A Philosopher's Blog

Trump Supporters as Moral Heroes

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized by Michael LaBossiere on March 20, 2017


While Trump claimed that he would help the forgotten people of America, his rural and small town supporters will most likely be harmed by the implementation of his agenda. Trump also ran hard on repealing Obamacare and engaging in what some would characterize as trade wars. If the administration makes good on these promises, many of his supporters will be harmed. Some have gone as far as asserting that Trump’s presidency will prove to be a disaster for the white working class.

Since these are factual claims, they can be countered by evidence to the contrary and it is worth considering that the predictions of woe might prove to be in error. That is, the Trump administration will lead the working class and forgotten people to a new age of prosperity, health and wellbeing. While not logically impossible, this does seem unlikely. As such, the most reasonable bet is that the Trump administration will prove to be good for Trump and his fellow economic elites but not so good for everyone else.

After Trump won, a cottage industry of writing articles explaining why people supported him when doing so seemed contrary to their interests. It is, of course, tempting to liberal intellectuals to explain this support in terms of such things as racism. It is also tempting to think that people were willfully ignorant of Trump’s long history of misdeeds (such as how students were exploited by Trump University), that many of his supporters were pathologically delusional in believing that he would truly act in their interests or that they were simply stupid. I will, however, advance a different account, that the Trump supporters who will be hurt by Trump and the other Republicans are moral heroes.

While there are many ways to be a moral hero, one standard way is for a person to willingly suffer harm for the sake of the good of others. The stock philosophy 101 example is, of course, the soldier who throws themselves upon a grenade to save their fellows. This is often presented in utilitarian terms: the willing suffering of the few is outweighed by the good this generates for the many. If the Trump supporters knew they would be hurt by his policies, but believed that their suffering would make America great again, then they could be regarded as moral heroes for their sacrifice. If, however, they thought they would benefit from Trump’s policies and got it wrong, then they would not be moral heroes, but merely have been acting from self-interest.

While a noble sacrifice for the good of the many would be heroic, it does not seem that Trump’s policies will be good for the many Americans. Rather, it seems that Trump and his fellow Republicans will be crafting policies that benefit the rich at the expense of the many. For example, his tax plan will be amazing for the rich but harmful to those who are not well off. As such, without an assumption of ignorance, those who supported Trump and will be harmed by his policies cannot be considered moral heroes. At least in the context of utilitarianism. However, there are other moral theories and one of these might make them moral heroes.

Trump, like most people, does not seem to operate based on a considered moral theory. This is no more surprising than the fact that most people do not operate based on considering theories in physics, biology, medicine or engineering. However, these theories still apply to what people do and it is reasonable to consider what sort of moral theory Trump and his fellows would fit into.

The way Trump has treated contractors, students at Trump University, women and others indicates that Trump operates from selfishness. This would suggest that the most likely moral theory to apply to Trump would be ethical egoism. This is the view that a person should act to maximize value for themselves. Alternatively, that each person should act entirely in their own interest. This is in contrast with altruistic ethics, which include the view that each person should not always act solely in their own self-interest, but should consider others.

Ethical egoism seems to fit many Republicans and hence it is no surprise that the frat-bro Republican philosopher Paul Ryan has embraced the ethical egoism of Ayn Rand. To be fair, after John Oliver critiqued Rand, Ryan did assert that he does not embrace her objectivism. However, consideration of Rand’s policies show that they are consistent with the ethics of Rand as expressed in her view that selfishness is a virtue.

While Trump would seem to fit within ethical egoism, this moral theory would make the Trump supporters who will be hurt by Trump chumps and not heroes. After all, a moral hero in ethical egoism would be a person who acts to maximize their self-interest. This will typically be at the expense of others. A moral hero of an ethical egoist would not back Trump if they believed that doing so would be contrary to their interests and would not maximize value for them. However, there is still a chance for moral heroism.

While Trump certainly has the selfishness part of ethical egoism down, classical ethical egoism enjoins everyone to maximize their self-interest. In the ideal laid out by Adam Smith, this would result in competition that is supposed to benefit everyone by the magic of the invisible hand of the market.

It is true that Trump, Ryan and their ilk are presenting polices that do not just benefit themselves. Many of these polices do benefit others, but it is a select group of others, namely the economic elites. While this could be explained in terms of ethical egoism, that Trump and Ryan are doing the right thing because benefiting these elites benefits them (Ryan, for example, enjoys the financial backing of these elites and this enables him to get re-elected) there is also an alternative. This could be called “ethical oligarchism.” This is the moral view that people should act to maximize value (or in the interest of) the oligarchs. This can, of course, be a nationalistic ethics—that people of a country should act in the interest of their oligarchs. It could also be a general view that transcends borders—that everyone should act in according with the interests of the oligarchs of the world.

