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August 7, 2016

Marble bust of Aristotle (Roman copy of lost Greek original), Louvre Museum (Atlas database: entry 922), Photographer Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons user: Sting) (CC BY-SA 2.5 Generic)

“A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official…”

–       5 USC 3110 – Employment of relatives; restrictions

Asked this week what women he might consider for his Cabinet, if elected, Donald Trump put forward his daughter, Ivanka [1].  Trump’s children have been highly visible, taking an active part in his campaign.  Hillary Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, has, also, in recent years hinted at political aspirations [2].

Nepotism – defined by Merriam-Webster as favoritism based on kinship – places personal interest ahead of the public good.  The practice is a way of consolidating power.  It secures financial advantage for the trusted members of a family, while extending control by that family over a given function or area of interest.

John F. Kennedy, you may remember, nominated his brother, Robert, for the position of Attorney General of the United States, though the younger Kennedy had little or no trial experience.  JFK was not the first to appoint a family member to public office.  Some 40 of Ulysses S. Grant’s relations benefited directly or indirectly while he was president.

The practice of favoring family is as old as time.  The Bible speaks of nepotism by Joseph, Saul, David, and Nehemiah.

And the name of the commander of his [Saul’s] army was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle” (1 Samuel 14: 50).

The Bible, however, warns against such favoritism (Deut. 1: 17; James 2: 9).

Numerous laws and policies today prohibit nepotism in the public sector.  While this nation is not averse to political dynasties, like those of the Kennedys or Bushes, we do not favor hereditary rulers.

Someone might want to remind the candidates of this.

“This is why we do not permit a man to rule, but the law, because a man rules in his own interest, and becomes a tyrant; but the function of a ruler is to be the guardian of justice, and if of justice, then of equality.  A just ruler…does not allot to himself a larger share of things generally good…he labors for others…Consequently some recompense has to be given him, in the shape of honor and dignity.  It is those whom such rewards do not satisfy who make themselves tyrants.”

–        On Political Justice, Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

[1]  The Hill, “Asked about female Cabinet members, Trump proposes Ivanka” by Harper Neidig, 8/4/16,

[2]  Mr. Conservative (MRC), “Chelsea Clinton Pursuing Political Career?”, 4/14/14,


  1. Monochrome nightmares permalink

    I really do hope Donald Trump does not
    become your next president.
    And not because of nepotism,
    but because I think he is a very dangerous
    man, and should never be allowed to run
    the most powerful nation on earth.
    God forbid.

  2. so true – and I’ve pinched that quote…

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