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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Ethics: Trump already sees himself above law

by Lawrence M. Hinman

Ethics is about flourishing, about developing both the personal characteristics and the social conditions that allow individuals to live full, satisfying lives together. When it functions at its best, ethics is largely invisible: individuals live good lives together, trusting one another and cooperating in ways that would be impossible without such internalized social norms. Ideally, individuals impose ethical restraints on themselves first and foremost, and only in exceptional cases are such restraints imposed from the outside. 

Ethics quickly becomes noticeable when things go wrong. 

Related: Ethics: Good of the U.S. must be president’s first priority

Scandals initially focus attention on the misdeed and the immediate perpetrators, and gradually the focus expands to examine the structures that permitted such abuses by covering them up or even by encouraging them. Rapes involving college football players, child sexual abuse by priests, cheating scandals at military academies, abuse of prisoners by police and prison authorities — the investigation of such actions typically leads to scrutinizing the wider conditions that made it possible. Along the way, investigations often result in the establishment of structures intended to prevent the recurrence of such abuses.

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