presentation1.pngWhat got this post started? phadde2, who authors an excellent blog (The American Post-Standard), provided a series of comments on SURRENDERING TO THE ESTABLISHMENT? — PART 1 (starting here).Unfortunately,  made the forgivable mistake of letting scout’s interpretation (here) of what he was trying to say stand without correction. So I commented (here) and suggested that he provide clarification.  did so. Unsatisfied with his first three comments (here, here, and here),  added two more  (here and here). He also asked that I ignore his earlier comments. Of course, I am only human. So I cannot purge my mind of unwanted thoughts, but I certainly appreciated the latter comments.

What was  doing with all those comments? He was wrestling with a very complex problem. He was trying to answer a difficult question. Does the end justify the means?

Those who believe the end does justify the means actually have a name for this philosophy, Consequentialism. If you are interested in reading about the philosophy of Consequentialism, here are some links.

Frankly, I only had time to scan all these articles. Some are fairly lengthy. Nonetheless, when I need a break at work (lunch), I suppose I will read the more interesting of them.

Some years back I wrote about this subject (PHILOSOPHICAL CONFUSION OVER ENDS AND MEANS), and I found myself surprised by two things.

  • Does the end justify the means? In theory, the answer to the question is surprisingly simple. Christ commanded us to love others as we love ourselves. We fall into the trap of choosing inappropriate means when we have a selfish motive.  Thus, the solution is to love others as we love ourselves.
  • Unfortunately, we are too often concerned about our own feelings.  Therefore, we rarely put theory into practice. Then we can unwisely choose means supposedly justified by the end. Then we can refuse to do unto others as we would have others do unto us.

In his comments,  compared a politician with good intentions lying to the electorate with a spy lying to the enemy. At different times I have called politics warfare waged with ballots. So I suppose it might seem that I would sympathize with the comparison  suggested. Real warfare, however, involves a real enemy. Real warfare involves hostile people committed to the subjugation or destruction of our family, friends, and neighbors. Politics just involves peacefully settling our differences with our sometimes disagreeable and deceitful fellow citizens. We don’t lie to our sometimes disagreeable and deceitful fellow citizens. The threat of war, however, may leave us no alternative except deception to protect our family, friends, and neighbors.

Something as dire as espionage must involve a strict adherence to a code of ethics. This code must force us to distinguish between friendly nations and potential adversaries. Because we have no automatic right to deceive friendly nations and pry into their secrets, we must clearly identify potential adversaries and fix in our minds what it is about those potential adversaries that makes them inherently dangerous. Then we must — if the threat is real — do what is necessary to protect our family, friends, and neighbors and no more.

The problem, of course, lies in the implementation. We do not have pure motives. When are we being selfish? When are we just doing what is necessary to protect our family, friends, and neighbors? Sometimes the answer is not so clear, but that ambiguity does not relieve of any responsibility. It just means we must do the best we can do.

51 thoughts on “ETHICAL CONFUSION?

  1. No, it’s not a complicated concept (no one said it was) and you appear to concur in my description of what is meant by “public square.” The confusion emanates from your positing of a hypothetical (I assume it was hypothetical – it certainly was not reality-based) in which “the public square is largely composed of government owned and/or operated government facilities (monopolistic institutions)” . Given our common understanding of the “public square” concept, I was puzzled as to how you see it as a government monopoly. The modern public square is largely cable, broadcast, print media, town hall meetings, and this medium that you and I use to exchange views. Where’s the government monopoly in that space?

    The proportion of government in our overall national
    community is measurable. I suspect it has increased in some aspects, decreased in others.


    1. The US government (as a strong-left Democrat Party organization) operates the great majority of media in this country, cable, broadcast, and the remaining printed news organizations. This operation extends to quite a few magazines as well.

      The public square should also include our educational arena, where faculty and students ideally gather to share knowledge and learn to enjoy the pursuit of it and the skills of critical thinking. Instead, they are indoctrinated with leftist propaganda, denied access to (or even speech about) opposing views, and taught from textbooks distributed by the federal (hard-left Democrat) government written by America-hating communists.

      Blogs and Web-only news remain bastions of independent thought and serious reporting, though these are mixed into a large world of nonsense and bias. However, the left/US government seeks to punish conservatives here, too, and constrain them any way it can, from pushing for Fairness Doctrine to disguised versions in SOPA and Net Neutrality, disguises good enough to fool some Republicans. Not that this takes much anymore.

      The free market is getting more constrained every day. It is now illegal to make several thousand kinds of private transactions, not least is buying insurance when you want to. You don’t see the impact of “government ownership and/or control” in the healthcare arena, which has had a huge impact on government control. You argue that it’s likely “in decline.” I am not surprised.

      And blogs — or really, conservatives, blogging or not — are attacked in other ways as well. I noted a report recently that “revealed conservative” donors had a post-revelation audit rate more than 10 times average. We know what the IRS continues to do so transparently to conservatives, while blatantly lying about it. We know of executives forced out of their jobs for having a personal opinion in opposition to the current government — though in one famous case, the position was exactly the same as that Obama said he held at the time.

