The common refrain among the philosophers I've read so far is that good behavior leads to happiness, whereas bad behavior leads to unhappiness. Good behavior is that which does no harm, whereas bad behavior is harmful.
If you're happy and you know it clap your hands!
Recently I have been reading "A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues" by Andre Comte-Sponville. It is information that should be taught in our schools, particularly since it requires no religious frame of reference to study Politeness, or Fidelity, or Prudence, or Temperance, or Courage, or Justice, and so on, yet the thrust of these virtues is not normally contradicted by religious teaching (although religious practice seems another matter).
I have worked my way down the list to Tolerance, where I received somewhat of a surprise that seems topical on this day which president Bush delivers his annual state of the union address.
"The ideal subject of totalitarian rule", notes Hannah Arendt, "is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist." Sophistry plays into the hands of totalitarianism: if nothing is true, how can we oppose its lies? If there are no facts, how can we accuse totalitarianism of concealing or distorting them, and how can we reply to its propaganda? For while totalitarianism lays claim to the truth, it inevitably, whenever the real truth disappoints its expectations, invents another, more manageable one.
Totalitarianism begins as dogmatism (it claims that the truth legitimizes it and justifies its power) and ends as sophistry (it calls "truth" whatever legitimizes it and justifies its power).
A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues
To elaborate on the second paragraph, we could say that president Bush used something true (911) to justify his power, but then wound up calling true whatever extended that power (Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Torture, Spying on Americans, Tax breaks for the wealthy, gay bashing, religious bigotry).
So when it comes to el presidente Bush's state of the union address, those unfit for totalitarianism have a duty to challenge every fiction with facts, and what is false with what is true.
Those fit for totalitarianism need only believe every utterance as gospel.