There is a spectre haunting our world today ushering in a malevolence that portends a coming dark age. The spectre is moral relativism, and it has come to haunt us because those who were supposed to intellectually lead our society wandered off into a no-man’s land of philosophical insanity throughout the 20th century. They became spiritually crippled dwarfs spouting a Mad Hatter’s mumbo-jumbo of logical positivism and craven neutrality in face of the great issues of life — issues that demand rigorous clarity and judgment if a free, humane society is to be achieved.
Because of the 19th century philosopher Auguste Comte’s teaching of positivism, the 20th century has ushered in the idea that there are no objective moral values to be found in reality. This has led to the collapse of the idea of natural law and its moral structure that is needed to sustain a free society.
Unfortunately as a result of this confusion, certain sectors of the libertarian movement (the leftist types) have fallen prey to the fallacy of “moral relativism” in which the traditional vices of history become permissible. The enshrinement of objective moral rights and wrongs, whether by coercion or persuasion, becomes the enemy. Man’s development of institutions of authority is not to be trusted. We must ceaselessly challenge all forms of authority, for authority itself is the precursor to tyranny. Not just the coercive authority of the state and its bureaucracies, but even the voluntary institutions of human authority such as churches and schools must also be neutered in favor of individual autarky.
What is needed is a “value-neutral” society, many of these libertarians maintain. Only in this way can we protect ourselves from man’s damnable propensity to tyrannize his fellows. Whatever values men wish to adopt should be permissible as long as force is not used to try and impose those values upon others.
But teaching one’s conception of morality is not forcing that morality upon others. It is precisely this practice of teaching a framework of metaphysical and moral values from a universalist perspective that is the fount of civilization itself, out of which springs freedom when the framework is rational. Freedom can never be restored to our country without also restoring the metaphysics upon which it relies — the metaphysics that built Western civilization and ignited the American Revolution. Freedom is just one of the values in this metaphysical framework, a framework which must be taught in its entirety. Freedom cannot be abstracted out and made a fundamental axiom to stand alone as many libertarians insist.
All the great thinkers of history have understood that there are basic rights and wrongs that must be upheld. Only charlatans preach moral relativism. The great contribution of the 18th and 19th century classical liberals such as the Founding Fathers was that they (like modern liberals) believed moral values should not be legislated by the state, but (unlike modern liberals), they insisted on moral values being implemented persuasively, i.e., they believed in basic rights and wrongs being taught and preached as absolutes to the populace.
Because today’s intellectual leaders of the left (along with those libertarians who sympathize with the left in a cultural sense) have defaulted on this issue, they have stripped their fellows of the most important tool in the combatting of evil — its identification. It is only by first being intellectually defined that evil can be fought. If we relativize evil (i.e., refuse to define what it is), then evil must grow because men cannot contest something that they cannot objectively define.
This identification process of good and evil comes to us through moral philosophy and religion. No civilization has ever survived without employing it, and ours will be no exception. What is being said here is the polar opposite of what is taught and taken for granted today. What is being said is that there are objectively definable rights and wrongs for all humans in all cultures, and they must be proclaimed, or life will degenerate into a hell-hole of misery, chaos, and death.
We were given a glimpse into that hell-hole early in the 20th century by one of relativism’s great champions, Benito Mussolini:
“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism….If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective, immortal truth…then there is nothing more relativistic than Fascist attitudes and activity…. [T]he modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” [Mussolini, Diuturna, pp. 374-377, cited in Henry Veatch, Rational Man, 1962, p. 41].
Is this not what modern liberals and their love of big government are doing to America — rejecting “fixed categories” and “objective, immortal truth” in favor of moral neutrality? Are not all modern governments expanding their agendas “with all the energy of which they are capable?” Have not our collectivist schools taught for decades that there is no “objective immortal truth” existent in reality to which men must conform? Have not our popular Freudian intellects proclaimed that fixed morality is repressive, that cultural values are arbitrary, and that man must free himself from such claims by “doing his own thing?” Are not today’s liberals then philosophical brothers of Mussolini and the fascist way of looking at life and politics?
Is it any wonder that artists now spew out the putrescence of pornography, politicians scorn the idea of individual rights, and young people gun down their comrades in schoolyards? Moral relativism (the idol of modern liberalism) is creating a society of vacant animals instead of conceptual men — a society of self-absorbed, alienated, materialistically obsessed creatures of nihilism voting themselves into the yoke of tyranny. This is the end result of rejecting the idea of an objective natural law for man.
