Friday, August 26, 2011


Years and years ago, morality was entwined with the Ten Commandments.  They spelled out what was a code of morality: don't steal, don't kill, don't bear false witness, etc.  And the payoff was clear and personal:  Obey the Commandments and they would be your admission ticket to Heaven.  And the alternative was equally clear and personal: eternity in the Inferno.

During the past 2,000 years, morality has taken a U-turn.  Doing the right thing, being moral, has come to be not something one does for oneself, but one does for others.  How could our interactive society survive, is the common refrain, if we all did whatever we wanted to do, if everybody went his/her own way?  There has to be certain rules, restrictions.  There has to be a moral code of behavior.

The problem with that view is that it runs up against this argument:  Why should I do what's right, why should I toe the line, when no one else is?  Doggie dog world.  If its good for him, its good for me.  I ain't no fool.  Get what you can when you can, and the winner is the one who gets away with the most.

And thus the precipitous decline of morality in a world heading toward its self-inflicted Armageddon.  Check yesterday's headlines, today's headlines. tomorrow's.

Morality is a code of pro-life conduct.  It benefits you, the individual, not indirectly because it benefits society, but directly because it benefits your life.  Productivity, integrity, rationality, honesty, justice, independence and pride (the Objectivist virtues) are moral virtues because they enrich your life here and now, in this world, regardless of your participation in society, regardless of what the other guy does or doesn't do. It has been said that if a man on a desert island were not moral, he could not survive for very long.

Can you sit down with your children this afternoon and convincingly explain to them why this is so?

Now you know the problem.

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