Day: January 3, 2018

Different Worldviews, Different Virtues: Honesty vs. Utility

Different worldviews promote different virtues.

Under the traditional American worldview, honesty was honored.  From the fable of young George Washington confessing to his father that he chopped down his cherry tree to the tales of Honest Abe Lincoln, we taught our children to revere truthfulness.  Everything we did was exposed to the omniscient view of God.  Under Americanism’s Universe Metaphor, Americans unconsciously believed that the Universe was a Home and God was the Father.  Maybe we could fool other people, maybe we could fool ourselves, but we could never fool God.  In traditional America, we achieved moral merit by what we did, not what we said.  God could see the good in our actions over a long lifetime.  In such a world, honesty was the only policy.

Under the progressive worldview, God has gone missing.  There is no omniscient Being watching and judging, so what is actually true is less important than what works.  (And, by the way, since progressives accrue virtue by what they say and the positions they hold, they constantly virtue signal.  Virtue signalling, a fruitless endeavor under God’s all-seeing eye, increases your progressive virtue among your fellow human beings; there is no need to worry about God’s opinion since he is out of the picture.)

It’s almost hard to remember, but traditional Americans – more akin to the Bushes than  Barack – dominated the left in the mid-twentieth century.  These classic liberals tended to believe in government social programs, but were generally religious rather than humanist, family-oriented rather than victim-group-oriented, and at least somewhat aware of the importance of balancing government with the private sector.  Right-and-wrong, more than political correctness, governed them.

Enter former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be more a classic liberal than a progressive.  Dershowitz understands and honors the principles of the Constitution, which lead him to defend President Trump in some situations, like Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.  Dershowitz seems to be a man of principle who honestly and evenhandedly applies those principles, even to those he doesn’t like.

Dershowitz: My Liberal Friends Say My Trump Defenses Are 100 Percent Right, But I Should Also Shut The F**k Up

Politico wrote about a few top media and political figures and how they dealt with being mentioned by President Trump on Twitter. For one Hillary Clinton supporter, liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz says his family has seen better days.

But the progressives who surround him deal in utility, not honesty:

My really, really close friends say, ‘You’re 100 percent right in your analysis, but can’t you just shut the f–k up and not talk at all,’” he said. “They tell me, ‘This is a time for selective silence.’ My nephew thinks I’m helping keep in office one of the greatest dangers in American history. I tell him I’m just standing up for principle. He tells me that I don’t have to stand up so loud. (Politico)

Were all traditional Americans honest?  Are all progressives Machiavellian schemers?  Of course not.  But honesty was valued higher under the traditional American worldview; pragmatism in achieving one’s social goals is valued higher by progressives.  This utilitarian attitude among Dershowitz’s leftist friends is typical.  For them, the struggle always comes first; honesty is way down the list.

For more explanation of this perspective, read my book Newthink: The Hidden Logic of Progressivism and the Usurpation of the Traditional American Worldview.