Rationalization #58: The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”



I am embarrassed to admit that I missed this one, which is common and sinister. When I get around to re-numbering the list, it will be grouped with #13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause,” and #14. Self-validating Virtue.

The rationalization eluded me because it seems like it could often be a fair statement of fact rather than a rationalization, a lie or logical fallacy that is used to justify conduct but does not. “It’s the right thing to do” is routinely used to end a debate, however, when it is only a proposition that must be supported with facts and ethical reasoning. Simply saying “I did it/support it/ believe in it because it’s the right thing to do” aims at ending opposition by asserting virtue and wisdom that may not exist.  The question that has to be answered is why “it’s the right thing to do,” and “Because it’s just right, that’s all,” “Everybody knows it’s right,” “My parents taught me so,” “That’s what God tells us in the Bible,” and many other non-answers do not justify the assertion.

Maybe it’s the right thing, and maybe not. Just saying it conduct is right without doing the hard work of ethical analysis is bluffing and deflection. “It’s the right thing to do” you say?

Prove it.

A Prosecutor Lies, But It’s For A Good Cause…

Yes, Jack McCoy would probably be disbarred in the real world...

Yes, Jack McCoy would probably be disbarred in the real world…

Aaron Brockler, an assistant Cuyahoga County (Ohio, including Cleveland) prosecutor, was fired last month for  using a false identity on Facebook  to try to influence the testimony of  defense witnesses in a homicide case.

He initiated Facebook discussions with two women listed by the defense as alibi witnesses in a murder prosecution. Brockler pretended to be a former girlfriend of the defendant who had a child fathered by him, and urged the witnesses not to “lie for him.”  County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty fired Brockler, who by my count violated at least Ohio legal ethics rules 3.4, 3.7, 3.8, 4.1, 4.2 and 8.4, (tampering with evidence, suborning perjury, becoming a necessary witness, prosecutorial misconduct, misrepresentation of facts, contact with a person represented by counsel and dishonesty) and perhaps some others. Prosecutors are not allowed to tamper with defense witnesses, or try to influence any witness testimony. They are not permitted to contact represented parties in connection with a prosecution, unless the lawyers are involved. They are not permitted to lie or pose as someone they are not over the internet. They are not permitted to make themselves witnesses in their own cases. Brockler wasn’t just fired for cause, he was fired for multiple causes, any one of which would have justified kicking him out the door. Continue reading

Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sibelius Ethics

From the Associated Press, the big story of the day:

“A federal judge declared the foundation of President Barack Obama’s health care law unconstitutional Monday, ruling that the government cannot require Americans to purchase insurance. The case is expected to end up at the Supreme Court.”

This matter, as the AP suggests, is far from settled. I just finished the opinion, which will be more accessible tomorrow. Two ethical conclusions jump out from it, however. Continue reading

Incompetent Advice from “The Ethicist”

Randy Cohen,”The Ethicist,” really doesn’t apply ethics to the intriguing questions sent to him in his long-running column in the New York Times Magazine. What he applies is Randy’s customized social justice agenda, which has a strong class bias (Rich people deserve to be brought down a peg whenever feasible), endorses redistribution of income (stealing from rich people is different from stealing from poor people) and a belief that if a rationalization can provide a green light to allow a deserving person to stick it to a company or wealthy citizen, by all means, embrace it. Because Cohen is a smart and instinctively ethical guy, he still get the answers right the vast majority of the time, as he has done for quite a few weeks now. Eventually, however he’ll reveal the Real Randy in a column like today’s, in which “The Ethicist” endorses vigilante justice. Continue reading