There Can Be No Freedom without Morality

March 27 2020

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.

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Read more at Church Times

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

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism