Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Captain Khan, Sacrifice, and the Virtue of Selfishness
Lots of ridicule and outrage (both faux and genuine) over Donald Trump’s statement that he has “sacrificed” for his country (implicitly like Captain Khan did), becauseÂ “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”
What Trump said was absurd, but it is an absurdity that forms the essential groundwork for GOP public philosophy, dependent as it is on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. It is, of course, ridiculous to equate “sacrifice” with “financial success,” as Trump did. But in Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randian world, this is about the only definition that one could use. Remember that Rand’s philosophical testament honors “The Virtue of Selfishness.” Self-interest is the only moral touchstone. The idea of sacrificing oneself to a greater good is literally unintelligible. The only type of “sacrifice” that makes sense is giving up something now to get something else later. So for Trump to say that he has “sacrificed” because he has “worked hard” or created “thousands of jobs” (which is doubtful) makes perfect sense from this perspective: he gave up something now (his time, workers’ salaries assuming they got paid) for greater rewards later. This is also why Mitt Romney could say four years ago that although none of his five sons were in the military, they “served” the country by campaigning for their Dad. People like Capt. Khan, who sacrificed himself for his country, aren’t heroes in this scheme: they are suckers.
I doubt whether Trump has read anything by Ayn Rand, because he basically doesn’t read anything. But he doesn’t need to read Rand: he LIVES it. The tougher call is for someone like Ryan, who believes in Ayn Rand, but can’t really say so, so as always he resorts to dissembling. But as always, Trump’s statement here is not surprising, and only represents carrying out Republican economic and political premises to their logical conclusion.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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