Beyond Virtue?

Recently I ran across a line in my reading — I forget the author, but it may have been Theodore Dalrymple — that suggested that progressives dream of creating a society so perfect that there is no need to be good.

I was reminded of this when I saw a bit from an NYT piece from 1981 about Bernie Sanders:

”I don’t believe in charities,” said Mayor Sanders, bringing a shocked silence to a packed hotel banquet room. The Mayor, who is a Socialist, went on to question the ”fundamental concepts on which charities are based” and contended that government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for social programs.

Admittedly, Mr. Sanders may have changed his views of things over the last 35 years — I have. But this is a view of government as a proxy for virtue, which would presumably be allowed to atrophy. But what happens when power is in the hands of people with no need to be good?

Ultimately, the world Mr. Sanders seems to support is the world of T.H. White’s ants, where everything that is not forbidden is compulsory. There is no need for choice in his worldview — and that hasn’t changed.

But what of those of us who believe that choices — between right and wrong, good and evil, one path or another — are the very things that make us human? A world in which there is no need for people to be good is literally inhuman — a world with no need for people.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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1 Response to Beyond Virtue?

  1. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said (and I paraphrase) that a people are only as free as the choices they have. It seems to me a vast portion of our society prefers to avoid thinking any more than they absutely have to. And since our thinking determines our choices, it’s safe to assume that those of a more intellectually slothful bent will gladly relinquish the hard job of choosing the fair and equal distribution of virtue to the political pillars of piety. Such a delagation allows them the freedom to be blissfully ignorant spectators and consumers, exercising only their God given right to the pursuit of happiness! I fear I have begun to nip at the bottle of your cynicism ProfMondo!

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