The ethics behind Trump’s main money man

Jane Mayer at the New Yorker has a profile of Robert Mercer, the reclusive Billionaire who probably invested more money in getting Trump elected than any other American (and we don’t know how much Putin spent). He not only directly funded Trump, but he established Breitbart and other alt-right institutions which provided Trump with fanatical early support as well as a data analytics firm called Cambridge Analytica which worked on behalf of Trump and groups like Citizens United and the Council for National Policy. Mercer and his daughter even got Trump to shake up his campaign and hire Mercer’s associates from organizations that Mercer had been funding including Steve Bannon as CEO, Kellyanne Conway as manager, and David Bossie as deputy manager. One of Mercer’s former colleagues, Nick Patterson, said, “In my view, Trump wouldn’t be President if not for Bob [Mercer].”

David Magerman, a senior employee of Mercer at Renaissance told the Wall Street Journal that

Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” …Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” …Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”

This quote demonstrates that Mercer is a believer in mmutilitarianism. This is also the ethical system that economists (and many in business) typically use, but they usually don’t take it to its logical conclusions like Mercer does in the above quote does because that is so abhorrent to the rest of society. It is the ethical system that underlies cost-benefit analysis and the use of GDP as a measure of welfare which are very useful despite their flaws. And most economists don’t apply their mmutilitarian ethical logic to such an extreme as Mercer does and argue that the elderly and the poor should simply die rather than receive Medicaid and Social Security because they aren’t worth the cost of the programs.

Mmutilitarian ethics aren’t always this abhorrent.  Most economists use a more judicious form of mmutilitarianism to argue in favor of environmental protections that Mercer opposes based on the logic of cost-benefit analysis too, but I don’t have time to write about why there is an apparent contradiction in the ethics of mmutilitarian cost-benefit analysis tonight.

 

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Posted in Medianism, Public Finance

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