“Thou shalt not covet…anything that is thy neighbor’s.” God (As quoted in Exodus 20:17)
In American politics, conservatives often accuse liberals of taking positions that are morally wrong. Liberals throw the same accusation at conservatives. The argument is insoluble, because liberals and conservatives don’t believe in the same moral code.
“Right” and “wrong” are words that mean different things to different people. Muslims, for example, get their moral code from the Koran, which teaches that it is virtuous to kill or enslave all non-Muslim “infidels” anywhere they can be found. Politically conservative Americans (even those who are not Jews or Christians) tend to accept a Judeo-Christian moral code based more or less on Biblical principles.
For American liberals it is politics, rather than religion, that defines all the important moral issues.
Liberals derive their moral principles from their political beliefs; the political beliefs come first. There is no corresponding “conservative” moral code, because conservatives don’t get their morals from their politics.
The resulting differences are striking. If one man shoots another man dead, a conservative blames the man who did the shooting; a liberal blames the gun. If al Qaida terrorists kill American soldiers in Iraq, liberals blame the Bush Administration; conservatives blame the terrorists.
If a university president fails to fully espouse one of the beliefs that campus liberals consider mandatory, liberals demand that he be punished for heresy. The persecution and forced resignation of Lawrence Summers is a good example of this. Summers admitted that he thought men and women might be inherently different, and the campus Thought Police came down on him like a ton of bricks.
The same thing plays out when someone questions any other politically sensitive claim important to liberals. Man-made global warming, to cite another example, is a mandatory belief among liberals. If someone adduces evidence that tends to undermine the belief, both the person speaking, and the facts he cites, are viewed as evil. Liberals view embarrassing facts and figures the way many Christian conservatives see hard-core pornography, as a form of speech so inherently bad that it should be silenced by force.
Profits as a Sin
When leftists are attacking the free enterprise system, they quite often complain about the “unconscionable” or “obscene” profits that some company or industry is making. It is supposed to go without saying that the company’s large profits are somehow hurting some un-named victim, and are thus shockingly immoral. Liberals can thus see themselves as better people than conservatives, because they are doing what they can to fight the supposed scourge of obscene profits, and can accuse conservatives of not caring enough about the issue.
Conservatives, meanwhile, reserve words like “unconscionable” and “obscene” for different kinds of activities.
The idea of profit-making as a sin can have a certain visceral appeal even to people who are not dyed-in-the-wool leftists, because most of us tend to resent anyone who is richer or more successful than we are. It is easy to dress up envy and resentment as righteous indignation, although the traditional Judeo-Christian moral code tells us that our own envy, rather than the other guy’s success, is the real sin. Here again the moral issues are not universal; they depend on which moral code a person is using.
Unfair Profits: Government is the Answer
Corporate profits, of course, have a least one thing in common with most of the other “evil” things that outrage liberals. They are a problem that can only be solved by bigger and more powerful government. The health care industry offers a useful case study.
Liberals in academia, the news media, and elsewhere have been complaining for years about the profits earned by pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, and demanding a government take-over of the health care system as a way to end the evil profiteering and make our nation more virtuous. This year they achieved their goal. On March 23 President Obama signed a bill that addressed the “problem” of profiteering insurance and drug companies by giving the Government almost unlimited control of the entire health care industry. The new law even gives the Government the power for force individual American citizens to purchase government-approved health insurance plans that they might or might not want.
Unconscionable Profits in Oil
The oil industry may be next. Leftists in the US government cheered Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez when he and nationalized property and equipment owned by private sector oil companies. At least one congresswoman has already suggested that the US Government should do the same thing here. American leftists, gloating over their recent health care triumph, will be likely to intensify their efforts to demonize the oil industry over its supposedly unfair profits.
The beauty of calling profits a sin is that profits are the very reason private sector businesses exist. No company can stay in business for long without turning a profit, thus no company can function without being “evil” in the eyes of liberals. Whenever leftist politicians and their supporters in academia and the press want to increase the role of Government in some business sector, all they have to do is start complaining about the profits that business sector earns.
Rejecting the Premise
Until conservatives are willing repudiate this liberal moral code, they will always be at a disadvantage in arguments about the role of government in business. While conservatives can talk about business issues from a practical standpoint, arguing that the free enterprise system yields better results than government-run socialist economies, liberals can frame their arguments in terms of Right and Wrong.
It is better if conservatives speak clearly about moral issues, from a Judeo-Christian point of view, and show that individual freedom and individual responsibility are the moral values that should guide us in public debates.