On this view, the Trump supporters who will harmed by Trump’s policies are moral heroes—they have sacrificed their own good for the good of the oligarchs.

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6 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on March 20, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    “Trump Supporters” is a divisive term. He’s everyone’s president.

  2. ronster12012 said, on March 21, 2017 at 4:55 am

    Michael

    Of course Trump’s supporters are moral heroes, at least vis a vis Hillary, for the following reasons.

    1/ Trump wasn’t selling influence like Hillary with her Clinton Foundation(AKA pay to play), therefore wasn’t party to high level government corruption(though he most likely has engaged in lower level schmoozing).

    2/ Trump had no part in the destruction of various countries such as Libya, Ukraine and Syria. He was not in any way responsible for any war crimes involved and has no blood on his hands……unlike Hillary.

    3/ Trump didn’t threaten to start WW3, unlike Hillary with her pledge to commit a further war crime (and most likely kick off war with Russia) by imposing a no fly zone in Syria, the same country that US, UK, Saudi, Qatar and Israeli supported terrorists, ISIS/Al CIAda/Al Nusra etc are attacking.

    4/Refusing to enforce borders is an act of treason, because without effective borders a country does not really exist. Therefore no borders(and borders can only be called such if they actually are enforced)means no country which by definition is betraying that country and all citizens of it. Therefore, because Hillary was content with the US’s existing de facto open(southern) border policy she is a traitor. And traitors need to be made dead, not elected president.

    5/ Your shadow government/deep state hates him.That is reason alone to call Trump supporters moral. The enemy of my enemy is, if not my friend then at least my ally.

    6/He was the definite underdog and had to not only defeat the dems but his own party and the media oligarchs.
    In anything even pretending to be meritocratic, he was the most deserving therefore it was a moral act to vote for him. Hillary, OTOH, was(is)sleaze personified and therefore it was moral to vote against her.

    Whether he lives up to his promises remains to be seen. I have read that his appointments up till now have been very Jew and neocon heavy, not a good sign, but maybe he will outsmart them all. He has outsmarted all comers till now.

  3. TJB said, on March 21, 2017 at 7:11 am

    Mike seems to have forgotten that Obama’s policies have been a disaster for the Middle Class:

    A new Oxfam International study confirms my Great Fleecing article from Sunday’s New York Post.

    The result of the greatest transfer of the wealth the world has ever seen, facilitated by the Federal Reserve and its Quantitative Easing programs under President Obama, shows the richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined.

    The study released this week to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where many of the 1% congregate, also states that just 62 individuals held the same amount of wealth as 3.6 billion people, about half the world’s population.

    “Power and privilege are being used to rig the system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest to levels we have not seen before. Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, in a statement.

    Here are some dramatic milestones reached since Fed chief Ben Bernanke began his wealth transfer program in December 2008:

    In 2015, just 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – the bottom half of humanity. This figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010.
    The wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44% in the five years since 2010 – that’s an increase of more than half a trillion dollars, to $1.76 trillion.
    Meanwhile, the wealth of the bottom half fell by just over a trillion dollars in the same period – a drop of 41%.
    So as I said in the article, “these actions — to the greatest extent — are the reasons the American middle class has been decimated and no longer makes up the majority of the US population.”

    https://mgray12.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/the-numbers-behind-the-greatest-wealth-transfer-ever/

    • ronster12012 said, on March 21, 2017 at 7:42 am

      TJ

      Interesting and shocking numbers. It just occurred to me that if the entire world were ruled the same way as feudal Europe there wouldn’t be such wealth concentration.

      Such a wealth transfer(polite term for theft)can only occur via swindling the victim. In order to con a victim one must convince the mark that everything is normal and above board or else the mark gets alarmed and the game is up.

      So how have we been conned?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 21, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      I did not forget that; while I’d need to look at the wage data, etc. I’d hazard that the middle class has been taking a beating since the 1970s. The beating has intensified. So, you are right to be critical of Obama. You should also be critical of Bill Clinton-he did a lot of damage to his devoted supporters. As critics of Hillary pointed out, his contribution to the war on crime was terrible for African Americans.

      So, you are correct to bash on the Democrats for their role in the decline of middle America. And lower America.


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