Trump’s Self-serving Bias Is an Ethical Question

President-elect Donald Trump has spent his adult life creating and operating a vast business empire. Some believe this makes him uniquely qualified to run the country, but it also creates unique problems that should not be underestimated.Recently, the ethics lawyers for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama urged members of the Electoral College not to elect Trump unless he first sells his real estate and business holdings. Their legal argument is based on the Constitution's "Emoluments Clause," which is essentially an anti-bribery provision intended to prevent political officials, like the president, from accepting gifts from foreign governments.What we should be more concerned about is the ethics rather than the legality of it.Virtually every company and governmental unit has conflict-of-interest rules because common sense and vast amounts of psychological evidence prove that conflicts of interest affect people's judgment. Sometimes conflicts cause people to consciously "take the money and run."More worrisome than conscious wrongdoing is the fact that a significant number of studies show that an unconscious self-serving bias often affects the way people gather information, process information and remember information. For that reason, even people with the best intentions often inadvertently misinterpret data and make decisions that favor their own economic and other interests in ways that objective third parties find indefensible.For example, numerous studies indicate that if compensation arrangements are altered so that doctors receive more money for performing a certain procedure than they did before, they will tend to conclude that this procedure is more frequently appropriate for their patients. Similar studies find similar results in every profession that has been studied.  Continue reading...

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