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Trump Statement Backlash Edition

Trump Statement Backlash Edition

This one is all on one topic, Donald Trump. Most of these are various takes and opinions on his statement yesterday suggesting that “second amendment people” could stop Hilary appointing judges they don’t like. 

There are some arguing that meant he wanted gun owners to vote. No, I’m sorry. I’ve been an English speaker my whole life and as an attorney can spot the implications of a remark. And if it was meant as a joke, it was in incredibly poor taste. When a politician gets shot, our choices become more limited and thousands who might run for office are deterred from doing so. 

It’s not funny and it’s incredibly reckless. 

Trump Statement Backlash Edition

So, today is all Donald. 

James Pilant

History is watching

What does Trump think about gun owners? 

It’s been suggested that what Trump actually said was “Although the Second Amendment, people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” From the tape, this is plausible. But it’s not likely. For one thing, the Trump campaign itself used the phrase “2nd Amendment people” in its press release defending the comments, and for another, the rest of the quote makes clear that Trump’s remark was less a stirring call to arms for gun lovers than a casual crack at their expense. Where the rest of us might feel like we have no options in a Hillary Clinton presidency, the subtext goes, they’re so insane that they might shoot a judge. That’s what his “I don’t know” means. Who knows what those loons are capable of?

The contempt Trump feels for supporters of the Second Amendment may seem out of step with the Republican platform he’s ostensibly running on. But it’s not at all inconsistent with who Trump is: a city slicker from Manhattan who has, over the years, held all kinds of liberal positions on issues such as abortion; universal health care; and, oh yeah, the assault weapons ban. In 1999, as seen in this amusing videoposted by Boing Boing, Trump even said in an interview that “the Republicans are just too crazy right. What’s going on is just nuts.”

Trump Campaign in Freefall? 

Barely 24 hours after Donald Trump delivered a speech intended to reset his staggering presidential campaign, his off-the-cuff suggestion that people resort to violence against his opponent has him right back in the ditch.

At a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday, Trump applied his signature sarcasm to a political third rail, stating that “the Second Amendment” may be the only way to stop Clinton from getting to appoint federal judges if she defeats him in November.

RNC bleeding staffers because of Trump

Scarborough Says Dump Trump

And the political ride will only get rockier for Trump in the coming days after he suggested that one way to keep a conservative Supreme Court after Hillary Clinton got elected would be to assassinate her or federal judges. Trump and his supporters have been scrambling wildly all day to explain away the inexplicable, but they can stop wasting their time. The GOP nominee was clearly suggesting that some of the “Second Amendment people” among his supporters could kill his Democratic opponent were she to be elected.

Can we get a real medical report on Trump? 

In the latest twist on the weirdest campaign ever, Donald Trump seems to have encouraged supporters to kill Hillary Clinton.  Trump said, “By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although, the Second Amendment people maybe there is. I don’t know.”  Of course in the immediate aftermath of the loony homicidal comment, the Trump campaign is now saying that the “dishonest media” is misreading his claim.  That might hold water if it weren’t actually the second time that his campaign has supported killing Trump’s competition in the last month.

What did Trump mean? Was it a joke? 

McClatchy Decides That it is all a matter of Perspective!!

The BBC Take on all this!

Hilary Clinton and History


A Truly Historic Moment for Women

Hilary Clinton and History

This week Hilary Rodham Clinton gained enough delegates to be the Democrat’s nominee for President of the United States. This is a truly historic moment but as far as I can tell it is being greeted with a subdued yawn in most circles.

Why isn’t there more positive response to these events? Why isn’t there wild enthusiasm for the first woman to helm a major party ticket?

I believe there are three reasons for this lack of enthusiasm.

First, we have her husband, Bill Clinton, whose baggage includes extra-marital affairs, the Marc Rich pardon, etc.

Second, Ms. Clinton is very much a “more of the same” candidate. She does not call for radical change and does little to appeal to those who believe that the system isn’t working for them. She is a creature of the system and her millions of dollars of income would tend to indicate that she believes the current system and works well.

And third, the Sanders campaign. The campaign for the democratic candidacy was plagued by Clinton favoritism. The scheduling of the democratic debates on weekends and against sporting events was designed to minimize other candidate’s exposure. Could she have beaten him in a straight up contest without super delegates and other nonsense? We’ll never know but it leaves a sour taste.