What is so misunderstood by the modern mind is this causal link between collectivist tyranny and moral relativism. In order for tyranny to take over a society, the intellectual path for such usurpation must first be prepared by the teaching of false truths. The minds of the citizens must be conditioned to feel a paramount need for massive state authority. Men must be made to see themselves as weak and dependent in face of the “awesome dangers of a complex, incomprehensible world.” They must be taught that they are incapable of handling life on their own, that they need legions of bureaucratic overseers in Washington to take care of them by smoothing over the difficulties of the free-market through pervasive redistribution of wealth and government planning.
The philosophy of individualism must be discredited, and in conjunction with this discrediting, men must be made to see right and wrong as relative, as ever-shifting to accommodate the social needs of the moment. In this way, the tyrannical policies required to destroy individualism can be smuggled into the political arena without the fear of being attacked for what they are — evil and unconstitutional.
As Ayn Rand told us several decades ago, a nation of men, who believe in their capacity to face up to life independently and who hold a clear cut conception of good and evil, cannot be enslaved. But a nation of men, who have lost faith in their capacity to handle life on their own merits and who see right and wrong as ever-shifting, can be enslaved. They can be sold the regimentation of massive centralized statism as a “modern necessity” — for they no longer conceive of themselves as capable of self-reliance, and they can no longer recognize evil when it descends upon them.
It is in this manner, that modern liberalism is corrupting the American way of life. It is boring into the soul of America to erode the great moral-philosophical truths upon which our country and our civilization were formed.
By gathering into the leftist political tent all those who are not very astute or industrious, and then inculcating them with propaganda about how “old fashioned” and “primitive” individualism and moral absolutism are, today’s liberals are establishing a power base to control the political levers of the country and move America into a state dominated society.
Once they have convinced the American people that history’s great individualist heroes were “fakes” and that good and evil are “relative,” freedom as a way of life (and thus America’s capitalist system) is dead. Men will have lost their lofty image of themselves and thus their confidence in themselves. They will be unable to contest the evil stealing over their society because they will have been stripped of their ability to define it. This is what the doctrine of “moral relativism” does. It makes it impossible for men and women to identify what is evil in life, and thus it makes it impossible for men and women to fight against evil. It destroys the validity of our rights as something higher than government grants. It turns all actions (even tyrannical actions) into “neutral preferences.”
Therefore, when the federal government opts to shoot down Randy Weaver’s wife, or incinerate a Waco religious cult, or confiscate ever-larger portions of our incomes, or stultify independent businesses with oppressive regulation, or mass bus our children away from their neighborhood schools, or load us up with $7 trillion in debt — we as citizens cannot declare such tyrannical actions to be the heinous acts that they are. Such outrages merely become “necessary policies mandated by the emergency of the moment.”
To those on the left, “moral relativism” is liberating because it allows one to cavort through life immersed in irresponsibility. But in the long run, moral relativism is the precursor to tyranny because it allows the authoritarian state to ignore individual rights and squash our freedoms. It allows politicians, bureaucrats and the police to operate irresponsibly also. This is the nefarious disease that collectivist liberals are infecting our society with when they pontificate on the need to get away from a strict moral code that applies to everyone. They are stripping the people of their power to condemn their state oppressors and thus to fight passionately against the dictatorial development of modern day government. A dictatorship needs the preachments of moral relativism. It needs a philosophically confused populace that lacks the self-assurance to contest its usurpations. This, modern liberalism gives it by means of the propaganda being taught in today’s schools.
It is thus that the all-pervasive state usurps the freedom of men through ideological stealth. It will not have to militarily take over. The people will vote to be taken over and to be taken care of. They will see themselves as collectivist liberalism has painted them — tiny in stature, alone and helpless in a dangerous marketplace of corporate predators. Reality will appear to them as ominous, overwhelming, indecipherable. Right and wrong will be an incomprehensible fog, and they will beg the collectivist intellectuals and statist henchmen to rule their lives. This is what has taken place in Sweden, and modern liberalism is paving the same path here in America.
Throughout history, tyrants have always seized what power they crave through intellectual justification — i.e., propaganda. Things are no different today. Our New Class authoritarians are collectivizing America’s political system by means of economic sophistry, historical lies, biographical smears, and philosophical subterfuge — all geared toward eroding the values of independence and moral discernment in man so as to move him toward submitting voluntarily to being ruled.
There is only one way to stop this tragedy. And that is through restoration of the classical liberalism of the Founders with its acceptance of moral absolutes and the necessity to inculcate them into the youth of society as they are growing into adults who are to run society.
The entire historical experience of mankind demonstrates quite clearly that there are definable laws of human conduct instilled into human nature and existence to which we all must conform. Without recognition of these laws, freedom cannot exist. When we try to evade, or ignore, or twist, or suppress, or flee from these laws, the result is not a “progressive and tolerant society.” It is an ugly, contradictory primitivism. It is an insufferable tyranny. It is death. This is modern liberalism’s horrid legacy to us in the 21st century.