Bruce Burleson – March 10, 2018


Politics really ought to be viewed not so much in terms of right vs. left, but right vs. wrong.  But what is right, and what is wrong?


As a human service professional my training in ethics began with the principle of primium non nocere, or “first do no harm.”  For me that means if we can’t help people, at least don’t harm them in any way.  And do everything you can to be helpful.  So how do politicians help the people, and how do they harm them?


My ethical outlook is based largely on the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged.  In that novel, Rand described essentially the total collapse of the American economy following a Communist-style takeover.  Although I am not a Christian, I find Objectivism quite compatible with much of the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, particularly the commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.”


Rand wrote: My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.  This idea is consistent with the notion of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” as mentioned in our Declaration of Independence.


But how can one be productive, and happy, in an environment in which one’s productive capacity is limited by excessive taxation, regulation, and—frankly—redistribution of one’s wealth?  For over a century, Americans have faced an increasing burden of taxation. We are taxed from the cradle to the grave, especially with income taxes.  With each payday, a percentage of our hard-earned money is yanked from our paycheck without our consent, so the government can spend it on the “greater good.”  The recent tax reform bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump relieves some of that tax burden.  But Americans continue to foot the bill for a $4 trillion per year federal government, much of which takes the form of entitlement programs.  In other words, redistribution of wealth from those who produce it to those who do not.


Who gets to decide what is the “greater good?”  You guessed it—not the people, but the politicians.  We elect Congressmen, Senators and Presidents to “protect the general welfare”—in other words, to look out for all our best interests.  Some politicians however get elected only to engage in self-aggrandizement.  A perfect example of this is Senator Elizabeth Warren. 


Warren purports to stand up for working and poor Americans.  Yet she opposed Trump’s tax cuts and has in fact lined her pockets to the tune of at least $8 million since getting elected.  So, it’s not unreasonable to argue that her ethics as an elected official are highly questionable.  Warren also has a history of lying about her heritage in order to obtain high-paying academic jobs—most famously by claiming to be Native American in order to position herself for hiring preference.  Returning to the premise of primium non nocere, one wonders if real Natives might have been disenfranchised by job opportunities!  Perhaps Harvard could have hired a real Native American instead of the Fake Indian!


And we can also look to the unethical history of the Obama administration.  Did Obama help, or hurt, the American people by imposing destructive regulations upon the business community?  During his tenure, economic growth slowed to a crawl, and the economic recovery from the Great Recession was tepid at best.  Good-paying jobs remained scare during his term. 


Did Obama help, or hurt, the American people with his open-borders policy?  As we have seen, unregulated migration or immigration gets people killed.  In the name of being “compassionate,” the president flooded the country with migrants, some of whom turned out to be members of brutal gangs such as MS-13, or drug gangs trafficking in heroin or fentanyl—substances that are killing our young people in record numbers.  And we all certainly remember the story of Kate Steinle.  Hers however was only the story that got mass media attention.  She has been far from the only innocent American killed by Obama’s policies.


For that matter, did Obama help, or hurt, the American people by shipping planeloads of cash to the brutal Iranian regime—which for decades has led their country with the mantra, “Death to America?”  Was the Iran nuclear deal helpful or harmful to Americans?  Seems to me that having an Iranian nuke dropped on us isn’t exactly helpful.


And for that matter, were Americans helped as Obama stood by and did nothing as ISIS created a Middle Eastern caliphate the size of Indiana—causing Americans here and abroad to be murdered by jihadists?  In fact, Obama created the conditions for the emergence of ISIS by withdrawing troops too quickly from Iraq.  Power vacuums usually fill up quickly, and with the wrong people.


I could go on and on.  Obama claimed to be the champion of African Americans.  But what exactly did he do to help African Americans?  Very little if anything.  His economic policies—from immigration to regulation—hurt black people enormously.  The federal government never lifted a finger for eight years as our inner cities—including his native Chicago—were beset by crime.


Did Obama help, or hurt, conservative Americans by weaponizing the IRS against them?


And then there was Fast and Furious, in which the Obama administration transferred weapons that got Americans killed.  And let’s not forget Benghazi, where the military was told to stand down.  The result?  Dead Americans.  Hillary Clinton, by the way, shares just as much blame for that foreign policy—and ethical—fiasco. 


I could double the length of this article by getting into Hillary Clinton’s lengthy history of problematic ethics.  One need only glance at the chicanery and corruption of the Clinton Foundation and her transfer to Russia of 20% of America’s uranium to establish that she either never heard of the principle primium non nocere, or—more likely—could care less.


The far left (which now also characterizes the Democratic Party) seems to have no sense of ethics either.  Groups such as Antifa, BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) and Black Lives Matter are clearly harmful to the public.  And I’m not just talking about the typical leftist tendency to spread lies and disinformation about everything including President Trump, or its socialistic desire to redistribute wealth.  These groups have engaged in violence and have blood on their hands.  It would seem their idea of “ethics” is harm as many people who disagree with us as possible.  There can be no compatibility between ethics and any infringement upon the First Amendment rights of Americans.


Ethical politics in America means allowing individual Americans to reach their highest potential. At the very least that means not getting murdered by illegal aliens. It means not being strangled by taxation, regulation, or violation of our rights as enshrined in the Constitution.  It also means allowing American families to protect themselves with guns, if they so choose.  How many Americans have died at the hands of murderers because they couldn’t get a gun permit? 


Perhaps every elected official should be required to take a class in ethics, because it certainly doesn’t seem many of them have a single ethical idea in their heads when they take office.  I consider President Donald Trump’s election to be the first glimmer of hope in decades that the political landscape in America will shift from harming Americans to helping them.  Trump is off to a good start; we now have a stronger economy, better enforcement of immigration laws, and a leader who protects us from rogue regimes such as North Korea.  Can a single man make America ethical again?  Probably not in eight years.  But he has ignited that spark.  And I am hopeful that American politics can—finally—shift the country back toward individual freedoms and away from the harmful collectivist policies of the previous administration.