There can be no doubt that Clinton is hard, cold calculating politician. Certainly, there are many and I am one of them that hoped the first woman nominated by a major party for the presidency would be more of a transformational figure. But there is nothing radical or even original in her positions. Anyone who reads the beltway media like the Washington Post can predict her campaign positions with accuracy.

So, Hilary Clinton is not a transformational figure and not much perceptible will change should she be elected in terms of woman and men and the United States. But a line will have been crossed; a change made that will echo across the centuries and its implications will have real effects. For the next woman in pursuit of power, position or just simple significance, the struggle will be easier; the goals more clearly marked and change more easy to effect.

James Pilant

Other points of view:

I Used to Be In Love With Hillary Clinton – theindependentthinker2016

Women, Get Empowered: Hillary Clinton Has Made History | a mad man on the run



The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

My friend, Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage, has a new posting on his web site, entitled: The Ethical Link Between Our Beliefs and Our Actions.

Cognitive dissonance is one of the important concepts in ethics, how so often our actions and ideas are in conflict and how we manage to reconcile what to so many would seem simple hypocrisy. Mintz explains the concept and its significance in a brief and clear essay.

Below are the first two paragraphs from the blog post –

Cognitive Dissonance and Ethical Decision-Making

A highly ethical person knows his or her values, principles and beliefs. Those values, principles and beliefs would then determine one’s actions when faced with an ethical dilemma. A person who does not understand or fully know his or her values, principles and beliefs, might act in an ethical situation without thinking through the consequences to others, known as System 1 thinking, rather than first considering how our actions affect others, or System 2 thinking. Later on, rationalizations may be used to reconcile actions to ethical beliefs and reduce cognitive dissonance, that is, the disconnect between what our belief says we should do and what we actually do.

A person who always justifies or rationalizes his actions has a flexible belief system or is lacking in the moral virtues and consistency in behavior. In effect justifications and rationalizations become the belief system of that person and relativistic’ situational considerations inform decision-making rather than sound ethical principles.

As always, in the case of this author, I recommend that you visit his web site and read the full article. And maybe stay and look at some of his other work.

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

Voting and Power!

Voting and Power!

There is a genuine disgust and cynicism about the government and how it functions here in the United States. I share that disgust and like so many find many other institutions in this society lacking.

However, we can vote. It is a slender reed but it may yet prove to be important enough to inaugurate some kind of meaningful change in a system rigged against us.

If you can vote in a primary, please vote. But above all vote in the November election. “They” are always saying that this is the most important election in your lifetime. But this time, it looks like that is the call. We have a history making election that could change all of our lives in so many different ways.

I know that there are those who want to blow up this system. And to you, I say, I understand. I get the pain of feeling that the government has forgotten you, sold your jobs and your future. But there is still time, there is still hope, there are still possibilities.

Vote one more time. This is great nation that has forgotten that all must share in economic benefits not just the wealthy and the well-connected. But that can be just temporary forgetting. The path is still here. The course is still to be found. We can get back on track and have a government that serves the interest of us all.

I ask you to give it another chance and participate in this election.

One of my friends, (from Ireland and Scotland) has written something about voting a power that I like and value. Maybe you’ll like it too.

002-1The excerpt below is from Random Public Journal, the web site of my good friend, Jason Michael McCann, the essay in question beingOverthrowing this Kingdom.

Voting? What was that? What sort of silly loon would waste their time casting a vote? Those that did, marked their paper and chucked it down the pan – for all the good it would do in making things any different for them. In our 300 years of London rule the ballots of Scotland had as much use in Westminster politics as toilet paper. Voting on polling day was the ruin of a decent walk. Change only came about when we re-opened our own parliament up in Edinburgh, and then the transformation began. It turns out, after all, that we are genetically programmed to make political decisions and think political thoughts. Somewhere it was written:

Today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

These were always highfalutin words, best kept I thought for school assemblies, until it dawned on me that they were speaking about us. We’ve only been kept in chains by our own consent; be that as working people under management and ownership or a nation under the heel of an empire. It was we ourselves who put up the red stones on John Finnie Street, and it was our own people who broke the backs of nations to prosper imperialists, and just as surely as we did all that we can rip it all back down and build it again to the prosperity of ourselves. It is us who have been appointed over our nation, to pluck up and pull down a kingdom, to overthrow it and utterly destroy it, and plant and build up a nation for ourselves.

