Sunday, August 5, 2018

LeBron, Trump, Altruism

President Trump, with a mouth like a loose cannon, has triggered another backlash by trying to insult LeBron James. Trump tweeted: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”

I don’t know how smart Don Lemon is. It was the first time I heard of him. Anyway, Trump implied LeBron is quite dumb, too. The Mike who Trump mentions is presumably Michael Jordan. Trump’s wife Melania and Michael Jordan both defended LeBron after her husband's remark, both on the grounds of LeBron’s charitable contributions. LeBron contributing to his hometown of Akron, Ohio for a new public elementary school was a big factor in being interviewed by Lemon.

Dan Rather called Trump's remark "racist" (link). How so when Trump said he likes Mike, likely Michael Jordan?

How intelligent is LeBron? He is surely no dummy. He had a 3.2 GPA (out of 4?) in high school, a Catholic high school that recently was designated a STEM school, the only Catholic high school in Ohio to earn this designation (link). LeBron has plenty of basketball smarts and street smarts, too. Examples of the former are (1) passing the basketball to a teammate positioning it and spinning it the way his teammate likes it, and (2) some of his defensive plays such as his blocking Andre Iguodala’s layup in game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals (link).  For sure Donald Trump did not show that level of anticipation before his business bankruptcies! Regarding street smarts are LeBron’s choosing his agent, his business advisers, and the business decisions they have made.

Trump’s saying he likes Mike likely refers to the numerous ongoing debates about who is the all-time greatest basketball player. Many say Jordan and many say LeBron. Several stats can be used to support either side. Regardless, even if a person likes one better than the other, it is undeniable that the difference is extremely small. Assuming a scale 0-10 with 10 best, if one gets 10, the other deserves 9.9.

Moving on to LeBron’s charity donations illuminates widely-held ideas and feelings about altruism. Both Melania Trump and Michael Jordan defend LeBron for his donations while saying nothing about LeBron’s virtues and productivity that made the donations possible. (Edit: Ohio governor John Kasich did likewise.It’s akin to praising the icing on a cake with no recognition of, or taking for granted, the rest of the cake. Such is the praise that exalts altruism as virtuous without recognizing the virtue of the production, or taking production for granted, without which the giving would be impossible. Such is the moral praise of Mother Teresa, whose giving was made possible by the donations of others. Such is the moral praise of Bernie Sanders and his ilk, whose giving via government relies on the coercive extraction of the income and assets of other people.

My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.” – Ayn Rand, Playboy interview

By saying “marginal” I assume she meant relative to the other virtues.

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