A Society Can’t Survive Without a Common Moral Code https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/history-ideas/2016/12/a-society-cant-survive-without-a-common-moral-code/

December 15, 2016 | Jonathan Sacks
About the author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is a British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author and politician. He served as the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013.

Last Friday, the archbishop of Canterbury delivered a speech to the House of Lords on “the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public-policy priorities.” Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the UK and a member of the House of Lords, contributed the following thoughts to the ensuing discussion:

[Over the past few decades], most people have come to believe that we are entitled to do whatever we like so long as it is within the law, and that the law itself should be limited to the prevention of harm to others.

But what harms others is not always immediately obvious. The breakdown of marriage and stable families has caused immense harm to several generations of children, psychologically, socially, and economically. The breakdown of codes of honor and responsibility have led to appalling behavior on the part of at least some senior figures in business and the financial sector, who have served themselves while those they were supposed to have served have borne the cost. There has been a palpable collapse of trust in one institution after another—an inevitable consequence of our failure to teach the concepts of duty, obligation, altruism, and the common good.

We have begun a journey down the road to moral relativism and individualism, which no society in history has survived for long. It was the road taken in Greece in the 3rd pre-Christian century and in Rome in the 1st century CE: two great civilizations that shortly thereafter declined and died. Britain has begun along the same trajectory, and it is bad news for our children, and for our grandchildren worse still.

Some elements of morality are universal: justice-as-fairness and the avoidance of inflicting harm. But others are particular. They are what give a country and culture its color, its distinctive handwriting in the book of life. The Britain I grew up in had extraordinary values and virtues. It honored tradition but was open to innovation. It valued family and community but also left space for eccentricity and individuality.

Read more on Rabbi Sacks: http://www.rabbisacks.org/people-society-share-strong-moral-code-greater-trust-solidarity/