Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2020: Mrs. Jobs, Senator Schumer, Mayor de Blasio, And A Possum


I’m working on Part III of the Wuhan virus ethics series, so I’m going to try to keep related matters to a minimum here. A couple links you can check out to relieve me of the necessity of commenting on them: Here’s Ann Althouse writing about her “social distancing” without, apparently, any awareness that the average American is not retired, financially well off, with a spouse, with grown children, who are happy blogging and reading all day. And here’s Ruth Marcus, long one of the more blatantly biased (and dim) members of the Washington Post’s editorial board, authoring an op ed with the head exploding headline,Why Joe Biden is the antidote to this virus.” I intend to keep this utter crap on file for the next time someone argues that degrees from elite institutions are evidence of intellectual ability. Marcus has a Yale and Harvard  Law degree.

1.  Rich people have a right to their wealth; it’s a shame, though, that their riches can’t buy IQ points, or the wisdom to know when to shut up. Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve , told the New York Times,

“It’s not right for individuals to accumulate a massive amount of wealth that’s equivalent to millions and millions of other people combined. There’s nothing fair about that. We saw that at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with the Rockefellers and Carnegies and Mellons and Fords of the world. That kind of accumulation of wealth is dangerous for a society. It shouldn’t be this way….I inherited my wealth from my husband, who didn’t care about the accumulation of wealth. I am doing this in honor of his work, and I’ve dedicated my life to doing the very best I can to distribute it effectively, in ways that lift up individuals and communities in a sustainable way. I’m not interested in legacy wealth building, and my children know that. Steve wasn’t interested in that. If I live long enough, it ends with me.”

What a stupid, ethics-challenged, smug and selfish person. The tell is offering the non-argument that people being able to make as much money as they can and want isn’t “fair” and that it “shouldn’t be that way.” How articulate and persuasive!

2. More sarcasm: What great public schools we have! In Lincoln, Nebraska, a group of teenagers, 14, 16, and 17,were trying to kill an opossum “because it was gross.” (They later told an officer that they thought the creature was a dog.) The animal rolled over and appeared to be dead, so its assailants left it on the ground. You know the rest.

Neither these kids parents, nor their teachers, nor the community nor culture, managed to teach these future burdens on society about “playing possum,” what a possum looks like, what a dog looks like, an why you don’t kill animals for fun. But I’m sure none of these matters were on any standardized tests.

Yes, it does matter.

3.  Abuse of the bar disciplinary complaint process. Attorney Joseph Gioconda sent a letter of complaint to New York’s Grievance Committee for the Second Judicial District stating that “[a]t a minimum, Attorney/Senator Schumer’s statements appear to be improper conduct that reflects upon his character and fitness to practice law in New York.” The conservative National Legal Policy Center also filed a complaint arguing that Schumer’s “conduct . . . is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

As I pointed out when some legal ethicists let their Trump derangement get the better of them and filed an ethics complaint against Kellyanne Conway, lawyers in the practice of politics and related matters are not practicing law, and using the legal  ethics rules as apolitical weapon is itself unethical. The equation is different when the lawyer politician violates laws, however—as when Rep. Matt Gaetz attempted to intimidate  Michael Cohen before he gave testimony to a Senate committee, and when Bill Clinton lied in a courtroom under oath.  Politicians with law licenses shouldn’t be subjected to special limitations because of their bar memberships, other than as a matter of professional honor and character. Schumer, who threatened two SCOTUS justices on the steps of the Supreme Court, deserved to be punished as a U.S. Senator, by the Senate. (Pointer and Facts: Res Ipsa Loquitur)

4. Totalitarianism? What totalitarianism? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio,who recently declared a state of emergency in New York, told  MSNBC interviewer Joy Reid,

“Here’s reality: This is a war like situation. We’re in a wartime scenario with a Mar-a-Lago attitude being used by the federal government. It’s so laid back, and I don’t understand it and — by the way, testing, how about ventilators, where is the federal government making sure our hospitals have the ventilators we’re going to need? Where is the federal government when it comes to surgical masks? This is a case for a nationalization of crucial factories and industries that could produce the medical supplies to prepare this country for what we need.


14 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2020: Mrs. Jobs, Senator Schumer, Mayor de Blasio, And A Possum

  1. 4) Bill de Blasio has a lot of criticism for the “Mar-a-Lago” attitude being used by the Federal Government, meanwhile: Coronavirus in NY: De Blasio defends keeping schools open amid pandemic.

  2. De Blasio is not wrong that the Federal government ought to be doing what it can to ramp up production of masks and ventilators as fast as humanly possible. It’s just that the only way he can think to do that is nationalization.

  3. On point 1:
    All those people that feel some people should not be able to accumulate massive wealth can do their part by not exchanging their money for what those rich people supply. The more income one saves by not consuming the more wealth one avcumulates.

    If the virtue signalling wealthy are concerned about how much money they are accumulating simply cut prices or pay the workers more.

    Funny how Ms Jobs wants to control which groups get her largesse. Exactly how much is she willing to pay for the satisfaction gained for helping those in need. Wouldnt the egalitarian construct require she simply send checks of an equal amount to every man women and child that she feels is in need?

  4. 1. Laurene Jobs should do whatever she wants with her money. To tell others what they should do with what they earn, how much they should earn and whether it should be allowed to generationally passed is unethically laughable. I wonder how many homes and what her investment account balances will be worth when “it ends” with her.