He does have the eloquence, doesn’t he? I’ve told him some day I’ll have to come hear him preach. (That’s the American way of talking – preaching, etc.) I think they minister in Ireland.

But he has the same message as me. This is a good time to participate and make your vote felt.

James Pilant

Twenty Minutes of Action?

Twenty Minutes of Action?

I was cruising the news and commentary sites looking for a significant business ethics subject to write about today. I wanted to avoid talking about the “Stanford Swimmer Who Raped Unconscious Woman” story.  As the media buzz accumulated I felt that there were plenty of people writing about it and my two cents weren’t needed. But then I read the father of the criminal had called for mercy saying his son had only got “twenty minutes of action.”

At first when I read it this morning, it was annoying like a fly buzzing about my consciousness but by this afternoon, it had morphed into an angry dragon and I knew what I was going to write about.

There is so much wrong here.

First, we have the usual two tiered system of justice which I have written about before. A privileged youth is given a sentence which seems totally out of proportion to the crime. This is definitely one of those cases.

This crime is vicious. He raped an unconscious woman. And yet the judge found that, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” – Yes, I suppose it would. Prison is supposed to do that.  But the judge gave the rapist six months in jail and probation as opposed to the prosecution’s recommendation of six years.

Second, he doesn’t seem to have gotten the message that he did something wrong and far worse, he doesn’t seem to care.

In her 12-page victim impact statement, that has spread on social media, the woman noted that Turner has only admitted to being drunk that night, but has not acknowledged that he assaulted her and has continued to argue that the encounter was consensual.


Twenty Minutes of Action
Twenty Minutes of Action

The judge seemed to show some sympathy to Turner’s perspective. “I take him at his word that subjectively that’s his version of his events. … I’m not convinced that his lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him,” he said.


Dauber said she was further shocked to see Persky minimize the significance of the guilty verdicts, which came from a jury of eight men and four women. The judge said at sentencing: “A trial is a search for the truth. It’s an imperfect process.”

The Apple did not Fall Far from the Tree

Third, we have the father’s statement from the probation pre-sentencing report. Many commentators have focused on the “twenty minutes of action” comment but I tend to focus on the first line: “As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered by the events of Jan 17th and 18th.”

It gives the impression that his son didn’t do anything but was the victim of some natural event like a rainstorm or a stiff breeze. A more honest statement might have read – “My son, Brock has severely damaged his future prospects by raping an unconscious woman.” But no. You can read the entire statement without getting the impression that Brock did anything wrong until you think about the implications of the “twenty minutes of action.” It is possible to perceive that Brock may have chosen to spend that twenty minutes unwisely.

But the father’s statement gets even better if we go down about two thirds of the way. You’ll love this line. I did. “He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan 17th 2015.”

He raped a woman without violence? How does that work? Was it a soft, pleasant assault? I am going to go with  – No, it wasn’t. It was a rape, an act of violence.

There is no responsibility here. As far as I can tell, the family is running with the idea that there are two victims both assaulted by un-indicted evil monster of binge drinking. Drinking does not and will never excuse rape. Not to mention the fact, that Brock was sober enough to run away when caught.

There is only one victim, the woman who was violated. And there is not another victim but a criminal, a criminal who did everything under the circumstances to evade justice. And this criminal and his family have failed to own up to what has been done.

And yet, the father does not feel his son should be imprisoned because Brock “is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

That’s right. Brock is now a sort of missionary carrying a vital message to his fellow youth that people should avoid large quantities of alcohol and sex. Except Brock isn’t a victim of alcohol or promiscuity. Brock took advantage of an unconscious woman to perform an act of violation. Brock is a convicted felon, a criminal who did the unthinkable.

No man of decency or with a shred of honor could bring himself to violate a sleeping woman much less a drunk or incapacitated one. A gentleman’s duty when confronted with an unconscious woman is one of protection and help. He must insure her safety and get her assistance.

