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I've always been interested (the way you're interested in the cobra opening its hood, head raised, eyeing you) in the rationalizations people put forward to justify their actions. The rationalizations that excuse unethical or immoral behavior.

He hit me first.

She does it all the time.

Look what you made me do.

Well, everyone else does it.

It's the way the world is.

(And my favorite): I couldn't help it.

The kind of excuse where individual responsibility and accountability is subsumed in an ocean of collective guilt and absolution by association (or evasion).

Today Mark Kleiman was discussing Huckabee's ethically challenged values and he wrote the following:

1. All I want is what's mine.
2. It's mine if I can take it.
3. I can take whatever isn't nailed down.
4. If I can pry it up, it isn't nailed down anymore.

The four principles of rapaciousness, I call them. The robber barons of the 19th century would have been proud.

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