Ethical theories like utilitarianism, say that an action is right or wrong, depending on the consequences it produces. A deed is judged as good if it has a good result. The intentions of the actor are of little or no consequence, because what matters is the final result. Similarly, the deed has no intrinsic morality because the morality is entirely dependent on the results. The most common expression for this is that the ends justify the means. Most of what we think of as the Left falls into this ethical category.
The obvious alternative to this is what Jeremy Bentham called deontological ethics or deontology. This loosely means the knowledge of what is right and proper. A Catholic, for example, acts in accordance with the teachings of the Church. A lawyer conducts himself in accordance with the demands of Lucifer. The act is good or evil intrinsically, regardless of downstream outcomes. What matters is the fidelity to principle or a moral code. The means justifies the ends is the most common formulation of this.
Then there is Proportionalism, which was discussed in this post with regards to how our rulers manage race relations in the current age. That is the ethical theory that says it is never right to go against a principle, unless a proportionate reason would justify it. For example, discrimination is always wrong, unless doing so mitigates some greater wrong. Affirmative action is the policy of discriminating against living whites, based on their race, in order to address the racism of white people too dead to be punished.
The obvious danger of utilitarianism and pragmatist is that it gives license to all sorts of horrible things. A despot, for example, can kill wantonly, claiming it is necessary in order to achieve some greater purpose. Similarly, a pathological adherence to principle, or simply adherence to some bizarre moral philosophy like Nazism, can lead to monstrous ends. Even so, there’s at least a principled argument to be made in order to limit or block the despot and the zealot. There are rules against which they can be judged.
In the modern age, our rulers are quick to point out these things when criticizing whatever it is they are railing against at the moment. They favor Proportionalism because it allows them to make the rules up as they go along, in the moment, in order to take maximum advantage. Proportionalism lets them bet both sides of the wager. When it suits them, they can assiduously apply the rules. When the rules are inconvenient, they can claim that a rigid adherence to principle is not in the public interest.
This moral ambiguity has worked reasonably well, but it is proving to be their undoing as we see with the ongoing spying scandal in Washington. The political class is now faced with an impossible choice. They can pretend that none of this happened and hope Trump stops dumping details about it into the alternative media. That’s pretty much what happened with the Susan Rice story that was handed to Cernovich. That’s an unknowable unknown because Trump plays by a different set of rules and has unknown motives.
There’s also the problem of letting what Team Obama did go unpunished. It sanctions this sort of activity and exactly no one wants the executive having that sort of power. Imagine if a soulless sociopath like Clinton had won the election and had the power to unleash the intelligence agencies on her enemies. On a regular basis, assassins would be gunning down political figures on the streets of Washington. The organized and brazen abuse of power that went on in the last year cannot be left unaddressed.
That, of course, leads to the other unpleasant option. Investigating the former staff of the former president for the crime of domestic espionage and perhaps conspiring to undermine the election is no small thing. After all, that former president is the most precious trophy of the party that runs Washington. That party has been willing to excuse just about anything in order to win political fights. No one knows what sort of dirt Team Obama has at their disposal to use in a bloody political war over this.
That brings it all back to Trump. This latest twist was rather obviously a White House caper. They had the goods on Susan Rice and probably several others so they found a willing outlet. This is one of the oldest political tricks. You find an obscure reporter looking to make a name for himself and you give him the scoop of his lifetime. In this day, a blogger works even better because they don’t have to clear things with a boss. Picking Cernovich is the sort of flourish that a guy like Trump would find amusing.
It’s also a reminder to the political class that Trump is a fast learner and he is willing to play the hardest of hardball. Trump is a leverage guy. He always looks at what he has in order to leverage it to get something else. He’s just turned this Russian hacking nonsense into a weapon he can now use on the political class. The Republicans don’t want to go to war with the Democrats and the Democrats don’t want anymore of their soldiers getting dimed out to ambitious bloggers looking to make a name for themselves.
It is the inevitable end to Proportionalism. In the 90’s, the Left made all sorts of compromises in order to win elections with the Clintons. The Right decided to do the same the following decade with Bush and the neocons. As a result, the political class lost their moral authority. Team Obama had no reason to obey the rules, because no one was obeying the rules. There was always some proportionate reason to justify violating principle. After all, they let the IRS caper pass. Why not some domestic spying?