This criminal failed in his duty and directly harmed a helpless woman. There should be punishment befitting this crime.

What is the lesson we can derive from this sorry mess of a case? Very simple. If you have money, position and power and can make a statement blaming your crime on a climate of binge drinking and promiscuity, you can evade many of the consequences for your actions. That’s wrong.

That is not a lesson I am content with but it is the one we have.

James Pilant

Income Inequality in Britain

Income Inequality in Britain

Income Inequality in Britain

Income Inequality in Britain

Below is a selection from my friend, Jason Michael McCann’s, blog, Random Public Journal’s, latest offering, Westminster’s Power is Unjustified

Power in the state is justified only by the state’s ability to protect the people over which it asserts that power. British rule over the whole of the United Kingdom has been self-serving to the point of criminal inequality. Its power is no longer justified.

If you want power over me then you had better be ready to prove to me that you deserve that power. The sole justification of the state’s power over the lives of people is its ability to provide for the freedom, security, and the welfare of those people. Britain is currently ranked as the twenty-third wealthiest nation in the world, and yet, staggeringly, it is the six most unequal in the developed world in terms of income. After four decades of unchecked Thatcherite neoliberalism, with money being sucked up to the top of the economy, no less than twenty percent of the population are trapped below the poverty line. Income inequality in Britain is greater today than it was when Charles Dicken wrote Hard Times.

I believe that income inequality here in the United States as well as in Great Britain and Ireland have a moral component. There is something unseeemly in the economic benefits of a society flowing to a handful of its members while much of the population loses ground and becomes more insecure.

If you watch the actors in 1960’s television programs like Gunsmoke, you’ll often seen the stuntmen playing small parts as members of crowds, parties, jurors, etc. In the episodes where there were no stunts to be performed it was customary to make sure they still had some income. And it wasn’t just in Hollywood that this kind of kindness was practiced, there was an expectation that there would be human decency in all walks of life.

But somehow, somewhere, the accountants took over and the world of business began to focus not on human beings, making a product, or even some modicum of service to the nation, but on pure profit. And that profit is realized more and more by turning away from investment and from making products to stock manipulation chiefly by stock buy backs – companies buying their own stock instead of looking toward the future or anywhere else.

Human decency, compassion, and kindness are outmoded models of conduct in the modern business world. In fact, they are often considered gateway “drugs” to the theft of monies from the shareholders. Pensions, disaster relief, scholarships, etc; are all stealing from the worthy investor and giving to the undeserving fellow citizens like our children.

Morality and citizenship are key factors in the success of modern civilizations. What can become of us in a land where greed is the only rationale for every action? We’ll get what’s happening now, a loss of faith in our basic institutions, the perception that every politician, every pundit, every newspaper, every television station are bought and paid for, and that playing by the rules is a game for suckers.

We are seeing the breakdown of this society and quite possibly the end of our civilization.

James Pilant

Bye Paul Krugman

Bye Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman was the first web site I read every morning for years. I didn’t read the column so much as his blog which seemed more personal and in depth.

Many, many times, his clever observations on economics delighted me.

i_286All went well for many years, he wrote – I appreciated. But then Bernie Sanders ran for President.

It seemed to me like just another Democratic primary. I’m for Sanders but to Krugman, it appeared as if a horned helmeted barbarian was stomping in his yard, and he took to his column and blog in outrage.

At first, I thought this was a phase that would pass. Somebody would take him aside and say, “Hey Paul, try not to get too excited about this guy, remember there are a lot of people who side with your economic view who are also supporters of his.” But apparently no one did and the columns became more and more – well, just weird. Try this one – My Unicorn Problem or this one, Sanders Over the Edge. I would have appreciated a little neutrality in the race particularly considering that Hilary Clinton and her former President spouse seem to have precious little use for him or his economic views.

I can’t see being a Democrat and being a Clinton supporter as having to be the same thing. I think I can be a more progressive Democrat and back another candidate for the nomination.

So, bye Paul! Enjoyed the columns.

James Pilant

In case, you think I’m alone in my estimates of the Krugman columns – read below-

Paul Krugman, who has turned his New York Times column into a mouthpiece for Clinton talking points, told us (not for the first time) that Sanders and his supporters were ill-informed about how things worked in the real world, and needed to get off his lawn.

