Gödel and Trump

I was struck some years ago when I read John Dawson’s biography of the towering logician Kurt Gödel, Logical Dilemmas, of the story of his ‘proof’ that the US could be turned ‘legally’ from a democracy into a dictatorship, and the anxiety of his friends Oskar Morgenstern and Albert Einstein that his eagerness to tell others of this would jeopardize his passing his US citizenship examination.  As Wikipedia presently recounts it, referring to Dawson’s book: “On December 5, 1947, Einstein and Morgenstern accompanied Gödel to his U.S. citizenship exam, where they acted as witnesses. Gödel had confided in them that he had discovered an inconsistency in the U.S. Constitution that could allow the U.S. to become a dictatorship. Einstein and Morgenstern were concerned that their friend’s unpredictable behavior might jeopardize his application. Fortunately, the judge turned out to be Phillip Forman, who knew Einstein and had administered the oath at Einstein’s own citizenship hearing. Everything went smoothly until Forman happened to ask Gödel if he thought a dictatorship like the Nazi regime could happen in the U.S. Gödel then started to explain his discovery to Forman. Forman understood what was going on, cut Gödel off, and moved the hearing on to other questions and a routine conclusion.”  A fascinating  and fuller account by Morgenstern himself can be found here.    As that description brings out, Morgenstern and Einstein apparently thought that Gödel’s prized discovery was of at most theoretical interest, but  we now see, regrettably, that this may not be the case.  Nothing specific is known about the route that Gödel found to subverting US democracy while ‘respecting’ the US constitution, to the best of my knowledge.

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