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The Cutting Edge: Blog of Ed Knudson
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Members of Trump's Religious Advisory Council Have Not Resigned  8/25/2017  (712)

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Southern Baptist Pastor Calls for Holy War against North Korea  8/9/2017  (587)

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The Misuse of Martin Luther on Predestination  7/28/2017  (534)

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Martin Marty Center Publishes Column in Support of Disgraced White Nationalist, Milo Yiannopoulos  2/28/2017  (1159)

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Trump Had Morality Hammered Out of Him by His Family History

David Brooks writes a remarkable article today in the New York Times. It gives some history of the Trump family, the grandfather from Germany, the father. The bible talks about the "sins of the fathers" being visited upon later generations. Well, the sins of these fathers have led to a very big, fat problem for the United States. It is stuck with a president with no moral sense, no guiding internal moral compass that tells him what is right and wrong, despite whether he may be winning or losing a deal.

After giving some of the family history Brooks says:
I repeat this history because I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing; to take the normal human yearning to be good and replace it with a single-minded desire for material conquest; to take the normal human instinct for kindness and replace it with a law-of-the-jungle mentality.

It took a few generations of the House of Trump, in other words, to produce Donald Jr. The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life.
In the 1980s there was a brief period when there was quite a lot of discussion of "business ethics" and "corporate social responsibility". It has been a long time since I have heard or read either of these terms. I look at books on my shelf with such titles and wonder whatever happened to the idea that when you work in business you still have to function with a conscience, as sense of right and wrong. You still have to act in a moral manner. Now, it seems, "finance" rules all; everything, absolutely everything, boils down to mathematics. Money is mathematics and in any deal I have to come out on top. No matter how many people are hurt, if I make money then I am all right. That's the business logic of the day. And such a person has been elected president. And now his son has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar of political corruption and Don Jr. says "its only business". Brooks writes:
Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.
A libertarian legal scholar by the name of Eugene Volokh has even argued at the Washington Post that it certainly can't be a crime to do what Don Jr. did. He starts his piece with an abstract analogy about a Hillary Clinton staffer being offered a juicy tidbit about a Slovakian Miss Universe contestant who claims to have been sexually harassed by Donald Trump. He says that the first amendment could not be interpreted to deny the staffer the opportunity to use this information, therefore, Donald Trump Jr. is complete free of legal liability here.

Note this is a "libertarian" lawyer. That tells you a lot. That tells you that the person has a mental mindset which says: whatever the individual person wants to do or has done is what is good and right and true. Now, that's an overstatement, but overstatements are what libertarian writers do all the time. It is almost always the case that the community, its infrastructure and institutions, are wrong, and the free-floating solitary individual is right.

Eugene Volokh uses his brain power to try to justify Donald Jr.'s actions. Yes, I know. He is talking about whether an actual crime was committed. But this is the point with libertarians today. If it's not a crime then it is OK. There is hardly any recognition of morality, that things may be wrong due to ethical considerations. It is that lack of recognition that leads to the need for more and more law, more and more legalism, because people don't have within themselves any longer an internal sense of what is right and wrong to do to others.

And ethics has everything to do with context. Eugene Volokh fails to reckon with the context of Don Jr.'s actions. What he did must be seen within the context of the Trump campaign receiving the active, substantial support from the Russian government. The analogy with a Clinton staffer has no logical standing as an argument here, it is just an abstract effort to clear Don Jr. of any crime. But when you consider Don Jr.'s actions in relation to many, many further actions taken by Trump's campaign team to be revealed in coming days and their collusion with the Russians all of a sudden a pattern emerges which may well be able to called "criminal".

I wonder why Eugene Volokh is so eager to excuse him so easily. I also wonder why the Washington Post is publishing this kind of libertarian nonsense. That may be because the new owner of the Post, Jeff Bezos, is thought himself to be a libertarian, has contributed to the libertarian magazine, Reason, but not a libertarian Republican or conservative. For example, he supports gay marriage and lives in a very liberal city, Seattle, Washington.

Volokh claims that his blog section is "conservative, libertarian, and centrist." But there are huge contradictions in all three of these terms. Volokh, and some of the other writers in his blog section, seem to me to be extremist libertarians. They ought to let themselves be informed by a real conservative, David Brooks.

And keep this in mind. If there was greater morality in business these days, there could be fewer rules, fewer laws. What makes the need for laws is immorality. Watch out now. With the immoral Donald Trump in charge we can expect that there will be much more law and government needed to keep him in check.

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