Paul Krugman has been waging a one-man war against Bernie Sanders, lobbing bombs and missiles from his perch at the New York Times, in column after blog post after column. It is interesting that has chosen to repeatedly smear Bernie, ad nauseum, rather than try to promote some positive qualities about Hillary Clinton or her record, about which he has said very little. Perhaps it is because for Krugman, who is neither a moderate Republican nor a conservative Democrat, nor a neoconservative militarist on foreign policy, it’s not so easy for him to promote Hillary.

But to argue, as Krugman does, that the Sanders campaign has “lost its ethical moorings” by going after Clinton’s relationship with fossil fuel lobbyist is wrong-headed and misses the entire point of his campaign. Sure, we can quibble about the specific amount of dollars Clinton has accepted from the industry, and perhaps Sanders has exaggerated on this front, but there’s no question money has indeed been exchanged.

And last, from the web site, Beat the Press:

I have tremendous respect for Paul Krugman. I also consider him a friend. For these reasons I am not eager to pick a fight with him, but there is something about his criticisms of Bernie Sanders that really bothered me.

Ted Cruz’s Machiavellian Decision to Drop Out

Ted Cruz’s Machiavellian Decision to Drop Out

(This is a guest post by my friend, Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage.)

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

Ted Cruz’s fellow senators believe he is selfish. They believe he is out for his own good and that he has had aspirations to be President of the United States since his election to the Senate from Texas just four years ago. Last week we witnessed that selfishness when Cruz dropped out of the Republican primary.

Just six days prior he brought Carly Fiorina aboard to be his choice for vice president. He threw Fiorina under the bus. A very competent and spiritual woman, Fiorina gave it her heart and soul albeit for less than a week. Cruz used Fiorina only as long as it benefited him. The decision to drop out six days later smacks of thoughtless behavior. Ted Cruz is the ultimate egoist who acts in his own self-interest.

Just one week before the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz and John Kasich drew up a pact that Kasich would not actively politic in Indiana while Cruz agreed to not do the same in states such as Oregon and New Mexico. Once Cruz dropped out, Kasich had no other choice but to drop out. He also forfeited the opportunity to compete in Indiana. Cruz used Kasich as long as he needed to and then threw him under the bus.

What about his donors who gave about $80 million to the campaign? Didn’t they deserve better? Didn’t they deserve more loyalty to the cause. Didn’t they expect Cruz to be a man of integrity when they agreed to support him? Whatever happened to the pledge to stay in the race until Cleveland and win a floor battle after Trump failed to garner enough delegates on the first ballot?

The irony is that Cruz ran as a principled conservative and violated many ethical principles along the way including honesty, integrity, and responsibility. He abandoned many supporters when he decided it was no longer in hisinterests to pursue the Presidency. No rational person could say he did it for the good of the party, a noble motivation.

Cruz’s behavior illustrates a common problem in workplace ethics. Egoistic leaders attract supporters to the cause because they promise so much but in the end many fail to deliver. In other words, they are not true leaders and their followers abandon ship or are thrown overboard.

Political ethics may be an oxymoron today but that wasn’t always the case. It used to be a high calling to serve the people and place their interests above all else. Cruz’s decisions and actions illustrate the decline in political morality just as there has been a decline in morality in society.

I searched for a parallel from history to characterize Cruz’s actions. I found one in Machiavellianism. It is the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct. The word comes from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote The Prince, among other works.

His cunning in politics is well known. On September 24, 2013, Ted Cruz finally released his grip on the Senate floor after more than 21 hours of speaking about the need to defund Obamacare. The Texas Republican had seized control of the Senate floor vowing to “speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.” This was the self-interest motivated act that created dislike for Cruz for many Republican senators and why so few supported his candidacy.

In modern psychology, Machiavellianism is one of the dark triad personalities, characterized by a duplicitous interpersonal style, a cynical disregard for morality and a focus on self-interest and personal gain. As far as Cruz is concerned these traits fit his personal style to a “t.” Perhaps the dark triad is too strong but it may explain why he isn’t a likeable sort. The self-interest and personal gain characteristics are a perfect fit.

