Saturday, March 15, 2008

On Freedom, Control and Morality

Roger Kimball has this thought provoking piece which starts out by noting Arnold Kling's discussion of Elliot Spitzer, and how the real issue is not a sexual liaison with a high priced prostitute, but rather how he and his ilk have this inflated view of themselves, and their own perceived need to impose on the rest of us their versions of how we should live our lives. It is this notion of self importance which leads them to "making extravagant promises that only result in expanded government power."
The article is too good to pass up, and I urge you to read the whole thing. But I would like to excerpt some of the best lines:
At the center of the totalitarian impulse is the belief that, at bottom, freedom belongs only to the state, that the individual should not be treated as a free actor but rather, as Lenin put it, “‘a cog and a screw’ of one single great Social-Democratic mechanism.”
“What socialism implies above all,” said Lenin, “is keeping account of everything.”
and finally:
What we have seen in recent years is a hideous marriage of political correctness and bureaucratic triumphalism. The offspring are the multitude of soft tyrannies we see all about us today—that and an enervation of spirit that renders the public ever less able to respond to the casual indignities that have become such a prominent part of daily life.

Why have we surrendered so much control to those who are ostensibly our servants? I supposes like above, we grow weary of the constant battle with tyrants who man every barricade erected by the government - from the DMV to the local justice courts. But everyone of them derives their power and authority from us - the sovereign people who have agreed to form the government for our own interests.
But we also have to acknowledge that friction caused by our own fellow citizens. Political correctness and moral relativism are two tools used to control us as well. Political correctness by circumscribing our language, and ostensibly our thoughts, seeks to limit speech, usually by claiming some version of victimhood as a way to paralyze those who would disagree with our supposed moral betters. Moral relativism being just another variant. For instance, in my earlier post on Islam and Evil both Mark T. and Missoula Pagan don't decry the barbarism complained of, instead they point out that at some time or another, Western Civilization was just as bad. Hmm, in that case, only the perfect could denounce beheadings, female genital mutilations, or other acts of perfidy. I guess that would leave it to God to be the only entity that could criticize such acts. I bet that thought would drive Missoula Pagan crazy.
But as I have said to Mark before, moral relativism is neither moral, nor relative. Instead, it is a call to inaction. A demand that no criticism be broached because of whatever happened in the 15th Century or something more recent by no organized or official group means that those who would enact 7th Century barbarism are not to be challenged. Excuse me? I have not led a morally exemplar life, but right is right, and wrong is wrong, and it ain't that hard to tell the difference.

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

This, and this alone sums up the Spitzer scandal:

...the real issue is not a sexual liaison with a high priced prostitute, but rather how he and his ilk have this inflated view of themselves, and their own perceived need to impose on the rest of us their versions of how we should live our lives

It's a real stretch to add Spitzer's disgrace to the Libertarian/Republican canon of Everything that's Wrong with Big Government and Liberalism. This story isn't about "freedom, control and morality", or lack thereof, on the part of political correctness, moral relativism and government bureaucracy. Lord knows there are plenty of busybodies on the right side of the political aisle who want to tell everyone else what to do, say and think. Spitzer made personal enemies of New York state's wealthiest and most politically powerful men, Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Of course they were going bring him down; it's part of the all-too-human impulse to celebrate and pile on when the local pompous jackass gets exposed as a fraud. I can guarantee you there will be a lot of people cheering the second the authorities finally find local crusader Dallas Erickson with some kiddie porn.

And this, not the desire to strike a blow against a out-of-control government, is the lesson we all should absorb from Eliot's downfall: don't be a public saint and a private hypocrite, because sooner or later we're all going to find out about your dirty little secrets.

Mark T said...

"...but rather how he and his ilk have this inflated view of themselves, and their own perceived need to impose on the rest of us their versions of how we should live our lives."

I was wondering if you would ever address the abortion issue.

Steve said...

First Rebecca - You make some very valid points, especially about Erickson (for those of you who don't know, he has personally viewed hundreds of porno tapes so that we don't have to, and no, I am not making this up). And while you are right that hypocrisy did bring Spitzer down, I still reject anyone telling me, an adult, what I should do or not do.

Mark - I have always promised that I will never have an abortion, and I have kept that promise. The problem with the abortion issue is that it is a moral dilemma. Good people can come down on both sides of the argument. The problem became acute when Blackmun took it upon himself to create a legal "right" where only a moral concern is at issue.
I can agree that life begins at conception because the zygote has its own unique DNA. But I also think that it is between a woman, her doctor and her God as to how to deal with it.
But I do have a problem with abortion being used as a the primary means of birth control. While rare, it does exist. So, as a libertarian, I am conflicted, but when confronted with no other choice, I have to choose the one that keeps the government out of it.