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On Morality and Moralism

Article by Michael Parish.

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This article reminded me of one of the things I dislike most about liberalism, its mistaking beauracratic management of social ills with organic community. This is accomplished by phrasing questions of poverty in a binary opposition of “free market” versus “welfare state”, equating the former with egotistic indifference and the latter with care and compassion. It is assumed that  “individualism” results in those on the bottom meeting the curb en route to the local dump, whereas their proposed welfare state constitutes their affectionate refurbishing. As in all falsehoods, this requires a tricky linguistic sleight of hand, coming in the form of the majestic plural “we.” Income redistribution and egalitarian social engineering are attributed to “we”, making them appear as collective activities participated in voluntarily out of genuine moral conviction, rather then as actions of the state. Semantics aside, the fact remains that politicians extracting taxes from citizens and funneling them to their social lessers does not constitute action of any sort on the part of “we” or “us”, nor does the enactment of such policies indicate any moral commitment to the issue on our part.

The second fallacy in this attitude is the baseless assumption that these programs actually achieve anything toward their ostensible goal. On this count, the liberal displays a childlike naivete in his equation of surface appearance and reality, never once considering the possibility of a disconnect between the two. The record shows that the welfare state, by providing income exceeding that of a minimum wage job and promising increases per child, has encouraged not only encouraged dependency but in subsidizing lower class procreation cultivated an artifically expanded underclass incapable of self management. This in turn has priveleged an entrenched class of beauracrats by necessiating their oversight. In casting their beloved social democracy as an honest opponent of capitalist individualism, they fail to recognize it’s true role in picking up where the latter left off. (That American capitalists were near unanimous in their support of the monstrosity as a social control mechanism also, for all their “anti-corporate” bluster, seems lost on them.) Agreeing to forfeit a morself of one’s income for it to arrive in the hands of a complete stranger is not a decision to assist in working towards the “common good”, but a slight concession paid in exchange for more years of individual self-satisfaction.

Even if the American system were transformed into an imitation of Sweden’s, this would do nothing to alleviate the mallaise found marring its civil society. The liberal, as he is incapable of differentiating between this and the state, between the organic and the synthetic, would see this and declare “problem solved.” To them, the problem is not individualism and material desire preventing people from building organic community, but from siding with their proposed redistributive utopia. His talk of some mythic “common good” aside, he is incapable of seeing social values expressed through anything but political and institutional means. This is at the heart of the difference between civic commitment and liberalism, and between morality and moralism.

Morality, if it is to exist in a purposeful way, is to be invisible, an unconscious reaction in the mind of the individual, not a fetish to be consciously adhered to and publicly emphasized. When it descends into the latter, it ceases being morality and instead becomes moralism, which is nothing but an aesthetic fixation turned public image competition. It, like everything else, becomes a tool, useful for defining oneself and one’s ideological nemeses. At this point its utility in this regard becomes apparent, and it dissolves to the touch. Liberals embody this par excellence, rendering them unsuited to criticize others for such alleged ethical inadequacies. As civilization requires adherence to a transcendent principle to exist, the individual requires the belief in something external to the self; only with that can he feel obligation to those external to himself.

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