Liberals and the Moral Compass

Can a modern liberal have a moral compass?  The answer is both "yes" and "no."  It depends on what you think a moral compass is.

Let's start by talking about what a moral compass is in the eyes of social conservatives.  Here I mean "social conservative" in its broadest possible sense — not merely a synonym for American Christians with orthodox beliefs, but a blanket description of anyone who believes in a moral standard underpinned by something not of human making.  By this definition, all serious Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even Muslims are "social conservatives."  They believe in a moral code that comes from somewhere other than mere human expedience — from God Almighty or from the Eternal Dharma.

All moral systems based on a belief in something greater than ourselves have something in common.  Some, I think, are better — even infinitely better — than others.  I am a Christian not without reason.  However, better or worse, all religious moral systems share the common trait of being relatively stable.  Neither the Christian, the Buddhist, the Jew, nor the Muslim can tinker with his moral rules without becoming something other than a Christian, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Muslim.  You cannot be "a Christian who worships Satan" or "a Buddhist who believes that lust and anger are good things."  Moral systems unpinned by deities or mysterious moral laws are by nature inflexible.  They are a framework one accepts, perhaps studies, but never seeks to improve.  They are baselines for behavior, and their basic tenets cannot be reshaped to fit the latest social fad.

Now, if this is what morality really is, today's liberals certainly don't have moral compasses.  Their values are by nature evolutionary.  If they have a fixed standard at all, it is the belief that the human race can, over time, perfect itself.  They believe in a sort of compass that points toward the latest perceived "improvement."

Thirty or forty years ago, I imagined that liberals believed unwaveringly in women's rights.  They did appear to, most of the time — until pandering to transgenderism and Islam became the hottest social craze.  Now having women's sports increasingly dominated by men who just "identify" as women has become acceptable.  Championing a religion like Islam, in which women don't have anything even close to equal rights, is just the price one must pay to virtue-signal against the West.  I used to suppose, naïvely considering their history, that most people on the Left were for free speech and opposed to political violence.  Enter the concept of "hate speech."  Enter Antifa.  So much for the tired, outmoded virtues of the Enlightenment.

Ask a liberal what being liberal is about, and he is likely to tell you one of two things.

He might say something like "it's about treating everybody with respect — because we're all just human beings under the skin."  I have seldom encountered a group of people who fall short of this standard more often than today's liberals.  They did not reject Hillary Clinton for calling half of the country "a basket of deplorables."  In fact, today's progressives are stratified by race, creed, sex, sexual orientation, and every other distinction they can find or dream up.  They give lip service to the idea that individuals are "entitled" to special treatment based on their groups' historical grievances — all the while engaging in a lifelong personal competition to either out-victim or out-virtue-signal one another.  This is hypocrisy to the point of farce.

A more intellectually oriented liberal might offer a different definition, saying liberalism is a movement grounded in scientific fact — and is therefore better than one grounded in mere Bronze-Age superstition.  Here we have a sort of hard materialism in which morality can really have no place.  There is no law of nature that posits an ought of any kind.  Even one's own survival is a morally neutral consideration if the universe consists solely of the playing out of mechanistic causes and effects.  Moreover, we also see hypocrisy in the claim of worshiping hard truths.  Science has been reduced to an opinion poll in the case of climate change and to silence in the case of the new bewildering cornucopia of genders.  Ultimately, science is the domain of human beings with entirely human weaknesses.  Its value is never one jot greater than the integrity of those who serve as its authorities.

I recall reading an article in which noted atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins concocted a couple of novel theories about the evolutionary benefits of homosexuality.  For him, it went without saying that such benefits had to be there — the proof being simply that homosexuality exists.  This is not how real science works.  I doubt that Richard Dawkins would have wasted much ink on the theoretical evolutionary advantages of club foot or hemophilia.  Club foot and hemophilia haven't yet raised themselves to the level of sacred identity groups.  You don't gain any virtue points by praising abnormalities that no one wants to have.

All of this wandering around the darkened moral landscape is simply an inevitable consequence of tying one's values to one fashionably righteous cause after another.  In the early part of the 20th century, the progenitors of today's progressives were all for eugenics and forced sterilization.  Now they like androgyny and political censorship.  Tomorrow, perhaps pedophilia and concentration camps will be all the rage.  It depends on what novelty proves the most expedient.  Ultimately, the essence of the Left is a cynical and unaccountable leadership leading people around by their desire to feel good about themselves — as cheaply and as painlessly as possible.  It thrives on intellectual laziness and low standards of integrity.  While it is nothing really new, and these people have always been with us, there are more of them now than any healthy society can possibly support.

What really passes for morality in the liberal mind is nothing more than bland acceptance of the latest reshuffling of the growing catalogue of victim groups to feel comfortably bad about.  As Orwell said prophetically in Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."  Liberals have moral compasses in the sense that, being human, they have moral sentiments — that is, in the sense that a compass is still compass even when it points unwaveringly at a nearby magnet.  Though such an instrument is still, in a way, a compass, it ceases to be of any real use.