      There are more methods. While I was ran a corporation with hundreds of employees, I have personally been criticized by Obama as “some nut in his mother’s basement” (in remarks to Jake Tapper who passed along my criticism). Shortly thereafter, the hard-left appellate court (who had just gone out of their way to fabricate a rational to protect Hillary Clinton from blatant perjury charges) decided a “slam-dunk” case I had won against me, costing me $64,000,000 dollars in a business litigation against obvious bad guys. Attorneys who read the opinion come away shaking their heads and saying “that’s just wrong” — the panel violated the “law of the case” to reverse their own previous findings. That hurt.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


      1. Hmm. More typos that is even usual for me:
        “country[,>:] cable”
        “While I [was>] ran a corporation”
        “I [have>had] personally been”
        “who passed along my criticism[ of Obama’s bracelet])
        “to fabricate a rational[>e]”

        My apologies.

        ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


    2. “I personally am not aware of politicians making moral choices for us…”

      You are astounding in your brazen ability to feign ignorance. I’d wager you didn’t even blush writing that comment.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


      1. That brazenness is sort of effective. When people try to deceive us, we expect some shame, especially when they get caught. But phadde2 had to be convinced that scout is not a Conservative. I fear some people have learned too well the wrong lessons from our accomplished politicians.


  2. I don’t really follow how your comment of 1446 really responds to my preceding one. It seems another example of failure to communicate. I was trying to say that I don’t see a “tyranny of the majority” in modern American conditions simply because there is no obvious majority.

    A few random observations about your points, though:

    I guess I don’t know what you mean by “the public square.” I always took the phrase to mean the space where citizens meet and exchange views, sort of a national, virtual version of people gathering on a village green to discuss issues of the day. What are the government owned/operated facilities (monopolistic institutions)” that you see as having crowded out whatever used to be in the public square? I personally am not aware of politicians making moral choices for us – it seems our individual ability to make those choices is at least as robust as it always has been in this country, perhaps more so given that we have had a couple of centuries of expansive experience with interpretations of the First Amendment. But your use of a reference to government-owned monopolies in the “public square” makes me think that perhaps we aren’t talking about the same concept when we use that term.

    You’re quite right that, at the time of our founding, it wouldn’t have taken much to do better than other countries in terms of protecting religion from the corrosive influence of state involvement. However, we didn’t just try for “better”, we revolutionarily cut the cord between the state and the church, something that hasn’t happened even yet in many parts of the world and didn’t happen until more than a century later even in a country as “enlightened” as France. My point was, however, that it seems our religious freedom has considerable staying power, it is robust and that our position of supremacy on that point is unchallenged.

    We do have an extensive government. There have been times when its size as a percentage of GDP has increased considerably (e.g., the New Deal). My impression (unencumbered by checking out data), however, is that, with the possible exception of the arithmetic impact of the recent Great Recession of 2008, government as a proportion of the national economy has been relatively in decline over the past 40 years. I’m willing to be corrected on that, because I simply don’t have time to research it at the moment. But it would be worth a look.

    “Socialists” are a rare breed in this country, and they generally aren’t perceived as having much of a role on cultural or political issues. Their agenda tends to be more directed to state ownership of means of production. I can’t say that they seem to be doing very well anywhere in the world, frankly. Even countries that had overt socialist governments have backed away from socialist programs fairly dramatically. Is socialism were a stock, I wouldn’t be going long in it these days. Specifically to your points, however, I can’t perceive that the idea that “socialists” and “conservatives” are the antagonists in disputes about cultural issues in this country. I think those debates tend to be more on non-economic issues.

    Inflation has been quite variable over the course of our history. We have been in about as long and tame a period of inflation as perhaps at any time in our national experience. Of course, because these things are cyclical, inflation will come again, but it has always been thus, and I doubt that any government can do much more than try to ameliorate its negative effects. Some governments do so more successfully than others (and this doesn’t appear to be a strictly R versus D outcome). If anything, it is more difficult to insulate the economy against inflationary forces now than it was decades or centuries ago because the sources of inflation are now global and migrate quickly.

    I agree that the tax code is too complicated and ought to be clean-sheeted.


    1. The public square is that place where we interact with each other in “public.” That’s a complicated concept?

      Originally, Socialism involved government ownership of the means of production. Some bright Socialist figured out what matter is control, not ownership.

      Anyway, if actually believe the scope and power of government has decreased here of late, there is nothing I can say to change your mind.


  3. scout,
    Tom has a point about limited government. Too many government assistance laws remain on the books that originated with the reality of hard times. For example, the depression. The result is a lot of leeching caused by giving endlessly exists in the USA. King Solomon warned us 3000 years ago about giving endlessly with his proverb about leeches that suck blood (benefits) from their victims (taxpayers).

    In my humble opinion, there are also a number of non virtuous politicians that I consider to be leaders in the community of leeches as well as in private industry propagating about and feeding off the effects of unlimited government programs. The ethical confusion may or may not have started a government assistance program, however, foolishness is our never ending the programs.

    Regards and good will blogging.


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