The Golden Rule in American politics

January 31, 2012

The Golden Rule, which is foundational to all virtually ethical thinking, has various formulations but the basic idea is easy enough to understand and is well understood by every human being with the capacity to think. Indeed, it is highly likely that the rule is hardwired into the human brain. The rule is to treat others as you would have them treat you and to not do to others what you would not want them to do to you. Jesus was committed to the rule, as was Confucius, and Hillel. Indeed Hillel described as the whole of the Torah.  So not only is the Golden Rule foundational to all ethical thinking, it is the very essence of the two religious traditions that are taken seriously by a majority of Americans, particularly those on the political Right. And yet consider what happens when a political candidate running for the leadership of the Republican Party advocates following the Golden Rule in American foreign policy. He actually gets booed! Booed! This is not just a case of conveniently overlooking ethical principles when they interfere with one’s interests. This scenario actually demonstrates the contempt these Republicans hold for anyone who aspires to ethical behavior. They can grudgingly accept the idea of maybe not starting another war (in this case with Iran) and perhaps bringing some troops home, but they absolutely cannot tolerate the idea of an ethical foreign policy.

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