``The worst possible thing to do is to try to solve the problem of poverty by using a system that doesn't create a sense of responsibility,'' he adds. ``You have to try to encourage the best in human beings ... a lot of the programs that we've enacted are built on no understanding of the weaknesses in human nature.''
The US attorney has often expressed scorn for people who grow up ``with all the advantages,'' get Wall Street jobs paying large salaries, and then turn to white-collar crime. He criticizes the acceptance of bribery and payoffs in business and politics in New York.
``I don't see the same changes going on within the political structure, however, as I see within organized crime,'' he says, referring to his conviction that the Mafia in the US has been dealt a severe blow. ``I think we're going to have to drag people kicking and screaming into making a lot of the reforms and changes [needed].''