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The moral decline of America


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Initial post: Dec 2, 2012 4:37:24 PM PST
Songbird says:
A post in another thread reminded me of how often I hear people say something along the lines of America used to be great/godly/moral and is now headed toward something dire.

If you feel this way, can you please describe how? I find only evidence of overall improved "morality" (quotes to indicate the varying definitions of morality), so I'm curious what areas are in decline. Is the decrease in church attendance associated with morality? Do you think our society is moving toward secularization, and if so, how has that influenced morality? (In measurable terms.) Do you think that pesky bugger, nostalgia, lends to misperception?

Posted on Dec 2, 2012 4:52:04 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 2, 2012 4:56:27 PM PST
I guess things were better when people were married once without options often in arranged marriages, and the wife was almost a slave with little rights who could be beaten and raped at her husbands whim. The kids could be physically, sexually, and mentally abused also, or worked as actual slaves but that was none of your business, don't be nosy. Or the husband could go out and have sex with a concubine or prostitutes, often underage, then bring back STDs to his wife... but then they didn't talk about that even though they knew it was very common. The treatment of blacks, immigrants, and those of different religions were nothing to brag about either. Or the hypocrisy towards gays and pretending that they did not officially exist while knowing otherwise. Or how many people had no empathy towards animals, you could beat your dog to death or lock them in a cage to die, and few would ever raise a word, after all God said that you are better than animals, women, coloureds, heathens. Morality was everywhere back in the golden days.

People now may not be better, but then they may not be worse.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 5:22:22 PM PST
A defining characteristic of the conservative mentality in any sphere be it politics, economics, religion, science, etc., is that things used to be better/purer/etc. at some point in the past and we need to return to that better/purer/etc. era.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 5:26:05 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 5:38:46 PM PST
Jeff Marzano says:
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Posted on Dec 2, 2012 6:59:29 PM PST
Re OP: My main concern here has nothing to do with religion: it has to do with the notion that government should take assets from those who have produced them in order to give then to those that have not. (Ronald Reagan said a famous quote about this.) We do not have a defined boundary line which government may not cross on this; taken to its logical extreme, we wind up with something like Ayn Rand's dystopia in Atlas Shrugged.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 7:18:39 PM PST
Some modern-day libertarians and objectivists insist that taxation is theft.

They are in error.

We humans are social animals, and live as part of a complex, interdependent, densely populated society.

We *choose* to trade total freedom of action for the benefits of interdependent, cooperative life.

Some of those benefits include drivable roads, drinkable water, safe working conditions, public health management, and so on.

Those benefits are paid for via taxation.

Taxation isn't theft... it is the honoring of the social contract we are implicitly members of as citizens of an interdependent society.

For an example of what happens when you don't have that social contract in action, see Somalia.

And, as for Atlas Shrugged:

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
― John Rogers

Posted on Dec 2, 2012 7:27:57 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 7:37:43 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 2, 2012 7:38:25 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 7:40:46 PM PST
"Where does one draw the line? And how? How much of one's production shall one be permitted to keep?"

These *are* valid questions... but, IMO, Atlas Shrugged isn't a worthy exploration of those questions.

It must be remembered that producers don't produce in a vacuum... they produce within the context of a stable society that gives them reliable roads to get resources to them and goods from them, communications networks that allow them to coordinate and advertise, and so on.

Those producers don't produce all by themselves.

Unregulated capitalism is great... in an ideal world filled with ideal humans.

In reality, capitalism needs oversight and regulation... and that's one of the necessary functions of government.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 8:04:05 PM PST
I don't think that Ayn Rand was right about everything. But a few possible mistakes doesn't mean she was wrong about everything, either. Though not a cultist myself, I think she deserves better recognition, some of which seems to be happening.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 8:23:26 PM PST
"But a few possible mistakes doesn't mean she was wrong about everything, either."

What do you think she was right about? FWIW, I don't think she was wrong about everything either, though I see no merit to speak of in Objectivism.

"Though not a cultist myself, I think she deserves better recognition, some of which seems to be happening."

Her ideas are getting recognition... but, IMO, not because of their validity, but rather because the "virtues of selfishness" message resonates with many people who, well, like the idea of being selfish, and having that selfishness be seen as a virtue.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 8:53:35 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 9:20:34 PM PST
Re Altarriba, 12-2 7:40 PM: "... reliable roads to get resources to them ..." Which are properly paid for by taxes on motor fuels. The more you use the roads, the more you pay. Makes perfect sense to me.