Our politicians have let us down so often in the past perhaps we should not be surprised by Cruz. The way he abruptly dropped without considering the consequences of his actions on others – many who had deeply believed he was a principled conservative – speaks volumes about the character of the man and just how far politicians have slide down the proverbial ethical slippery slope with no hope of climbing back up and regaining the high road.

By Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage.

A Second Chance?

A Second Chance?

I looked at the blood pressure machine twice, not quite believing what I was seeing – 200 over 110.

“That’s not good.” I thought to myself.

It was a little after eleven at night. I was about to moisturize my face. When you reach the age of fifty-nine, your face attempts to dry out, locking in a scary expression and probably eventually sliding off your head. It’s just like everything else at this age that seems to be going badly wrong. I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed a clearly visible blood vein under my left eye. “Never saw that before,” I thought. So, I went and searched in the back of a drawer until I found my blood pressure monitor.

200 over 110 – what to do?

I remember thinking. “You’re going to die, James. Maybe not this minute but probably soon, and if you don’t die, you’ll probably have a debilitating stroke, and live the life of a plant. You know, spoon fed lots of jello and rice pudding, if they remember to feed you.”

A Second Chance?

A Second Chance?

I had suspected that fear of death focused the mind but once I was there looking at death from the range of a close acquaintance I knew I was fiercely concentrating and focused.

I spent the next twenty minutes researching on the Internet and developing a plan. The hardest part of that night wasn’t studying and planning, it was trying to go to sleep. I kept thinking that I might not wake up.

The next day, I purged salt from my diet discarding a variety of canned and frozen foods. I went to the store and bought fruits and veggies. I decided red meat had to go but fish would probably be okay.

It was at the store I found evidence that God had a deep and abiding fondness for me. I had been looking for a reclining exercycle for months, and had repeatedly refused to buy one at full price. And yet, here I was ready and determined to buy one at full price and the store had a dinged one for half off, which I immediately purchased, hauled home and assembled.

While at the store, I tried out their blood pressure machine to see if I could get a different result. It declined to give me blood pressure numbers, merely putting up a message that I should get to a hospital immediately. “I already know that.” I observed to myself.

Since then, it has been a struggle. On the positive side, eating fruit everyday has been nice although grapes are just way too expensive. On the negative side, food choices are a little bland and I crave salt particularly in the form of potato chips. I can’t figure out what to eat guacamole with, if not chips? I put the exercycle next to the computer and move it into viewing position, watch a nice you-tube video (usually a history documentary) for about twenty or twenty-five minutes at a time.

I didn’t re-check my blood pressure for the first week and the next check showed a drop of about twenty points. After that, I splurged and bought a little wrist blood pressure monitor. I test my blood pressure like I’m supposed to, after ten minutes of sitting quietly but after a while I became curious and starting testing it after exercise and meals, in the morning, at night, etc. I wanted to see how much it varied and why. It became readily apparent that the most important factor in whether it was high or not was my salt intake.

So, currently I’m getting readings at my usual time and after proper rest of about 140 over 90. That’s not great but it is more in the yellow zone of taking care of yourself and less of the “my head is about to explode” zone.

So, is this a second chance? – a new lease on life? I don’t know. I know it changed my behavior. I look, feel and live a lot harder, a lot more intensely, and that remains. Sometimes when I walk out a door, I pause and just look at the sky and the trees and the people. I let the wind blow my hair and feel the warmth. I marvel at my students who seem half asleep and walk the halls like zombie extras but then I wander down to the mall and see their elders are even deader, consumers studying the products, eyeing the next bargain ignoring any and all human interaction.

I’m blunter, more friendly and probably a much more engaging lecturer than I have ever been before. I listen a lot better because I want to know what other people are saying and thinking because I’m curious why they keep going on living when I have doubts that I should or can.

One theory has been advanced. My Tuesday-Thursday Business Law class claims that I was preserved among the living so that I could give them all A’s. I told them that should a celestial choir awaken me from sleep to tell me of me of my grand purpose, it was highly unlikely that giving them all A’s would be the name of the tune.

I think that maybe I should go back to where I began in Northeastern Oklahoma and remember what my beginnings were, try out the old trails once again. Maybe that is my purpose, but even if it is not, it is still a path with heart, and that sounds pretty good right now.

