Josh Dunigan |||

Bernie Part Four : Moral Politicians vs Political Moralists

Everyone knows the political moralist without me saying it. There really is no distinction between a politican in America’s sense of the word and the political moralist in Kant’s theory. However, Bernie stands for everything that a moral politician is, everyone sees it. There are people who might disagree with every policy he has, but god damn do they respect him for his character, his history, and his truthfulness. He has been fighting for the same policies for his life. He is fighting for the same people and fighting against the same people that Martin Luther King was fighting. The moral politician is one that we can trust and respect, which is something I would argue is one of the most important characteristics for someone to have in office. The main issue with electing someone with a history of flip flopping on issues, is that they can flip flop on issues when they are president. Even worse, is that the political moralist is a destabilizing factor for the state since these people might surprise us with what they do next, similar to the fear of wondering what Trump might tweet next.

On the disagreement between morals and politics

Morals is of itself practical in the objective sense, as the sum of laws commanding unconditionally, in accordance with which we ought to act, and it is patently absurd, having granted this concept of duty its authority, to want to say that one nevertheless cannot do it. For in that case this concept would of itself drop out of morals; hence there can be no conflict of politics, as doctrine of right put into practice, with morals, as theoretical doctrine of right (hence no conflict of practice with theory); for if there were, one would have to understand the latter a general doctrine of prudence, that is, a theory of maxims for choosing the most suitable means to one’s purposes aimed at advantage, that is, to deny that there is a [doctrine of] morals at all. Politics says, Be ye wise as serpents; morals adds (as a limiting condition) and guileless as doves.

The person that tells you that politics overrides morals is one that is saying morals do not exist. What politics is, at least should be, is an application of what is right. It is for the politicians to figure out what parts of the state are not right and amend it. Otherwise, we would end up with some doctrine of prudence, where people choose what they think will end up with the best results. This is the reasoning we see countless times by politicians, which almost categorically throughout history are false. Kant calls this person by another term we know, the practical person. However, the practical man is one who denies doing what is right, now and forever. The practical person disregards the ought and the can for now, which is a contradiction since if we ought to do this and we can do this, then that is sufficient for action.

The politically prudent person, the practical person, should not be trusted in office since it is indeterminate what they will do once they have power in their hands. This person finds it easy to ignore right, to ignore the people as the sovereign, and to use the power of their state for their own percieved ideas of what is the prudential thing to do. The moral politician is one who takes the principles of political prudence in such a way that they can coexist with morals” while the political moralist is one who frames a morals to suit the statesman’s advantage”. The moral politician will do what is right as given by their morals when it is of no interest to them politically to do this.

For example, Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney had no political gain in defying Trump. Bernie Sanders had no political gain for most of the things he has done in his entire life, he may have well died before they had any sort of political pay off. Senators and Representatives have commended Bernie and trust him on certain issues that they agree on, never straying from those morals. For example, Rand Paul and Bernie have worked together on more issues than you may think at first hand.

A moral politician will make it his principle that, once defects that could not have been prevented are found within the consitution of a state or in the relations of states, it is a duty, especially for heads of state, to be concerned about how they can be improved as soon as possible and brought into conformity with natural right, which stands before us as a model in the idea of reason, even at the cost of sacrifices to their self-seeking [inclinations].

… but moralizing politicians, by glossing over political principles contrary to right on the pretext that human nature is not capable of what is good in accord with that idea, as reason prescribes it, make improvement impossible and perpetuate as far as they can, violations of right.

Maxims that political moralists make

The politicians that put prudence before right, make it their maxim that right is going to never be achievable. Kant, ever so aware of the patterns of politicians, makes a few obvious observations. Also I know zero latin, this is Kant’s language.

