Monday, August 4, 2008

The "Nanny State" as the Price of Moral Relativism?

There's a very interesting argument in the recently released book Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!) by Carol Platt Liebau that the moral relativism so in vogue over the past four decades is a direct cause of the rise of the "nanny" state. She writes (emphasis mine):

"A society that denies the validity of any morality because of an ethic of moral relativism ultimately loses the capacity to compel decent public behavior....When cultural forces combine to encourage the indulgence of a people's appetites while eroding any competing constraints on them, it becomes increasingly likely that people will eventually become ruled by their passions.

That, without more, is deeply inimical to the flourishing of a truly free society- for when people cannot control themselves, ever more government intrusion into the private sphere becomes necessary to avoid a descent into disorder or even chaos.

Indeed, without sexual self-restraint, the private realm cannot remain truly private. With indiscriminate sexual activity comes a host of ills that ultimately require the government to intrude into the most intimate realms of its citizens' lives- from the agencies devoted to extracting child support from unmarried, deadbeat fathers to the armies of social workers employed to check on the well-being of children born to unmarried teen mothers who, too often, are completely unable to provide them with the loving, stable homes they deserve.

It's ironic that sexual liberation- and all the cultural forces that support it -actually end up making a society less free. But as the Founding Fathers recognized, liberty and self-government are impossible without a nation of citizens willing both to cultivate personal self-discipline and to establish informal social institutions that reinforce behaviors that help a society flourish with minimal governmental control.

As John Adams wrote in 1789: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion....Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.'"


Powerful food for thought, don't you agree?

4 comments:

Alice Gunther said...

Excellent food for thought.

And I love the way you wrapped up with the perfect quote from John Adams.

adsoofmelk said...

Fascinating! I admit a certain skepticism about the idea at first, but found the author's argument persuasive. I'm constantly running up against moral relativism as a problem in class discussion when I try to get students to express an opinion. Without much of a moral yardstick to measure good and evil with, coming to a conclusion is a bit difficult.

Henry Cate said...

"But as the Founding Fathers recognized, liberty and self-government are impossible without a nation of citizens willing both to cultivate personal self-discipline and to establish informal social institutions that reinforce behaviors that help a society flourish with minimal governmental control."

One of the sad things about our society today is that so many people think the government is the answer to all problems.

Many of the big problems today are the result of the government trying to fix smaller problems.

jennifer said...

Great post. Makes you wonder, if John Adams was correct, and he probably was, what will happen to America when she is no longer constituted of "a moral and religious people."
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