Can a modern liberal have a moral compass?  The answer is both "yes" and "no."  It depends on what you think a moral compass is.

Let's start by talking about what a moral compass is in the eyes of social conservatives.  Here I mean "social conservative" in its broadest possible sense — not merely a synonym for American Christians with orthodox beliefs, but a blanket description of anyone who believes in a moral standard underpinned by something not of human making.  By this definition, all serious Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even Muslims are "social conservatives."  They believe in a moral code that comes from somewhere other than mere human expedience — from God Almighty or from the Eternal Dharma.

All moral systems based on a belief in something greater than ourselves have something in common.  Some, I think, are better — even infinitely better — than others.  I am a Christian not without reason.  However, better or worse, all religious moral systems share the common trait of being relatively stable.  Neither the Christian, the Buddhist, the Jew, nor the Muslim can tinker with his moral rules without becoming something other than a Christian, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Muslim.  You cannot be "a Christian who worships Satan" or "a Buddhist who believes that lust and anger are good things."  Moral systems unpinned by deities or mysterious moral laws are by nature inflexible.  They are a framework one accepts, perhaps studies, but never seeks to improve.  They are baselines for behavior, and their basic tenets cannot be reshaped to fit the latest social fad.

Now, if this is what morality really is, today's liberals certainly don't have moral compasses.  Their values are by nature evolutionary.  If they have a fixed standard at all, it is the belief that the human race can, over time, perfect itself.  They believe in a sort of compass that points toward the latest perceived "improvement."

Thirty or forty years ago, I imagined that liberals believed unwaveringly in women's rights.  They did appear to, most of the time — until pandering to transgenderism and Islam became the hottest social craze.  Now having women's sports increasingly dominated by men who just "identify" as women has become acceptable.  Championing a religion like Islam, in which women don't have anything even close to equal rights, is just the price one must pay to virtue-signal against the West.  I used to suppose, naïvely considering their history, that most people on the Left were for free speech and opposed to political violence.  Enter the concept of "hate speech."  Enter Antifa.  So much for the tired, outmoded virtues of the Enlightenment.

Ask a liberal what being liberal is about, and he is likely to tell you one of two things.

He might say something like "it's about treating everybody with respect — because we're all just human beings under the skin."  I have seldom encountered a group of people who fall short of this standard more often than today's liberals.  They did not reject Hillary Clinton for calling half of the country "a basket of deplorables."  In fact, today's progressives are stratified by race, creed, sex, sexual orientation, and every other distinction they can find or dream up.  They give lip service to the idea that individuals are "entitled" to special treatment based on their groups' historical grievances — all the while engaging in a lifelong personal competition to either out-victim or out-virtue-signal one another.  This is hypocrisy to the point of farce.

A more intellectually oriented liberal might offer a different definition, saying liberalism is a movement grounded in scientific fact — and is therefore better than one grounded in mere Bronze-Age superstition.  Here we have a sort of hard materialism in which morality can really have no place.  There is no law of nature that posits an ought of any kind.  Even one's own survival is a morally neutral consideration if the universe consists solely of the playing out of mechanistic causes and effects.  Moreover, we also see hypocrisy in the claim of worshiping hard truths.  Science has been reduced to an opinion poll in the case of climate change and to silence in the case of the new bewildering cornucopia of genders.  Ultimately, science is the domain of human beings with entirely human weaknesses.  Its value is never one jot greater than the integrity of those who serve as its authorities.

I recall reading an article in which noted atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins concocted a couple of novel theories about the evolutionary benefits of homosexuality.  For him, it went without saying that such benefits had to be there — the proof being simply that homosexuality exists.  This is not how real science works.  I doubt that Richard Dawkins would have wasted much ink on the theoretical evolutionary advantages of club foot or hemophilia.  Club foot and hemophilia haven't yet raised themselves to the level of sacred identity groups.  You don't gain any virtue points by praising abnormalities that no one wants to have.

All of this wandering around the darkened moral landscape is simply an inevitable consequence of tying one's values to one fashionably righteous cause after another.  In the early part of the 20th century, the progenitors of today's progressives were all for eugenics and forced sterilization.  Now they like androgyny and political censorship.  Tomorrow, perhaps pedophilia and concentration camps will be all the rage.  It depends on what novelty proves the most expedient.  Ultimately, the essence of the Left is a cynical and unaccountable leadership leading people around by their desire to feel good about themselves — as cheaply and as painlessly as possible.  It thrives on intellectual laziness and low standards of integrity.  While it is nothing really new, and these people have always been with us, there are more of them now than any healthy society can possibly support.

What really passes for morality in the liberal mind is nothing more than bland acceptance of the latest reshuffling of the growing catalogue of victim groups to feel comfortably bad about.  As Orwell said prophetically in Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."  Liberals have moral compasses in the sense that, being human, they have moral sentiments — that is, in the sense that a compass is still compass even when it points unwaveringly at a nearby magnet.  Though such an instrument is still, in a way, a compass, it ceases to be of any real use.