Money vs morality

2012-03-26 07:10

Chris Moerdyk

I read with wry amusement a week or so ago, a news report that a number of towns and counties in the United States  were having to come up with some pretty drastic measures to avoid bankruptcy and ruin in the face of crippling economic times.

These are mostly fine, upstanding communities of people who value their freedom and morals standing. Communities that not too long ago decided to tackle those iniquities of modern life that, in their opinion, were destroying the moral backbone of society.

They banned gambling; they imposed harsh liquor by-laws; they restricted outdoor and TV advertising and generally put the lid on all sorts of social activities that they felt could lead to some or other form of moral degeneration.

Sort of sounds familiar doesn't it?

Anyway, what has happened now is that these communities have got so desperate in seeking ways to alleviate their financial woes that they are starting to ease up on the liquor by-laws, allow casinos to operate and generally lifting the lid on all those activities that could have been bringing in some money.
It would be really funny if it wasn't so serious.

I am not suggesting for a minute that one should not have gambling, liquor and advertising laws, but what I think that what this little American scenario is telling us is that all too often some well-meaning people can go to extremes to protect society from itself.

It seems to have become popular these days for the citizens of a lot of countries, ours included, to expect government to protect the moral standing of the nation.

Unlike in the good old days when parents actually took responsibility for bringing up their kids and instead of demanding that government restrict alcohol, advertising and gambling to protect their kids, they actually just restricted their kids.

I suppose governments are so fixated these days on staying in power that they fall over themselves to show the citizens of their countries that they really care about them by banning and restricting all sorts of things.

The trouble is, asking governments to effectively bring up your kids is very much like hiring a horrendously expensive nanny or au-pair.

And when the time comes, like it has for those communities in the USA, when there just isn't enough money in the kitty to keep protecting society from itself, some of those restriction have to be reversed to let the money start flowing again.

Of course it's wrong. Of course it's sad. Of course it shouldn't happen. But, the thing is that when it comes to a face-off between money and morality, inevitably in the long run, money wins hands down.

That's why I get mad when I hear of do-gooders who want this, that or the next thing banned or restricted when in fact what should happen is that more sensible action should replace the extremism.

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  • gerry.pelser - 2012-03-26 08:21

    “Freedom via central planning” is not freedom at all. I’m a libertarian, and find it repulsive that a government is regulating my “morality”. Serves these mother grundies right for trying to force their middle-class vapid morality on others.

  • beryl.knipe - 2012-03-26 08:59

    What - sounds familiar??

  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-26 09:49

    No government should ever be allowed to interfere with its populace, the governments only function is to provide protection in the form of a military.

      Sam - 2012-03-26 10:36

      Good gracious, ludlowdj. You reckon, then, that all state hospitals and the education system, to name but two examples, should be privatised? That is certainly a revolutionary idea. Wonder what suckers would buy up the schools, given they have hardly any income, and huge operating and maintenance costs... You need a reality check, bro.

  • Judith - 2012-03-26 11:21

    I would totally agree - we need to take responsibility for our children.

  • John - 2012-03-26 11:24

    Look what happened in the U.S. when they introduced prohibition. It spawned criminal empires that still exist today.

  • bashin.monyela - 2012-03-26 11:29

    The love of money is the root of all evil.

  • Ze Don - 2012-03-26 12:31

    This all starts when government prevents children from being disciplined at home & in school. This makes it difficult if not impossible for parents to control their children. Then the government starts crying that the populace is ill disciplined & start passing laws to force certain morals... a real chicken & egg situation.

  • francoisthehaman - 2012-03-26 13:39

    two points are missing here (at least): one is, as an individual or a family you can only do so much. you can live healthily and avoid the addictions in alcohol and gambling. but you cannot stop big companies exploiting your (and others')weaknesses with multi-million dollar aggresive ad-campaigns and intrusive developments (like gambling houses). it's pretty naive to think you can allow all these big scale (and monopolizing) commercial activities and still expect individuals to simpy fend for themselves and their own morality. government on all levels have the responsibility to act according to their mandate to protect societies from exploitation (an army alone is far from enough). the second missing point is: anyone who prohibits one thing is also supposed to provide for, encourage and develop healthy and moral alternatives. if you prohibit alcohol, do you provide services that helps individuals with recovering from addictive habits? do you make it possible for healthy food to be viably produced and properly distributed? do you educate the young on what is humane food, etc? do you have socially cohesive activities at night where people can connect creatively and having fun without getting drunk? and what about the arts? do you develop creative talent to the extent that entertainment - that is both relaxing and inspiring - is cheap and common enough to make the cheap escape of gambling houses unecessary? these are questions for us all, both as citizenry and as leaders.

      gerry.pelser - 2012-03-27 07:48

      Francois, its comments like this that leaves me with chills. Individuals are sacrosanct. The moment you say that individuals should be “protected” – IE, kept in some form of legislated bondage form making their own decisions – you are saying these are MY rules, and you must play by MY rules. How arrogant, and insulting, is that. If you insinuate people do not have the capacity to look after themselves, but that you – or a government – do, you insinuate that you, or the government, is “better” than the people you are trying to protect. Welcome to colonialism, racism, and every other bad thing ever done in the name of “protection for their own good” – exactly what Verwoerd said. People should be free to make their own choices. We all live, and die, by those choices, and I would nto want ANYONE, much less a government, tell me (or anyone else) what we can or cannot do as consenting adults. Smoke if you wanna smoke, drink if you wanna drink, stay home and watch Noot vir noot if you want to stay home on a weekend, whatever blows your hair back – but take responsibility for your actions. As for the government providing alternatives – seriously, when was the last time any government did anything right, anywhere? Which government, where, is trustworthy? In fact, the only governments that has shown a marked improvement in living standards in the world are those who had a “hands off” attitude. You cannot, and should not, legislate morality.

  • Buzz - 2012-03-27 14:45

    Enjoyed this article! It begs belief that we live in a society which continues to limit individual freedoms. Adults should be allowed to do as they wish so long as it does not harm anyone else. It confounds me that extremist views shape our policies, heaven forbid that someone should die of anything other than a natural cause or make a bad decision. Until we get to a point where logic dictates policy instead of emotion, we will continue to let our fears restrict our lives.

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