There Can Be No Freedom without Morality

Examining the change in attitude toward morality in the West over the past century, Jonathan Sacks sees the collapse of the principles on which liberal societies are built:

Morality achieves something almost miraculous, and fundamental to human achievement and liberty. It creates trust. It means that, to the extent that we belong to the same moral community, we can work together without constantly being on guard against violence, betrayal, exploitation, or deception. The stronger the bonds of community, the more powerful the force of trust, and the more we can achieve together.

Morality is essential to freedom. That is what John Locke meant when he contrasted liberty, the freedom to do what we ought, to license, the freedom to do what we want. It is what Adam Smith signaled when, before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. It is what George Washington meant when he said, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.” And Benjamin Franklin, when he said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” Or Thomas Jefferson, when he said, “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.” Lose morality, and eventually you will lose liberty.

When I went as an undergraduate to Cambridge University in the late 1960s, the philosophy course was called Moral Sciences, meaning that, just like the natural sciences, morality was objective, real, part of the external world. I soon discovered, though, that almost no one believed this anymore. Morality was held to be no more than the expression of emotion, or subjective feeling, or private intuition, or autonomous choice. It is whatever I choose it to be. To me, this seemed less like civilization than the breakdown of a civilization.

As for the consequences of our choices, these have been outsourced to the state. Bad choices lead to bad outcomes: failed relationships, neglected children, depressive illness, wasted lives. But the government would deal with it. Marriage was no longer needed as a sacred bond between husband and wife. . . . Welfare was outsourced to government agencies, so there was less need for community volunteering. As for conscience, which once played so large a part in the moral life, that could be outsourced to regulatory bodies.

Read more at Church Times

More about: Adam Smith, John Locke, Jonathan Sacks, Liberalism, Morality, Relativism


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy