When is treason justified?

The answer is obvious—when it boosts aggregate utility.

In the past, I’ve discussed the issue of when is terrorism justified. Today I’ll look at treason.

Start with a couple easy cases. German officers committing treason against their government during WWII was justified, whereas the Rosenbergs passing nuclear secrets to the Soviets was not justified. But what about the more difficult cases? Here are two examples:

Edward Snowden released documents that showed abuses by our intelligence services.

Trump endorsed Putin’s claim that our intelligence services were falsely claiming that Russia had interfered in our election.

Both actions can been seen as aiding our enemies, making our intelligence services look corrupt. (Trump toyed with the idea of pardoning Snowden.)

No surprise, in the end I concluded that Snowden’s treason was justified, whereas Trump’s was not. Is this just TDS on my part? Maybe. You be the judge.

Snowden actually provided evidence to support his claim that our intelligence services were engaging in unscrupulous activities. In that sense, you can argue that he’s a sort of hero, a whistleblower. Even a martyr.

It’s possible that Trump is right about Putin. The problem here is that Trump provided no evidence to support his claim. Even if some of the evidence were classified, he could have at least sketched out what evidence he relied upon looked like. He could have said ; “I looked at the intelligence reports and noticed that 7 agents agreed with the finding, and 3 disagreed. I was more persuaded by the three who disagreed.

In fact, Trump almost never reads government reports of any type. Thus the more likely assumption is that Trump simply didn’t want to believe the intelligence services because it would somehow make his 2016 victory look tainted. That’s my assumption. And that motivation is not sufficient justification for giving aid and comfort to America’s #1 enemy.

Again, I’m not saying I trust our intelligence services (look at the Snowdon evidence), rather I’m saying that Trump never justified his action. Even if Trump were right, he has a moral obligation to explain to Americans why he reached this conclusion. His failure to do so is unjustifiable.

To summarize:

Snowdon: Justifiable treason.
Trump: Unjustifiable treason.

Don’t let emotionally loaded terms do your thinking for you. Calling something treason or terrorism is the beginning of any cost/benefit analysis, not the end.

PS. Hiroshima: justified or unjustified terrorism?



38 Responses to “When is treason justified?”

    21. October 2020 at 11:18

    “Treason” is justified when it aids the home team with info the their govt is acting against them.

    It is not justified when it’s telling world about what US is doing to them.

  2. Gravatar of Ted Ted
    21. October 2020 at 11:19

    *Snowden, not Snowdon

  3. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    21. October 2020 at 11:27

    Justified ex ante or ex post?

  4. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    21. October 2020 at 11:38


    In the case of Trump and Snowden, you bizarrely mix the articulation of an opinion by a politician, which is of course subject to freedom of speech, with the publication of thousands of top-secret documents by a secret agent who signed a contract (most likely a dozen contracts) not to commit such an act of betrayal.

    You guys might want to revisit your weird definition of treason. If one would use your TDS definition for every politican, instead of only for Trump, politics is no longer possible.

    A book about the Snowden story has recently been published, I believe by a Washington Post journalist named Barton Gellmann, who tells the Snowden story from his point of view, he was one of the two main contacts of Snowden.

    According to the reviews I’ve read so far, the book is quite balanced, Snowden is pretty self-righteous, also naive, he told Gellmann that he, Gellmann, was not ideological enough (a WP journalist), that Gellmann sticks to the facts too much, so they argued a lot.

    Snowden wanted to have Greenwald as a contact from the beginning, but Greenwald was surprisingly incapable of using secure communication, so Snowden switched to Gellmann, but then: too much arguing about the facts and the how-to. The how-to is important. So Snowden went back to Greenwald and they ruined it. I guess his treason is aggravated by the fact that he fled to Russia and China.

    And the term for Hiroshima is “war”, war is terryfing by definition, or is it not. Most likely justified war, in the sense of shortened the war, saved many thousands of lives. Why even use the word terrorism, what’s the point. The word terrorism is too biased and too negatively connotated in the modern world, and most likely in any world.

  5. Gravatar of jim carter jim carter
    21. October 2020 at 13:18

    In other words, the President is guilty until he proves himself innocent ??? Even after the CIA and MSM have acknowledged they deliberately distort information to the public for many decades ??

  6. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    21. October 2020 at 13:26

    Regardless of opinions of the Hiroshima bomb, the second use at Nagasaki is harder to justify. A demonstration in the desert attended by Japanese adept at calculating the effects on wooden cities and humans might have had sufficient effect to end the war. I think there was a lot of spin before and especially after the fact to make it appear the Hiroshima attack was necessary. The president even interfered in the production of a Hollywood movie telling the story. Admiral Nimitz said “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war.” Eisenhower said “It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing”.

    My guess is Trump is so shameless that he has no concern for whether his 2016 victory appears tainted. He may have been more concerned about Putin’s displeasure had Trump agreed with the assessment of Russian interference.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    21. October 2020 at 13:28

    Thanks Ted.

    John, Ex post we know that Trump did not provide justification for his action. He had an obligation to do so. That’s all that matters.

    Christian, You said:

    “I guess his treason is aggravated by the fact that he fled to Russia and China.”

    Not sure how you define “aggregated”?

    Regarding terrorism, you completely missed the point. Read it again.

    Jim, You said:

    “In other words, the President is guilty until he proves himself innocent ???”

    In other words, you didn’t read my post very carefully, did you?

    Did you read it at all? If you did, your comment represents a pretty shocking lack of reading comprehension.

  8. Gravatar of jim carter jim carter
    21. October 2020 at 13:29

    I do no use the government information websites of fb or twit, nor linkin. I therefore cannot ask you for your opinion, as an esteemed economist, of the article https://thepriceofliberty.org/2019/05/06/the-bizarre-relationship-between-the-fedgov-and-wall-street/ FEDERAL RESERVE FOR DUMMIES

  9. Gravatar of LB LB
    21. October 2020 at 13:55

    Trump knew that the Steele dossier was false. He knew that Clapper, Brennan, and Comey were lying. Why should he trust them?

    Hillary Clinton ran a private server to keep her emails private. This was at a time that the Clinton Foundation was getting huge donations from foreign governments. To deflect investigations she decided to generate a false story about Trump and Russian collusion. She was aided by members of the intelligence community, Democratic politicians, and the press. President Obama was briefed about what Hillary was doing.

    After Trump won the officials involved doubled down looking for something that might have justified the false story they had spread during the election. They were involved in a coverup.

    Comey leaked fake information to trigger a special counsel. They went after Sessions with false charges to block DOJ investigations. They went after Flynn with false charges to tie up Trump’s National Security advisor. Basically they gummed up the mechanisms to investigate the Hillary dirty trick. It was a pretty sophisticated attack by people who understood how Washington works.

    The CIA must have known for years that Manafort had questionable overseas dealings. They only went after him when they saw the opportunity to force him to turn on Trump. But Manafort had nothing to trade. They went after other low level people around Trump looking for anything to justify the Clinton attack. Again nothing that went back to Trump.

    Trump knew he was innocent and yet the leaders of American intelligence agencies were going after him with the help of the FBI. And those going after him knew they had nothing beside the hope that they might turn up something to give cover for the actions of the Hillary campaign and the people who helped her.

    Trump was impeached by the Democrats for trying to peak behind the curtain of Biden deals in the Ukraine. Deals that also involved John Kerry’s stepson. The same John Kerry who falsely denied knowing that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma when he was Secretary of State. And the one Republican who voted for impeachment had a top aide from his campaign on the board of Burisma.

    Yet Trump is guilty of treason when loses confidence in the objectivity of intelligence agencies. All these attacks are coming his way. and Trump is the one commiting treason?

    Hillary Clinton committed the worst dirty trick in the history of Federal elections, with the help of Federal law enforcement and the intelligence agencies, and you blame Trump for distrusting them.

    Perhaps Bush should have been as skeptical before the Iraq war. Would that have been treason?

  10. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    21. October 2020 at 14:35


    There is indeed the theory that this was his only incident of treason, but that is of course not true. According to the press Snowden stole 1.5 million secret documents. 7000 top secret documents he has given to journalists, it is doubtful that this was really necessary and in the interests of the US.

    And what was his message again? That US intelligence spies a lot? Isn’t that their job? And now because of Snowden, they’ve stopped? Oh thank you, Mr. Snowden.

    It is also likely that most of the documents are now in the hands of Putin and the CCP because of his flight to Russia and China, so yes, that made things worse.

    He is not allowed to live there because his smile is so seductively convincing and because his eyes are so beautiful.

    If treason, then as a martyr, addressing the majority, be condemned, and hope for pardon, because you convinced the democratic majority with your relevations.

    Regarding Hiroshima I said that it was justified, war or terrorism or whatever.

  11. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    21. October 2020 at 15:49

    I think the US could have avoided Hiroshima by offering better surrender terms. Unconditional surrender and occupation is a rather difficult pill to swallow.

    But it was a different time and place, and a lot of blood has been spilled.

  12. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    21. October 2020 at 15:59

    Seems like unconditional surrender was not a real demand. Japan was allowed to keep their emperor.

  13. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    21. October 2020 at 16:11


    That is true, but they should not have done so, because then the Emperor would not have disappeared, no democracy could have been established, the legend of an undefeated Japan would have remained, Japan would have been treated differently from all other aggressor states, and so on.

    I haven’t read too much on the subject for some time, but as far as I can remember, there were some linguistic, cultural, and real misunderstandings.

    “Unconditional surrender” and “occupation” sounds extremely harsh, in any ears, but especially for fascists, especially since fascists assume that the opponent is as ruthless as they are. That the conditions were in reality fair, temporary, and even modest, could have been perhaps better explained; not an easy task though.

  14. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    21. October 2020 at 16:56

    Christian and Brain: Make up your minds. What happened to the Emperor?

    I cannot bring myself to condone A-bombing women and children, old people. Moreover, the odds of Japan invading the US or retaining its empire were minute.

    I understand it was a different time and place, and the US was losing 10,000+ men in single battles for small islands. The US did mostly right by Japan in the aftermath.

  15. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    21. October 2020 at 17:17

    Well, since Trump agreeing with Putin’s claim about not interfering in the election is undeniably not treason, you are crossing over into TDS territory. It could be wrong or stupid, and treason may be right, but your Orwellian use of the word ‘treason’ doesn’t help your case. Let me ask, did Obama commit treason when his administration unfroze Iranian bank accounts with lots of money? He ‘aided our enemy.’ I think the answer is no; ‘any action that benefits an enemy country’ isn’t the definition of treason.

    Characterizing disagreeing with intelligence officials about Russia’s role in the US election as treason is kind of ridiculous. You don’t have to use over the top, hyperbolic language to criticize something. It actually makes you less effective.

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    21. October 2020 at 18:52

    LB, You said:

    “Trump was impeached by the Democrats for trying to peak behind the curtain of Biden deals in the Ukraine.”

    Politics is a helluva drug.

    Some people just don’t know when to stop typing, and end up looking silly.

    Mark, I think you missed the whole point of the post. It’s not what Trump said, it’s why he said it.

    As for this:

    “Orwellian use of the word ‘treason’”

    The whole point of my post is that I don’t use terms like “treason” in an Orwellian sense. To me, it’s not a pejorative. Did you not read the post?

  17. Gravatar of janice janice
    21. October 2020 at 21:11

    This is what brainwashing looks like.
    Thirty years after the Cold war, a baby boomer (Scott) still thinks that a bankrupt and fractured Russian government is somehow still a threat to our republic.

    Meanwhile 30M dollars of taxpayer money finds no collusion.

    You need to look further east to find your new enemy. May I suggest writing a hate filled, old man bitter blog, on Biden? How about Hunters business partner confessing to the FBI that those emails are indeed real, and that the “big guy” is Joe himself.

    Seems newsworthy.

  18. Gravatar of Luc Mennet Luc Mennet
    21. October 2020 at 21:20

    While I haven’t personally read any papers on it, and of course we’ll never truly know, from my understanding the potential human costs of letting the war end “naturally” far outweigh the human costs of the bombings, especially when you consider the potential for a land invasion of the Japanese mainland. (also, from what I’ve seen there were plans to try to continue the war even after Hiroshima but before Nagasaki, due to the Japanese thinking that the US just wouldn’t have many more bombs.) However, I do think that there may have been a less damaging use of the bombs besides immediately going for civilian targets. While I doubt that Truman was particularly interested in Japanese history, I personally would have used the first bomb on Mount Hiei, A mountain within viewing distance of Kyoto. This would evoke historical parallels with when Oda Nobunaga, one of Japan’s great conquerors, burned down the mountain himself, killing many of the warrior monks who lived there, as a message to the then emperor that he was willing to be extremely unmerciful. Firstly, this has the benefit of pretty minor casualties when compared to nuking a city, for obvious reasons. secondly, it would be likely that Hirohito would’ve been able to see the fireball and destruction himself, which would probably do a lot when it comes to convincing him to surrender. Additionally, using a nuke on a completely non-strategic target could work as a bluff that the US has a larger supply of nuclear weapons than what the Japanese estimated after the nuking of Hiroshima. of course it’s very likely that this might not lead to japan instantly capitulating, but if you then went and dropped a nuke on a conventional target, that might make them fold, in essence saving a city. if not, then the US still had a third core that was available, so nuking Nagasaki as a plan C would still be an option.

    p.s. The story behind that third core is really weird and interesting, and I highly suggest looking it up. it’s known as the “Demon Core.”

  19. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    21. October 2020 at 23:51

    So first off let’s go with your easy case isn’t so easy. Treason by a government official is never justified period given they swore an oath to that government; yes that includes Wehrmacht officers. The Rosenberg’s I simply don’t know enough about motive or occupation though a quick wiki read suggests you are probably correct in your stance.

    Snowden is trickier because he wasn’t a government official hence has no obligation moral obligation to our government. I’m with you in that he was more of a whisteblower nor as far as I can gather did he ever intend to hurt America.

    To claim Trump committed treason is ludicrous, if he wanted to hurt America he simply could and nothing we could do about it. Also there is an argument foreign policy is under the President hence whom our enemies are his to decide via writ hence by definition it’s impossible for him to aide our enemies because anybody he aided wouldn’t be so, i.e. when it comes to foreign enemies “L’État, c’est moi”.

    As for the nukes, a nation state can’t commit terrorism so TBH that’s the easy one you posed.

    Lastly I’m with Janice. Russia hasn’t been our enemy since they reached out in the early 90’s only for Clinton to rebuke them. Baby Boomers and Gen X need to move on and I say that as a Gex X’er.

  20. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    22. October 2020 at 00:01

    ‘Treason by a government official is never justified period given they swore an oath to that government; yes that includes Wehrmacht officers.’

    So government officials need to follow orders no matter what and have no individual moral responsibility? Come on.

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    22. October 2020 at 06:35

    Luc, Very interesting comment. I don’t think we’ll ever know if Hiroshima was justified; the counterfactuals are too complex. I will say that the issue is less important than people assume in one way (and more important in another.)

    It’s less important in the sense that every single day WWII continued the death toll in places like Japan and China was horrific. So Hiroshima was just one modest part of a broader pattern of destruction.

    More important than we assume because humans (at least me) can’t even comprehend the horrible death and suffering imposed by the bomb.

    So this problem is beyond my pay grade, I have no opinion.

    All I know is that intentionally killing 100,000 civilians to achieve a political objective is terrorism by most definitions. If it’s not, I’d like to know how people define “terrorism”.

    Tacticus, Yeah, this blog attracts all types, including Nazi apologists.

  22. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    22. October 2020 at 07:45

    But why? What brought all these people to a monetary policy blog?? I get them scaring off normal readers – they’ve nearly done that to me a few times – but what brought them here and why do they remain? They probably don’t even know Gresham’s actual Law.

  23. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    22. October 2020 at 07:59


    I think you said it well at the end of your last comment, what makes something “terrorism” is indeed intentional targeting of civilians. Just going after soldiers is not the same thing. Which makes other acts done in war terrorism too, not just the A bombs on Japan.

    But it’s just a word too, call it terrorism, call it “total war”, whatever it is, it’s why war is hell.

  24. Gravatar of LB LB
    22. October 2020 at 08:01

    What was Trump impeached for Scott? For asking a newly elected Ukraine president if he would cooperate with investigations of American corruption in his country. With clear evidence now coming forward that Joe Biden had knowledge of his sons dealings in Ukraine.

    Tony Bobulinski has supplied information that the Biden’s sold public office for cash. You don’t like Trump trade polices, but I guess you accept trade based on payments to public officials and their family.

    Democrats want to stack the courts, add new states, get rid of the electoral college, turn the Senate into majority rule without minority rights. And that is just the first week.

    Then comes re-education camps for racists, which is everyone. Reparations. Tribunals for former office holders and their supporters. Zero bonds for criminals. Prosecutors who can release criminals who are just seeking reparations and destroying property achieved through racial spoils.

    Seems as if your education lacked a knowledge of the bedrock of political theory that formed this country. Why they wanted limited government. The dangers of majority rule without safeguards. etc.

    The equality of opportunity that was the backbone of this country is being replaced with a call for equality of results. For that reason alone the Democrats want to destroy capitalism. And your deranged hatred of Trump has you supporting it.

    Joe Biden wants an America where Big Business and Big Government unite. I humbly suggest you look back at the warnings of Milton Friedman and George Stigler.

    Trump is a deeply flawed person who often speaks without thinking. But he has never sought to use the IRS, FBI, and Intelligence agencies the way Obama/Biden did. What did you think of Obama rule through executive order?

    Big tech and the MSM are convinced that they can elect a person with dementia hiding in his basement if they spend enough on slick advertising attacking the opposition. CNN uses polls and focus groups to decide how to slant the news in attacks on Trump. Screw the truth.

    Germany went through a crisis after WW1. German elites so hated the communists that they were willing to use the fears of the common people to upend safeguards and use Hitler to attack their enemy. Despite the warnings of what the Nazi’s were the “elites” supported them. The left is telling you what they want. Putin laughs that they sound like the old communists of his youth.

    Your deranged attacks on Trump while turning a blind eye to the policies of the left are shameful.

  25. Gravatar of LB LB
    22. October 2020 at 08:06


    This is Scott’s blog. When did he turn his econ blog into deranged attacks on Trump?

  26. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    22. October 2020 at 12:59

    @Tacticus – Don’t confuse following an illegal order with treason as Scott intentionally is. A government’s official oath is to the government to act as it’s agent in a legal manner, it’s not an oath to their supervisor’s whims. Treason by definition violates that oath, refusing to follow an illegal arbitrary writ by ones supervisor is not. If you don’t like the LEGAL POLICY decisions you are expected to execute as a government official, then you are free to quit. Treason by a government official is never valid as by definition it’s against the very government you took an oath to. Agency based on the individual morality of government agents isn’t something we want nor should we have, they aren’t independent actors.

    End of the day Wehrmacht officers took an oath to follow legal orders the same as a DMV clerk yet we don’t cheer with the DMV clerk refuses to give a homosexual a license because of their personal morals. If they can’t execute their oath, quit. I have yet to ever see a convincing argument executing criminals was against German law but hey enlighten me. There is nothing nazi apologetic here, I’m simply stating Wehrmacht officers who committed treason were morally wrong. Same as our DMV clerks who don’t give homosexual licenses or judges who refuse to issue same sex marriage licenses.

    @Scott – No, terrorism is and always had a clear definition. It’s violence, or threat of, by a non-nation state actor towards a nation state for political ends. Terrorism is a noun and it’s not a synonym for “an actor who uses terror to achieve some goal”. A serial killer is not a terrorist nor is a schoolyard bully in middle school. As such a nation state, even if using terror as a tactic, cannot engage in terrorism or be a terrorist.

    BTW (I forget it Scott allows link posting or not) but a really good read on the morality of the Japanese bombings was a older article in “Foreign Policy” titled “The Bomb Didn’t Beat Japan … Stalin Did” (30MAY2013). If you agree with what the article is saying, the answer is the nukes were at best a wash morally as they really had no impact to include on the number of dead for any one “attack”. At the point nukes were being used we were already firebombing out of existence a Japanese town a night, wiping it off in a different way didn’t change anything. To the dead person, did it matter if it was a fireball caused by a radiation or a fireball caused by napalm.

  27. Gravatar of Philippe Bélanger Philippe Bélanger
    22. October 2020 at 19:46

    Should our response to treason also follow utilitarian principles? If so, which world has the highest utility? One where treason is rare because traitors know they will be punished, no matter what? Or one where government officials commit treason when they believe that those currently in power will decide that their actions increased aggregate utility?

  28. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    22. October 2020 at 20:52

    msgkings, Yes, people confuse the question of what is terrorism with the question of is it justified. Many people wrongly think once you’ve labeled something terrorism you’ve shown it’s wrong.

    And the arguments for firebombing German and Japanese cities was even weaker than the argument for Hiroshima. At least the latter ended the war.

    People also tend to overlook the fact that soldiers drafted into the army are also innocent victims of war, no different from civilians.

    LB, You said:

    “What was Trump impeached for Scott? For asking a newly elected Ukraine president if he would cooperate with investigations of American corruption in his country.”

    LOL, no he wasn’t. When I get opening sentences like this I just stop reading. Get your act together if you want me to read your overly long comments.

    Trump was impeached for asking the Ukrainians to pretend to open a phony investigation into his political rival in exchange for hundreds of millions in US aid. There was never going to be any investigation, as there was nothing to investigate. Trump wanted news stories that Biden was being investigated. That’s all.

    If Trump keeps saying “lock her up” or “lock him up” about everyone he runs against, eventually voters tune it out.

    Philippe, That’s an interesting question, but the world’s far too complex for there to be a clear answer.

  29. Gravatar of Michael S. Michael S.
    23. October 2020 at 03:17

    That the nukes ended the war in Japan is at least doubtful. Between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet Union entered the war (3 months after VE, as agreed). Japan had no way of fending off land invasions from both sides, or making them prohibitively expensive (they thought). There was little reason to expect better terms in the future. Quite rationally, they gave p then and there.

    Call me a cynic, but Truman’s reasons must have been different. They cemented deterrence until today. After that, and for very good reasons, nobody used nukes any more.

  30. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. October 2020 at 07:29

    Michael, That’s possible.

  31. Gravatar of LB LB
    23. October 2020 at 10:22

    Phony investigation into Biden? Now you are writing a humour blog?

    Deaf, Mute, and Blind is no way to go through life Scott.

    And the Biden’s did nothing wrong in Chine either.


  32. Gravatar of LB LB
    23. October 2020 at 11:31

    To Start

    The Biden Family Legacy


    Joe and his campaign know that. For several years, he has flatly denied ever discussing Hunter’s business with him or knowing anything about it. Those claims are undermined by newly-emerging evidence. One is a cache of damaging emails found on Hunter Biden’s laptop computer, abandoned at a Delaware repair shop. Another is a separate cache of 26,000 emails involving Hunter’s dealings with a former business associate, Bevan Cooney, who is now serving time for fraud. The latest, which broke just before the debate, is perhaps the most damaging of all: first-hand testimony from Tony Bobulinski, another of Hunter’s business partners. Bobulinski says he met directly with Joe Biden to discuss some Chinese deals, which include companies with ties to the Communist party. He adds that Hunter told him and others that he always spoke with his father about these matters before making any moves. Bobulinski is now cooperating with Senate investigators, has offered to testify under oath, and has turned over three electronic devices with messages from Hunter than mention Joe’s involvement.

  33. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    23. October 2020 at 11:37


    That’s the WSJ opinion page. Their news division, on the other hand, reports this:


  34. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    23. October 2020 at 13:26

    LB, You ask me to believe something in a Chris Balding blog post? Right before the election? The guy who says half the apartments in Beijing are empty? The guy who says that China has one of the highest costs of living in the world?

    As for the WSJ editorial page—LOL:


    Yeah, I’ll take their news page over their loony editorial page any day. Is this where you get your information?

  35. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    23. October 2020 at 18:37

    Scott, the treason of the German officers against Hitler is less justified on aggregate utility grounds than you realize.

    Basically, the German officers only got serious against Hitler when the war was going badly. (The allies also recognised after a while that having Hitler still in power makes Germany fight less effectively, so they stopped any attempts at assassination.)

    Assuming that an allied win was better for aggregate utility, and that Hitler was less competent at war than some career officers who might have replaced him, it looks like an assassination would have been bad by the yardstick of expected aggregate utility.

    Now, I agree with you that by some intuition the officers’ treason was justified. (Similarly the ‘treason’ of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose.)

    But I suspect that intuition is more compatible with some kind of virtue ethics or perhaps at most rule utilitarianism than straight up maximisation of expected aggregate utility.

  36. Gravatar of LB LB
    24. October 2020 at 06:06

    It is clear from what has been released that Joe Biden lied about not knowing about Hunter Biden’s business deals. He lied. Why would he lie about the completely ethical conduct of his son?

  37. Gravatar of LB LB
    24. October 2020 at 09:37

    If Trump had wanted to prove Biden Inc wrongdoing, and he was as corrupt as you claim, why didn’t he use the Obama method?

    He could have unmasked Hunter Biden. CNN and the courts have said that such actions are legal even if politically tainted. They could have gone after Hunter Biden partners the way they after Manafort, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Carter Page etc.

    I assume you think that it is OK to unmask Hunter Biden’s connections to Chinese Communists spy networks? Or his dealings with the Russian mob through the widow of the mayor of Moscow. Or his corrupt dealings with Burisma. How about Burisma’s ties to Russian crime bosses and their ties to EU gas supplies?

    Why does Biden want to end dependence on fossil fuels while his son get rich getting fossils fuels for Burisma. ?

    Or how about Hunter Biden’s ties to human trafficking and Russian mob?

    Of course you can just look the other way. Nothing to see even as Joe Biden lies about his knowledge of what was going on/

  38. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    26. October 2020 at 14:16

    @LB, you write:

    “If Trump had wanted to prove Biden Inc wrongdoing, and he was as corrupt as you claim, why didn’t he use the Obama method?

    He could have unmasked Hunter Biden. CNN and the courts have said that such actions are legal even if politically tainted. They could have gone after Hunter Biden partners the way they after Manafort, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Carter Page etc.”

    I can think of a very very very simple explanation for that: the Trump admin doesn’t have any evidence. In contrast, last I checked Flynn pled guilty (before changing his mind) and Manafort went to prison.

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