Get Me Back to Gomorrah

Composed on the 4th of January in the year 2009, at 1:11 AM. It was Sunday.

I want less morality in the government.

Less.

I don't make this statement that often because I have trouble avoiding the temptation of just saying it outright for pure shock value, and saying it outright leads to instant backlash from people already shocked at the apparent immorality of our government. But the problem is not immorality per se, but that the government's morality doesn't agree with mine, or most of my friends. So I want to be done with it.

So let's get pedantic. Moral systems, to date, are interested in defining what is good, or right. I am not interested in what's good or right. I'm interested in what's good for me, and what's good for my country, insofar as what's good for my country should be good for me. And that's as far as it goes.

So, now I'm going to borrow from some of the more self-assured philosophers and refer to "good for me" with a capitalized "good". Here's a test run: Russian twins in need of shelter outside my door would be Good. Things that are good for other things or people, and things that are platonically good, are not necessarily Good. Many things that make me laugh are Good, despite being very, very bad by a normative social metric. To provide an equal counterweight, we'll use Bad to refer to things that are bad for me, or reduce the Goodness of my life.

So I want a situation that's Good. Given that I live in a financially and–for the most part–legally integrated country, things that are good for the country tend to be good for my situation, thus Good. There are a few things that are good for my country that are clearly Bad, but as long as the Good outweighs the Bad, I can usually look past it.

Now good is a very iffy term, whereas Good is pretty straightforward, at least on a day to day basis. The key distinction between good and Good as it relates to me is that there may well be a greater good, but there is no such things as a greater Good. Always be suspicious when people use adjectives in place of nouns. "A" greater good is apparently a good that's better than the lesser good. Economically, it makes perfect sense: A fresh banana is a better good than a rotting one. But people tend not to use the phrase "a greater good" in the banana market; they use it all the time to bounce political capital. The similarity is not accidental. This is a language of economic morality, trading in an undefinable substance. The best comparison I can think of to real economics is that "good" is tantamount to unhedged futures.

Good is a much harder currency. Better yet, it is entirely subjective measure from the get go, so it's measure is always absolute. Whatever suits me right now is Good; if something else suits me tomorrow, it's not a greater Good I should have been paying attention to today, it has simply taken on the property of Good. I would not deign to take "a" lesser Good, because that would not be Good. I'm not trading my Goods, or ranking them, and nobody else can define them.

My country, and countrymen and women, however, would have me believe there are a few goods out there, some greater, some lesser, and they would like to sell them to me. That's fine by me. However, I'm not trading my Good for a nice good: their goods need to make sure my Good stays stable. I can track my own Good, and rarely need to investigate what constitutes it; their various goods tend to be less straightforward. Sometimes they're clear about it: this is good for the economy. This is good for the environment. Excellent! I rely heavily on the economy and the environment. Good for me.

But "this is good" is a problem. This is good what? According to whom? Must of us learn very young that trading candy for black box goods is how you get labelled a sucker. After removing "for x" from "this is good for x", I have no grounds on which to judge this goodness. There's no measurable quality to it. To sidestep my cynicism, arguers will say, "no, wait, this is morally good".

Which brings us to the crux of the problem. They have not sidestepped my cynicism: they have stepped right in front of it and spilled their beer on its shoes.

Morality debates are still mired in arguments over some meta-thing in the sky or the ground in which I and my Good have no interest. People who demand more moral leaders are either arguing for leaders that follow their great amorphous thing-out-there, or they are confusing morality with ethics, and really just the basic applied ethics that amounts to "please don't lie to my face all the time while giving guns to my enemies."

The more moral a leader is, the more scared I get, because a moral code doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what's actually Good. Moreover, a moral code tends not to change in the face of changing circumstance, so the social enactment of a moral code tends to align with the one true Good only periodically, if it ever even gets close.

A leader who doesn't lie to my face while giving guns to my enemies is a fairly basic requirement for the Goodness of my life. Beyond that, I want a government that understands the compromises I make in the pursuit of what's Good and Right, and works to make the payoffs for those compromises ultimately Good things. So insofar as my country and its infrastructure are Good, I would like a government that is focussed on strengthening that life-support system. That means prevent things near my home from blowing up for any reason, keep either me or my employer well stocked with opportunities to earn money, and keep manufacturers manufacturing things on which to spend earned money, and please do it consistently for fifty or sixty more years. That's what I pay for.

I do not want my government to try and improve my chances of getting into an undisclosed location in the post-mortem phase of my life. I do not want my government to manage my moral purity, much less the moral purity of citizens of other countries. I would like the government to look after its economic security, but, this is important, in such a manner that it doesn't increase the likelihood of things blowing up near my home. Reducing my economic security by lying to my face and giving guns to my enemies under the guise of purifying a foreign morality under the guise of increasing economic security thus increasing the chances of things blowing up near my house and then stripping me of opportunities to make money by stripping me and manufacturers of rights and privileges while ignoring the engine that drives my economy in order to continue throwing up distractions to prevent me from noticing you were lying to my face is completely out of the question.

And I really, really, don't care if you thought it was right. Even if you think all the things you did were morally right. It wasn't Good. It wasn't Good at all. Not Cool.

I haven't used a hole punch in 16 years.

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.66! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.
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