"communications networks..." These are ALL provided by private companies, which charge appropriate fees for their use. Hence, these are not within the purview of the current discussion.

"Unregulated capitalism is great... in an ideal world filled with ideal humans." Regulations would be necessary even in such a world. But it is all too easy for regulations to strangle what would otherwise be legitimate commerce, as Obama did in squelching the Keystone pipeline project. (Instead of Canada selling petroleum to the US, it is going to China. Isn't that special? [1])

The necessary functions of government are to protect the citizenry from violence, and their property from predators. All else is arguable.

1. With a tip of the hat to Lily Tomlin.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 9:28:48 PM PST
For one thing, she was right about altruism as a moral obligation. However, she spoke positively about people helping one another, as in barn raisings and the like.

I have full contempt for the likes of Jeff Skilling misunderstanding Dawkins's phrase "The Selfish Gene", and similar caricatures of Ayn Rand from whatever source.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 9:39:46 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Oh, but Ayn Rand was the epitome of me-firstism. Her philosophy of "objectivism" was described, by her, in these tenets (note #3).

Reality exists as an objective absolute-facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses) is man's only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.

Man-every man-is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 9:55:06 PM PST
This is a good summary. I'm not sure that the phrase "me-firstism" fully describes her views. Please do recall "nor sacrificing others to himself". I think many people have missed that clause, and thereby misconceived Rand's views as predatory, though they are not.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2012 11:07:37 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Eugene, you don't see that the concept that "the pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life" to be predatory? I certainly do.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2012 1:58:43 AM PST
Not if the clause "nor sacrificing others to himself" is present. Note also that there is a difference between rational self-interest and raw self-interest.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2012 2:04:24 AM PST
Menkaure says:
ScoopingCatLitter says:
"Does that mean that the defining characteristic of the non-conservative mentality in any sphere be it politics, economics, religion, science, etc., is that things are going to be better/purer/etc, at some point in the future and we need to go to that better/purer/etc. era?"

No, it's a hope that things can be better if we work at it, coupled to a belief that the only way forward is a continual push for improvement.

Posted on Dec 3, 2012 2:08:28 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 13, 2012 7:39:41 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2012 2:09:52 AM PST
Menkaure says:
Robert A. Saunders says:
"....Where does one draw the line? And how? How much of one's production shall one be permitted to keep?"

I think if you examine your tax records, you will find that you keep the majority of your 'production.'

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2012 2:22:17 AM PST
Menkaure says:
Robert A. Saunders says:
"Re OP: My main concern here has nothing to do with religion: it has to do with the notion that government should take assets from those who have produced them in order to give then to those that have not. (Ronald Reagan said a famous quote about this.)"

Who are these mythical non-producers? Where are they? Excluding children, the elderly, and the disabled, the majority of people on public assitance work. They also pay taxes. Those who are not working now (the unemployed), have worked and paid into the system in the past, and will again in the future. Who are you talking about, exactly?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2012 2:54:23 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 3, 2012 2:55:45 AM PST
Celsus says:
Songbird

America has abandoned Biblical morality, leading inevitably to the steep moral decline we see today. For example, the Bible teaches that keeping and beating slaves is the God-ordained right of his followers, but Americans long ago abandoned this fine Godly practice. The Bible instructs parents to kill their rebellious children, but America never embraced this holy and moral rule of God, despite many fine Christian fundamentalists arguing parents should have this right by law. The Bible teaches women to remain silent in church, and encourages soldiers to rape captured enemy girls and women, and smash their babies against stones, but do American heed these holy directives from God? No, they do not. And burning witches, though a fine God-ordained practice, has been forbidden for a couple of centuries. Instead Americans have adopted secular humanism as their preferred moral code, leading to the rampant depravity we see today. Calvin knew how to model a society of God's good book; he even managed to rid our world of 34 witches in a single year. But it's no use pining for the good old days. It seems evil humanism is here to stay. Unless we can get someone like Ms Palin into the White House.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2012 5:11:57 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 3, 2012 5:24:36 AM PST
The political process rarely lets anything be taken to its logical extreme. In the case of wealth redistribution, going too far in either direction would result in political pressure to move in the opposite direction.

Every civilized society contains the notion that there are those who need help. Chlldren, the aged, the disabled, etc. often have no resources. As our society moves in the direction of smaller and smaller families the idea that any individual can depend on help from others and that no formal governmental structure to provide this is necessary becomes increasingly untenable.
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Discussion in:  Religion forum
Participants:  57
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Initial post:  Dec 2, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 23, 2012

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