The outsourcing of private morality to the state is a particularly modern affliction, but equally as pernicious. We witness the startling paradox that today’s private society is crasser, less honest, and more uncouth even as its government’s official morality stresses gender, race, class, and green ethical superiority. But just because the state now thankfully mandates disabled parking spaces does not mean that we honor a crippled relative more than in the past, or that our children are more likely to write a note of thanks to a grandparent’s gift. I can surely see an erosion in the public expression of manners and morality even as I sense our government is now more “fair” and “equal” than ever before.

Just because the state will sue you for the appearance of sexual harassment does not mean that leaving your laptop in a college university carrel means it is less likely to be stolen than, say, a wallet in 1955. The frightening worry is that the two are connected: the more the state steps in to to assure that we are cosmically moral, the more we assume we can relax and therefore become concretely immoral. Detroit is a symptom of that transition from family to state definitions of morality. Go to Athens today, and one can read high-sounding praises of the all-encompassing welfare state, and see all around private machinations to get out of taxes and boasts about getting a public job that requires no work and earns lots of pay.

When poverty is defined as relative want rather than existential need, states decay and societies decline.


Victor Davis Hanson’s article,   Why Does the Good Life End, published in Pajamas Media 9/25/11.