James Pilant

Are Shifting Cultural Values Creating an Entitlement Society? (A Guest Column From the Ethics Sage!)

Are Shifting Cultural Values Creating an Entitlement Society?

(This is a guest column by Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage. I am proud to have one of his columns appear on my site. I strongly recommend you visit his site (listed below), favorite it and visit regularly. jp)

We often hear that an entitlement society has developed in the U.S. over a number of years. In a casual sense, the term “entitlement” refers to a notion or belief that one is deserving of some particular reward or benefit—if given without deeper legal or principled cause, the term is often given with pejorative connotation (e.g. a “sense of entitlement”).

Philosophically, entitlement theory comes from the Theory of Justice. John Rawls argued that the state should have whatever powers are necessary to ensure that those citizens who are least well-off are as well-off as they can be(though these powers must be consistent with a variety of basic rights and freedoms). This viewpoint is derived from Rawls’s theory, one principle of which is that an unequal distribution of wealth and income is acceptable only if those at the bottom are better off than they would be under any other distribution. Hence we have the viewpoint to tax the rich and transfer resources to the least well off amongst us. This view of Justice Theory would justify the reallocation of resources in society.

The issue I deal with here is what is behind the entitlement mentality. I am not saying some people do not want to work and feel entitled to benefits from the government out of a sense of justice. Rather, I believe the entitlement notion stems from a shift in cultural values brought on, in part, by what we see on television and in social media. People with wealth flaunt it. TV shows glorify it. Social media exacerbates the feeling of jealousy for those without it. It’s in our face all the time from the housewives of wherever to the grossly over-the-top CNBC program The Secrets of the Super Rich.

What is the average person expected to think when they see such a television program that glorifies over-the-top wealth? Last Wednesday one segment featured a $200 million-plus ridiculously lavish yacht. The reality is that if that amount was split between 5,000 people it could clothe, house and feed them at the rate of $40,000 per year.

The entitlement mentality also comes from the way in which many Millennials were brought up and given just about anything and everything they wanted. Moreover, today we are debating whether children should be rewarded not for winning a competition but for just competing, even if they come in last. They are entitled to be recognized for their effort. But, is that how the real world works? Do you think in China and other Asian countries youngsters are rewarded for finishing behind the pack or last? I doubt it.

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

Students on college campuses feel entitled to voice their views in a way that shuts other voices down. The administration of many such colleges give in for fear of alienating one person or one group without thinking about the rights of others.

So, the key becomes how to define “entitlement.” In this regard we can turn to the theory of “moral rights.” Rights theory provides that human beings have certain fundamental rights that should be respected in all decisions: the right to free consent, privacy, freedom of conscience, free speech, and due process. A right is a capacity, a possession, or condition of existence that entitles either an individual or a group to enjoy some object or state of being. For example, the right to free speech is a condition of existence that entitles one to express one’s thoughts as one chooses.

The moral force of a right depends on its strength in relation to other moral considerations applicable to the context in question. According to rights theory, as long as the distribution of wealth in society is achieved through fair acquisition and exchange, the distribution is a just one regardless of any degree of inequalities that may ensue. The morally correct action is the one that a person has the moral right to do, that does not infringe on the moral rights of others, and that furthers the moral rights of others.

So, in my view entitlement is linked to having a fair and equitable opportunity to reach one’s God-given potential within the free exercise of one’s will. The goal is best achieved through persistence and practice. As the ancient Greeks knew, we develop good habits and ultimately success by applying them in a variety of situations.

Especially in a capitalist society, people must be free to develop their God-given talents without interference from the government. All well and good but does this occur by giving those who may not have earned it a reward or other form of recognition? No, but it does, in fact, occur because of our social-media conscious society which reflects a shift in cultural values.

All too many act in a way to achieve their fifteen minutes of fame whether it is a You Tube posting or other form of social media exhibitionism. We want what we want and no one should get in our way less they violate our rights. Unfortunately, the pursuit of wealth and fame take over and shove hard work and responsibility into the background. This is a narcissistic approach to life and one that leads to the entitlement mentality. I believe it is dangerous and threatens the values we have long aspired to such as to act with integrity and develop a strong work ethic.

Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage. Professor Mintz is on the faculty of the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He blogs at: http://www.ethicssage.com.

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