Donald Trump, Brigham Young, and the meaning of a contract.

That Donald Trump is a “shrewd businessman” – I can put it no more charitably than that – is no secret. He himself has said that he takes pleasure in reneging on contracts if, according to him, work is poor, or not up to snuff, or late.

However, among the 1,450 lawsuits against Trump and Company are a significant percentage of people testifying that his modus operandi is to stiff people who work for him. In the past, he has generally gotten away with it because he was the 900-lb gorilla in the ring, and most people didn’t have the gumption or the legal resources to go up against him.

But recently, this practice came around and bit him on the honus, hard.

Trump’s company chose to pay small contractor Paint Spot $34,863 on a $200,000 contract. Paint Spot rustled up some high-powered lawyers willing to work on contingency and waive their fees if they lost, and sued Trump. During the trial,

Trump’s legal team looked positively stricken when the construction manager admitted during testimony that the company had decided not to pay The Paint Spot because it felt like it had “already paid enough.”

Trump’s loss was delicious. It illustrates plainly the standard operating procedure of a man who has made millions on the backs of others, without caring who gets hurt in the process – one of the classic hallmarks of a sociopath, of which Trump easily checks off at least five:

Antisocial Personality Disorder, as defined by DSM-5 – only three of these are sufficient to classify a sociopath.

1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
2) deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
3) impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
4) irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
5) reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
6) consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
7) lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Now, in contrast, let’s take a bit of satirical history from the pages of Samuel Clemens.

In  Mark Twain’s “Roughing It,” Chapter 14, we read the story of Mr. Street, busy with stringing telegraph wires across the rugged desert.

Unto Mormons he had sub-let the hardest and heaviest half of his great undertaking, and all of a sudden they concluded that they were going to make little or nothing, and so they tranquilly threw their poles overboard in mountain or desert, just as it happened when they took the notion, and drove home and went about their customary business! They were under written contract to Mr. Street, but they did not care anything for that. They said they would “admire” to see a “Gentile” force a Mormon to fulfil a losing contract in Utah! [Emphasis mine]

Mr. Street was in dismay to find himself in a country where “contracts were worthless,” until another Gentile (Note: This is the term that was long used in Mormon country for people not of that faith) suggested he go see Brigham Young. While in doubt that someone with only religious authority could help, he paid the President a visit and

laid the whole case before him. He said very little, but he showed strong interest all the way through. He examined all the papers in detail, and whenever there seemed anything like a hitch, either in the papers or my statement, he would go back and take up the thread and follow it patiently out to an intelligent and satisfactory result. Then he made a list of the contractors’ names. Finally he said:

“Mr. Street, this is all perfectly plain. These contracts are strictly and legally drawn, and are duly signed and certified. These men manifestly entered into them with their eyes open. I see no fault or flaw anywhere.”

Then Mr. Young turned to a man waiting at the other end of the room and said: `Take this list of names to So-and-so, and tell him to have these men here at such-and-such an hour.

brigham

They were there, to the minute. So was I. Mr. Young asked them a number of questions, and their answers made my statement good. Then he said to them:

“You signed these contracts and assumed these obligations of your own free will and accord?”

“Yes.”

“Then carry them out to the letter, if it makes paupers of you! Go!”

And they did go, too! They are strung across the deserts now, working like bees. And I never hear a word out of them.

While there is no evidence proving that this specific incident occurred, Roughing It is a semi-autobiographical novel detailing Twain’s travels, and through the satire some truth gleams like gems. I am inclined to believe the story has basis in fact for a number of reasons, most importantly that Brigham Young valued honesty and decried duplicity.

My mother used to sing me a little song when I was very young:

Before you make a promise,
Consider first it’s importance.
Then, when made,
Engrave it upon your heart.

I suspect my mother learned this from her father, and Linda K. Burton, general Relief Society President for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, heard the same song from her own grandfather

Honesty is one of the traits of a compassionate leader, one who says what (s)he means and does what (s)he says. I cannot, I will not support as the leader of my country someone who takes perverse pleasure in lies and deception to profit at the expense of others.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

2 responses to “Donald Trump, Brigham Young, and the meaning of a contract.

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