WashU Expert: Pierce offers advice to all to be vigilant

'Impossible to expect president, appointees ... to pursue national interest before personal profits'

Lamar Pierce, associate professor of organization and strategy in the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, co-authored a 2015 paper, titled “Losing Hurts: The Happiness Impact of Partisan Electoral Loss.” His work focuses on the psychological and economic motivations for productive and destructive behaviors. He offers advice about the need for watchdogs to new administration leaders switching tracks from the corporate realm:  

“As Donald Trump is inaugurated as president, our nation is divided on the considerable policy changes he has proposed. One thing we should all agree on, however, is that we want the newly appointed executive branch leaders to primarily have our nation’s best interest at heart. For a few of his appointees, such as Gen. James Mattis, I am heartened by their dedication to public service and country. But I am severely worried, however, about the considerable financial and personal conflicts of interest visible both in our new president and the majority of his top appointees.

“People are hardwired not to act against their own self-interest. They respond to incentives and are psychologically gifted at justifying self-interest. It is impossible to expect our new president or his appointees from the private sector to consistently pursue national interest before personal profits when they’ve spent their entire lives doing the entire opposite.


“Certainly, conflicts of interest are not new to the executive branch, but we have rarely seen them to the degree present in the new administration. Many voted for Donald Trump because they thought his business skills would translate well to government. But we cannot expect that he or his team, who have spent a lifetime pursuing profits regardless of social cost, will be able to change their mindset now that they are political appointees.

“Congress, the press and the public must acknowledge and highlight these conflicts and demand that they be addressed. The best way to keep conflicts of interest from influencing politics is to avoid or eliminate them. I hope we will all demand the new administration to pursue this course, and I hope I am underestimating the new administration to pursue public interest in the face of personal losses.”

Read more “First 100 Days” messages at Election2016.wustl.edu.

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