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Tyler Cowen

The Worst Kind of Presidential Corruption

Conflicts of interest would inflict the most damage to foreign policy.
Danger zone.

Danger zone.

Source: Getty Images

Lots of people are worried about corruption and conflicts of interest in a Donald Trump administration. Those are grim words, but imprecise ones. To understand what the biggest problems would probably be, some broader perspective is required.

Presidential corruption is hardly a new theme in American history. Many of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, engaged in rampant land speculation. That didn’t work out so badly. Their commercial motives gave them reason to favor independence from Britain and later to finance the building of infrastructure for a growing nation. A more insidious instance of conflict of interest stemmed from the extensive slaveholding of many politicians, which surely made them less eager to embrace abolition. So corruption can have favorable or unfavorable consequences.