June 18, 2004

Promoting Virtue

Steven Den Beste's Singapore article provoked a bit of thought and some private conversation. SDB thought that his thoughts (yes, he does it long in email too) was easily adapted to a post and asked whether I wanted to put my own take up here so he could play off me.

Starting from the idea of Singapore being a society that intensely promotes virtue, I wrote:

Let me give you the story of two wives.

One does not look at other men because she loves her husband The other does not look at other men when she can be caught but lusts after them and fantasizes about sleeping with others.

Which woman is the more virtuous? Which woman's virtue would be safer if challenged (ie she came into a situation where she could sleep with someone without being caught)?

I suggest that virtue via state action is akin to the second woman. It is a hollow thing that is all too frail. It is not more intense at all. It just is more overbearing.

I would suggest that you would get a lot further with talk of reform by talking about replacing inefficient and ineffective government efforts to promote virtue with more effective and efficient private ones. Take a moment to look from the eyes of your poor opponent in such an argument. How would he counter it? He can only insist that public efforts be maintained where they are more effective. He lays himself open to the step by step destruction of his position as public controls are demonstrated to be worse than private social consensus.

One of the great secrets of the monotheistic concept of free will is that God knows that puppets are of little worth compared to those who freely choose Him, freely choose virtue.

I'll leave SDB to elaborate his own theories but he expands out my model to three wives (when the article goes up, I'll link to it here). I like the extension but saw what I thought was a rough spot and expanded to four. I'll save that (brief) note for later.

Update: SDB's article is here

Posted by TMLutas at June 18, 2004 05:23 PM