american moral decline, economic cost of immorality, ethical economics, Ethics and economics, Hayek on morality, history of business ethics, history of morality, moral business, Morality in business, society and morality
Morality is something that seems almost cliché today, its meaning diluted and its influence waning. With today’s liberal “I am okay, you are okay” mindset it seems the ideas of a just and moral society have become old fashion vestiges of a time long past. In truth, if one sifts out the influences of the American left and post 1960 Hollywood radicalism one will find something long forgotten, it is America’s morality that formed the foundation upon which all that she has become was built.
Freedom and the free exchange of ideas are often lauded as the wheels upon which capitalism and the industrial revolution ran. If this is true then the road those wheels ran on was the emerging morality of the day. Protestant ethics encouraged the literacy, mutual respect and independence from the state that is the hallmark of free market capitalism. Without the emergence of protestant morality it is unlikely the world would of progressed much faster then it had the previous centuries. It was no mistake that the countries that were at the heart of this cultural revolution were also at the heart of a economic one. The freedom that makes free enterprise possible would not of emerged without these moral underpinnings.
As John Adams was fond of pointing out, liberty without virtue is impossible. Although the nature of man dictates that liberty without law last about as long as a “sheep among wolves” it is equally true freedom is smothered by a society whose every move is a dictate of the state. Where morality declines laws rise and where laws rise liberty wanes. This undeniable principle that forms the basis of the conservative creed “a society that seeks to be free must first seek to be moral.”
Capitalism and the unparalleled advancement of society it spurred was made possible by a moral revolution that had proceeded it. It is unlikely that the United States would have amounted to more than a footnote in history without its moral influences. Economists Milton Friedman often talked about the connection between morality and economics. An example of this nexus of economic activity and moral certitude he found within the Jewish diamond traders of New York. In these circles business is conducted without contracts and with nary a lawyer in sight. The bond is the word of those doing business together and ostracization followed by financial ruin the cost of breaking that bond. The result is an economic efficiency unmatched by others outside their circle. This is of course how nearly all business was done until recently; a man’s word was his bond and a handshake was good as a contract. This was how American business was run for most of the country’s history. A way of business that helped make the U.S. economy the envy of the world.
Unfortunately today the term legally binding has replaced morally bound as the mainstay of American contracts. The decline in business morality has been a bane to business and a boon to the legal profession. Another economist, Thomas Sowell, points out an additional cost of moral decline in a society. In his youth the streets of Harlem were safe and the stores relatively unpilfered. Today shopkeepers install bulletproof glass, sophisticated alarms and guards stroll the aisles of the stores and still the losses to theft are substantial. Such increase in business overhead puts inner city businesses at a distinct disadvantage and kills entrepreneurship in areas most in need of it. Moral decline comes with a definite economic cost. Even economist F.A. Hayek, not noted for his religiosity, noted the need for morality as a foundation for free societies and free enterprise.
The fact is moral decline effects all aspects of society, nothing remains untouched. Economies falter at the same time the burden’s society bears increase. In the U.S. as as the famous American spirit of self-reliance has declined it has been slowly replaced with an entitlement mentality. Today the cost of entitlements are on the verge of bankrupting the nation. Similarly personal responsibility has been replaced by universal victim-hood. The result is a social justice stew that is heated by envy and boils over from time to time into violence.
In government too there has been a cost associated with the country’s moral decline that goes far beyond just dollars and cents. Today students should be taught that the most basic laws of civics are that every politician is a demagogue and every bureaucrat a patronizing sycophant. Although this might be an exaggeration there is more truth in it then most would like to admit. Gone are the days of the citizen politician who goes to serve and then returns to family and home, at least at the state and federal level. There are no more George Washingtons. Gone also are the dedicated underpaid public servants working for the public good and the inherent rewards of public service. Who could debate that such declines in have taken place or that it has been injurious to our public institutions?
The lessening influence of morals has many sources with the education system arguably the most cited. Progressive liberals have led the charge against values in our public schools and have met with more than a little success. A High School girl just a few short years ago would have dreaded being described as not a virgin, now the opposite is true. Liberal educators declared students to be animals incapable of self-control or moral backbone, a self-fulfilling declaration that students have been all too willing to live up to. As a result the once rare occurrences of teenage pregnancy and venereal disease are now common place. Liberal educators have also had an impact on what it means to be an American in the minds of our children. Love of God and country are no longer universal themes that ring across the American landscape. Instead of being taught how they are the benefactors of a proud heritage students today are taught to be ashamed for a buffet of crimes both real and imagined. The great achievements of their forefathers are discounted and every fault or misstep elevated. In place of patriotism students are taught multiculturalism and that America is just one of many nations. Liberal professors in colleges and universities of course continue what the public schools started. The goal it seems is the creation of a new generation of multicultural, self-absorbed, government-reliant internationalists.
Schools are of course not the only culprits but they do figure prominently. Hollywood’s amoral movies filled with anti-heroes and a more then cooperative liberal press have had their hand in things as well. What is lost in all of this is morality is more then a personal attribute, it is thread that binds the fabric of a free society together.
Attempting to hold a society together by laws alone without the benefit of morality is a fool’s mission. The economic cost of doing business skyrockets as morality withers. Additionally, since the only replacement for self-restraint is legal restraint freedom is put at risk. The stresses of declining morality ultimately lead to a situation where only an iron-fisted police state can hope to keep order. It is no wonder that freedom thrives only when morality and a set of standards based on it are adopted by the vast majority. Equally true is the fact that evil expands to fill the vacuum when a society abandons its moral foundations. As surely as a democracy without the walls of a proper constitution and respect for individual rights will inevitably fall into disarray, mob rule and finally dies in convulsions of violence that give way to dictatorship; a society without a moral compass soon loses its liberty and is on the road to financial ruin as well.
“Liberty can no more live without virtue and independence then the body can live without a soul” John Adams
“A nation is not great by virtue of its wealth, but by the wealth of its virtue.” Unknown
If this article makes you think pass it on