    4. Bill de Blasio is a political panderer with serious intellectual challenges. Under his plan our first move should be to commandeer his homes and turn them into hospitals for the infected.

  5. As for Mayor de Blasio, even if this could be done legally and wouldn’t results in riots, it doesn’t work that way. You just can’t take a factory that makes toasters and turn it into a factory that makes ventilators overnight. When car companies change a model, it takes them weeks to change the machinery and sometimes months to get the factory working properly making the new model. Months to years beforehand were spent setting up the supply chain. That is when you go from making the Jeep Wrangler JK to the Jeep Wrangler JL model. To make a ventilator factory, you need to set up new factories to make each of the parts for the ventilator, then set up the ventilator factory. That could take a year under the best of circumstances. Our current plan seems to be to slow this down so our current medical infrastructure can handle it until the spring UV rays and hotter temperatures drastically cut the spread of the virus. In many parts of the country, that should happen in 2-3 weeks. In 2-3 weeks, you would still be in negotiations with possible parts suppliers. By the time you started making the ventialtors, the demand would have ended months beforehand. This is how government wastes money.

    DeBlasio’s statement is yet another warning about letting our ‘elites’ manage anything important. More importantly, it is a warning about what such people will do if given real power and an excuse. Maybe we shouldn’t trust anyone in a leadership position who has a noble title. It seems their instinct to rule subjects may be hereditary.

  6. 1. So she should divest herself of her wealth, gotten not by her labor or intellect but solely by virtue of marriage, arrange a trust fund that pays her just enough for subsistence, and break out the sackcloth and ashes so she can virtue-signal her life away.

    2. This is why people are buying all the toilet paper, milk and eggs. Because their practical education level would embarrass a third-world country.

    But they’re WOKE, by God!

    3. Agreed.

    4. I’d like to say I’m shocked, but Bill de Bolshevik cannot surprise me with any utterance anymore, unless it would be praise of Trump or capitalism.

  7. I seem to recall the Carnegies and the Mellons and whatnot doing quite a bit of good with their ‘unfair’ piles of wealth. Like building public libraries and other projects. Or does she think they should just be writing everyone each a check?

  8. #2–FULL DISCLOSURE: We have a generational presence of possums, they hole up under the deck, and being on different schedules, we coexist marvelously. The most trouble they’ve ever caused is setting off the motion lights.

    That said, it’s likely my failing, but it seems I’ve been rolling my eyes, shaking my head, and saying/thinking Whiskey Tango Foxtrot a lot more these days; this is one of those times.

  9. Democrats: Trump is trying to take over the country! He must be stopped!
    Also Democrats: Why isn’t Trump taking over the country? He must be stopped!

  10. 1. After having read through several articles by Nick Hanauer, a capitalist who has identified some key flaws in the system that need to be addressed, I have updated my paradigms to remove some of my libertarian assumptions which turned out to be incorrect. I can see where Laurene Powell Jobs is coming from, even if she expresses her opinions in vague and misleading terms. I’m drafting an article about this very phenomenon, so I’ll do a bit of a stream-of-consciousness rant here to test how well I understand and explain it.

    There isn’t anything inherently wrong with making large amounts of money. The problem arises from one of the most common mechanisms for doing so. People can acquire wealth even if they don’t necessarily provide better goods and services, as long as they are good at being the person people buy those goods and services from. The connections and reputation that a person cultivates provide a cumulative advantage, in that renown tends to snowball: the more famous you are, the more famous you can become. You own the connections and reputation by owning the brand, and you can give people permission to use them as long as they follow your rules. You can pay them as little as you can negotiate down, because the major advantage is yours.

    Your brand is far more valuable than your employees’ skills, even though the skills are what alter the world to produce value, while the brand alters consumers’ choices to choose you over a roughly equivalent rival. Competition exists not merely through efforts to provide superior service, but through ploys to convince people to give money to you rather than to your competitors by any means necessary. A skilled leader can coordinate a group of people to solve problems, but the most successful capitalist must be able to funnel transactions through their own organization, regardless of how good they are at solving problems.

    Does any of this mean that we should get rid of money or competition? Absolutely not. It does mean that we need to pay attention to the negotiating power of the rich (investors, owners, et cetera), versus those they employ. The disparity of wealth is just a symptom; the imbalance of power is what shapes the distribution of wealth. The problem here is not the inequality itself but the fact that the inequality is growing, as money is extracted from poor communities–who are being essentially farmed for labor–and consolidated in the assets of people who don’t tend to spend it such that it creates more jobs.

    Is the labor of each person equally valuable? Of course not. However, when you see people working multiple jobs, you have an obligation to wonder if the assumption that poor people lack industry and enterprise may be inaccurate.

    Technology and innovation is supposed to reduce the amount of human effort necessary to do what we need, but our entire economy is based on the principle that if you’re not somehow necessary, you don’t eat except by the compassion of your betters. Do you see what happens where those two ideas intersect?

    This is an issue that I’ve been working on a great deal for the past few months, and so I’d like to practice advancing the discussion here. I agree that people shouldn’t be making facile arguments about the economy and politics, but the more ethical course to me seems to be to make the effort to understand the important values and concepts they mean to express (and teach them to express themselves more effectively) rather than to merely criticize their ineptitude.

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