There’s a tenancy to look through our own lenses and proclaim, “We are a morally superior community!”. Almost always this is accompanied by farcical levels of denial bout our community’s level of hypocrisy. It’s easy to manage because there’s always someone to compare to. For example, “I am better than a Nazi.” Good for you. I’m glad you’re not a Nazi. The trick is not making the second statement: “I am morally superior to people whom I think resemble Nazis.” That is much more common and there in lies the problem. We forget that your average Nazi didn’t start out as an average Nazi. They started out like you and me. The message being, under the right circumstances, we are all capable of being Nazis. Our “so-called” morality is so fragile.
We also like to say, “I’m morally superior to __________”. Maybe “Blanks” aren’t hard working enough. Maybe “Blanks” do too much drugs, and commit too many crimes. Maybe they’re always going to be poor and un-American. Better yet, it might be catching. “Keep them away lest we are run over by hordes of moocher “Blanks”. “As moral as we are, we just can’t take care of that many moocher criminal poverty-infesting ‘Blanks'”. We look over the world at all the “blanks” out there and we feel superior. This post is not about post-modern multiculturalism where morality is relative and we should all embrace the other at any cost (although, that would be a good post!). But it is the explicit condemnation of such beliefs not only on moral grounds but on utilitarian ones because the two are almost always the same in the long run.
But we don’t always indulge in our superiority geographically do we? We do this temporally as well. There is a temptation to point to a moral past and say, “We were better then. Those of us who are like are fathers, are better than those of us who are like our children.” We employ the old “to hell in a hand-basket” metaphor for the entire generation. There is a deep seated cynicism about the present and the future and this is wrong. Not just on the strength of my own moral opinions but through rank and base collection of data.
Divorce rates are at historical lows.
Crime drops to an all time low
Unintended Pregnancy is at an all time low
Abortion hits all time low (Liberals, I know how you feel about this one. Chill out for now)
Teen abuse of Alcohol and Cigarettes at an all time low
I’d love to report other things like spousal or child abuse are at lows as well, I certainly hope they’re dropping but the statistics are so bad and the culture has changed so fast that any historical comparison would be completely meaningless. For example, the military posted a 50% rise in reports of sexual assault and harassment in the last year alone. Obviously there hasn’t been an increase in actual assault, but just in the reporting. If sexual assault has been under reported by 50% OR MORE, then it makes it hard to draw conclusions based on previous data.
But what I can do is this link for post war advertisements.
How about spousal abuse? It seems to me there’s a remarkable lack of consent from Lucy to being spanked. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6Qup9lOPQfg
Jackie can be seen to be constantly threatening his wife to great comedic effect. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EpHzPzjUTY8
I can find countless more examples. If you consider the political, civic, social rights and opportunities we granted non white-men of previous generations, we are definitely improving our morality. This is not to make the opposite mistake as conservatives. We do not want to be complacent in our morality. There is still much humanity must learn about altruism, compassion and tolerance. But we should not despair over the failings of the human race. We should not let hatred over injustice consume us lest we fall into the “love the sinner hate the sin” fallacy that so many suffer from. Indeed I reference our history not to despair over our failings or to gloat over our success but to reveal the path. Our morality IS superior but it is so very fragile. Our history can be read as a struggle for spiritual enlightenment and we should embrace it even through set backs caused by fear and ignorance. There have been many and there will be more setbacks but we will move forward. It is inevitable.
What is the point of a government? I would say the simplest, easiest answer to the question is, “Governments exist to secure freedoms”. It certainly is a foundational answer in American politics. Typically, (especially since this country is insanely religious) these sorts of questions get caught up with morality. Take a gander at Fox news during a discussion about the minimum wage law. The discussion is almost certainly focused on whether or not the poor deserve better wages. On the left you have do CEOs really deserve their obscene salaries? When it comes to the social safety net there are yet more morality based doubts. Do the poor deserve to live? If you talk to republicans you are left with the impression that the poor do nothing but laze around all day playing computer games and eating “bon bons” (when we heard that from a Republican on TV, my wife suggested we commission a study to determine how many of the poor know what a bon bon actually is). Do immigrants deserve to come to this country? Do the wealthy deserve tax cuts. Does anyone deserve a tax cut?
The hell with morality. It’s a useless metric for determining a course of action, particularly on the government level. Do the working poor deserve a pay raise? I no longer care. As I’ve said before, the point of a minimum wage is not there for the purposes of generosity. It’s because labor increases the value of a company and you need to compensate your laborers for that increase in value regardless of how low you can bid the wages in the open market. In theory, the CEOs get their obscene salaries because this is representative of the increase in value they bring to the company. Obviously the system needs some adjustment. The government spends money based on the needs and wishes of the voters and upon the assumed wishes of non-voters. And the voters in this country very worried about waste in this country. In fact, they see waste as intrinsic to the existence of a government. Don’t worry about it. Waste is a nonsensical construct by which to judge a country. Any waste that a government produces goes straight into the economy. People are getting fantastically wealthy off of government waste, which if Republicans are correct, will trickle down to the rest us far more efficiently than if the government tried any other redistribution on it’s own. In fact, Republicans should be arguing for greater government waste. This is basically the military’s primary contribution to our country. Whatever money the government sends into the economy will eventually come back to the government in the form of taxes and fees. It may take generations, but eventually, it’ll get it back. If you run out of money you can always make more. It’s very easy. I think these days all they have to do is punch in a number and press a button.
This is where we should hear from inflation hawks. ‘You’ll ruin the country through hyperinflation!’ No I won’t. Inflation is a meaningless term and it too is often mistaken for theft. If my wife bakes a pie and cuts into 4 pieces and gives me a slice and tomorrow cuts the pie into 8 pieces and gives me two, has she cheated me? nonsense. The pie has undergone inflation. I’m cheated only if the pie is smaller the next day. The key metric here is “value”. If the government truly wastes money, it will eventually get the money back again. Slowly. And it will create very little value while doing so. If the government spends its money wisely it will create great value quickly. It has nothing to do with morality. As a government, it’s on incredibly shaking ground to help people based on need, or because they deserve it. This kind of moral judgment is inappropriate for a government. Helping the poor creates adds tremendous value precisely because wealth generation, innovation, creativity, jobs, and so on are mainly done in the middle class and you need that social mobility if your country is going to be healthy.
Most people agree that the government should spend more money on infrastructure. Mostly because this is such a ridiculously obvious point that anencephalic troglodytes of any political stripe can see it. Infrastructure creates a tremendous amount of value for the country. Should the government be spending billions of dollars on turning corn into ethanol? no because it returns very little value to the economy. How about tax cuts for major corporations? Same deal. Supply side economics works only if there is an extreme cash shortage. That used to be the case for oil companies, it’s not now. Where does the government get the money for all this spending? From taxes of course. “but… but… that’s my money” some might argue. True but you also get phenomenal value for your tax money in the way of all those roads and schools and stuff we talked about. In return, the increase in value directly increases your freedom and the value of that freedom.