  1. Fac et excusa - This is the political maxim where a politician siezes on some favorable opportunity before justifying it, since it is far easier to justify the maxim after the fact than it is to do it in the first place after the violence glossed over … than if one were willing to devise convincing arguments in advance and wait for counterarguments about them.” The prime example of this is in the killing of Soleimani. There was no reason for killing him, at least a good one. The ones presented changed as the situation unfolded. They refused to even tell Trump’s biggest supporters in the senate. However, it was easy to justify after the fact when Iran did not commit an act of war of similar scale or worse back. This is why congress has the power to authorize war since they need a good argument, but president’s have decided against this so far.
  2. Si fecisti, nega - Whatever crime you have yourself committed, for example, so as to reduce your people to despair and hence to rebellion, deny that the guilt is yours; instead, maintain that your subjects’ recalcitrance is to blame”. This seems to be just where the political moralist refuses to take responsibility for an action while also blaming the other for something. We see this with Republicans and Medicare Part D. We see this with Trump who would rather tell donors at Mar-a-lago confidential war plans or Fox News before Democrats. When confronted about this, he reasons that this is because telling the Democrats is like telling the enemy. Or when repealing Obamacare failed, he blamed everyone else instead of his own poor reasoning.
  3. Divide et impera - That is, if there are certain priveleged leaders in your nation who have chosen you to be merely their chief, set them at variance among themselves and at odds with the people; then come to the people’s aid with the illusion of greater freedom, and all will be dependent upon your unconditional will. Or if you are dealing with external states, stirring up disagreement among them is a fairly sure means for you to subjugate them one after another by seeming to assist the weaker.” This is just what Trump does, I’m not even offering evidence at this point.

The end vs the form

It could be said that the political moralist makes the end the sole justification of some maxim. However, without the form, that is, without acting such that you can will that your maxim should become a universal law (whatever the end may be)”. The maxim of the political moralist is such that the problem of the right of a state, international right, and cosmopilitan right, is a mere technical problem. They appeal to empirical details like human nature on how to bring this about. The moral politician takes their maxim to include the form as the justification for some end, which makes the problems above a moral problem.

The problem can be better stated of achieving perpetual peace. It is hard to look at human nature and history and gleam what type of government and actions are best for achieving this. The political moralist does not know if a monarch or aristocracy is better or a democracy, if they ignore right. What one should do first is use reason to achieve justice and the blessing of perpetual peace will come”.

True politics can therefore not take a step without having already paid homage to morals, and although politics by itself is a difficult art, its union with morals is no art at all; for as soon as the two conflict with each other, morals cuts the knot that politics cannot untie. The right of human beings must be held sacred, however great a sacrifice this may cost the ruling power. One cannot compromise here and devise something intermediate, a pragmatically conditioned right (a cross between right and expediency); instead, all politics must slowly bend its knee before right, but in return it can hope to reach, though slowly, the level where it will shine unfailingly.

A reply to the practical person’s objection to all this

I imagine the practical person, the one defending the political moralist or at least parts, would still say that it sometimes is justified in using prudential reasoning. I think that this is a horrible take given the historical use of prudential reasoning in politics, but also business (which is where it shines). To take a few examples, look at the Bernie’s arguments against the Iraq War, Vietnam War, and Bernie’s warning of the financial industries unsafe practices. The arguments for how they actually went down all results on prudential reasoning and they all sucked as we know it. Take all the studies that are coming out as well that show Medicare for All would be good for the economy,economists who say that Bernie’s idea of restructuring the economy to benefit the working class and not the elite’s is better, or how wiping out debt would be better for the economy as well. Not only are the consistent with freedom, they also end up being the prudentially good things to do. Trump would have had no good counter argument to explain the Iran strike if Iran declared a full out attack of war on America, say by bombing home turf. However, if it was the right thing to do at the time, we could live with the consequences.

To bring it back to businesses, many businesses fall under the latin maxims above. Why some people make it and some don’t can be explained by luck, nepotism, existing inequality of equal playing fields, or various other things. It is easy to look back and give a rationalization of why you made it. But business amounts to mostly prudential reasoning, which is susceptible to being wrong or right depending on the outcomes. Right and wrong, what is moral or immoral, can be determined based on reason alone.


We are plagued by political moralists. Everyone thought that Trump was not a politician, but Trump is in these terms, the most politician politician we have ever seen. The politicians before just at least attempted to decieve people about their behavior. Trump has no morals that guide him. You cannot look in the Bible or to general Christian values. Someone who says what he does about people like John McCain, gold-star families, veterans, and other people deserving of respect. Someone who says racist and sexist comments about all sorts of people. He does not give any other justification for things besides that they will result in more money and more freedom for Americans.

Bernie has been fighting for the same policies. Warren tried accusing him of lying, but she took his words out of context and suffered the blowback from that. He is an honest person, something that is one of the most important qualities in a politician. He gave speeches to empty rooms on Capitol Hill. He was fighting for us before most of us were even born. He fights for people who do not even like him, who think he is a communist or evil. He fights for people who are fighting against him actively. He does all this because it is what is right, which people will see later on if they do not see it now.

Up next Bernie Part Three : Republic vs Despotic States Bernie Part Five - Hope
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