"An honest public servant can't become rich in politics." - Harry Truman
So I asked a rhetorical question several years ago about the perfect President. The matter surrounded the perfection of intellectual and social attractiveness of a candidacy as contrasted with the functions of the official position they hold. Now I apply that premise towards the realm of 'conflict of interest' surrounding America's richest President-elect.
How much conflict of interest is conflict of interest, and how indeed can anyone avoid it? It seems to me that it is something of an artificial construct or one which is entirely subjective. Let us presume that what's good for domestic policy is good in an objective moral way. If the government decides to reward that good, won't people of superior moral standing benefit even more? For example, if we determine that it is morally good to feed homeless people and we decide to monetize and incentivize that, won't that disproportionately benefit homeless shelters? Or for cancer research? Or for green business practices? Or for manufacturing offshore? So the man who owns business that run homeless shelters, aid cancer research, decreases the use of lead, and ships jobs overseas would get a huge lift from policy. Why not?
More generally speaking, is the aim of policy to punish or to reward, and whom is not invested heavily in something that may be touched by national policy? It stands to reason that the person with their fingers in the most pots is the most heavily affected by changes in policy. How can it be reasonably expected that those changes are in any way, for any individual of great influence and means, to be evenhanded? Moreover, how can one expect progress, if the person with great experience in being successful does not allow that experience to influence policy?
Imagine, for example, that the CEO of Apple Computer became President. Surely he would know that his company's policy to use a particularly green formulation of glass in its product has a supply chain of several years depth. Why would he not reduce tariffs on those materials he knew would be in demand over time based on his company's leadership in that area? Why is it a conflict of interest to have more glass use the greener ingredient that his company pioneered if it lowers the cost for every American computer manufacturer? Why should the CEO of Apple be forced to liquidate his interests in Apple Computer and put its proceeds in a blind trust simply based on the fact that he knows what's good for Apple and the computer industry?
It is in this way that I think a blind trust is something of a moral figleaf. To the extent that any individual or group capable of running Apple or a casino and resort can take advantage of policy changes emanating out of Washington DC, the only real sin, is having advance knowledge. And that is little more than what we well understand to be 'insider trading'. We do not force investors to not hold any assets in businesses in which they have inside information. We simply know them to be insiders and watch their trades conspicuously, something it seems to me we could do trivially for the one President of the US.
Of course this idea cuts both ways. If any individual could run Apple or Trump Properties, than any blind trust would be as good as any other, and the devil may care what policy the White House advocates. But I think in the trade for moral acceptability, we expect a sacrifice on principle. We say that the job of President is so important that the merest appearance of improper insider trading is unacceptable. Here we don't trust, and then with the blind trust, we also don't verify.
We merely blind.
I don't think that Donald Trump or George Soros for that matter is anywhere near as capable as the likes of dictators in other nations, to take their inside knowledge to the extreme ends of corruption under the American system of government. One must certainly accept that Vladimir Putin is rich beyond the wildest inversions of Marxism. Is this matter of conflict of interest really the single gate holding back greedy fingers at the White House? Is this really what keeps hands clean? I'm sure its some part of the puzzle, but I doubt that it is the cornerstone.