Friday, February 17, 2012

Great minds

Well, Kenneth Minogue is very much out of my league, but I did find something he wrote about Morals and the Servile Mind to be in sync with my recent complaint about liberal government becoming our hectoring teacher and manager of a groundless but required moral effort.

His remarks:
My concern with democracy is highly specific. It begins in observing the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us.

No philosopher can contemplate this interesting situation without beginning to reflect on what it can mean. The gap between political realities and their public face is so great that the term “paradox” tends to crop up from sentence to sentence. Our rulers are theoretically “our” representatives, but they are busy turning us into the instruments of the projects they keep dreaming up. The business of governments, one might think, is to supply the framework of law within which we may pursue happiness on our own account. Instead, we are constantly being summoned to reform ourselves. Debt, intemperance, and incompetence in rearing our children are no doubt regrettable, but they are vices, and left alone, they will soon lead to the pain that corrects. Life is a better teacher of virtue than politicians, and most sensible governments in the past left moral faults to the churches. But democratic citizenship in the twenty-first century means receiving a stream of improving “messages” from politicians. Some may forgive these intrusions because they are so well intentioned. Who would defend prejudice, debt, or excessive drinking? The point, however, is that our rulers have no business telling us how to live. They are tiresome enough in their exercise of authority—they are intolerable when they mount the pulpit. Nor should we be in any doubt that nationalizing the moral life is the first step towards totalitarianism.
In the current battle between Obama and the Catholic bishops over whether the State has the right to require Catholic organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and sterilization, free of charge: If you change this to abortion, then you can see the issue. It does not matter if the Catholic organization pays through its direct premiums or the insurance company --mandated by the Feds-- pays for it (and the organizations indirectly through premium adjustments).

What even more deeply galls me is that the State decides that wymyn are a special class who deserve free services. And even more than that, what the hell gives the Feds the idea that it is their right to tell individuals or groups what services they must provide "free" to anyone at all!? All that means is that they mandate someone else to pay for it.

This is an issue where feminism, redistributionism and secularism (three of the Seven Pillars)  combine.

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