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9/8/09

Al Gore, Morality and the Tenth Commandment


President Obama, some members of congress, and now that paragon of morality, Al Gore, have recently and very publicly said that government interference in health insurance is a moral imperative. I am quite certain that it has moral implications, however that is a tad different than being an imperative.

I’m always more than a bit skeptical when a group of people like politicians (who have an abysmal track record on ethical matters) try to make the case for more government based on a moral argument. Living in Illinois can easily turn that skepticism into cynicism.

On a national level as well one could become cynical due to a quick peek at the number of tax cheats who couldn’t pass vetting for Cabinet and other high administration positions. (Although cheating on taxes is more akin to my high school practice of leaving my change in my hall locker to avoid the daily shakedown of the local gym class thugs, than a moral failing.)

But I digress. In my mind, Putting politicians in charge of morality is like putting pedophiles in charge of day camp.

This of course leads to the Tenth Commandment. (Huh?)

Even those who are agnostic towards organized religion generally seem to agree that, although not all of them concern our interactions with one another, most of the Ten Commandments are an excellent set of rules by which to live. You know ‘em so I won’t fuss over the obvious ones. Which brings us to the curious inclusion of the last one.
P J O’Rourke did an essay concerning it some time back which was enlightening as well as hellarious.

It is my belief (which may or may not be shared by real theologians) that there is a popular but mistaken emphasis on the greed aspect of  "Thou Shalt not Covet."
You know the kind of covetousness I'm talking about.  The “Gee, I’d really like to have a car as nice as my neighbor and as much moola as him so I could drive his wife (whom I also long for in sin) to a really posh restaurant on the sly”.
While all of the above are certainly a focus of the rule, it seems to me that there is a form of it that is even more destructive and distracting to us mere mortals.

That form is manifested in this type of thought; “Ya know, I don’t even want a car like my neighbor, it’s a waste of money and I wouldn’t buy a luxury car even if I could afford it. And his wife isn’t nearly as attractive as mine, but that guy doesn’t deserve that house and car and wife.”

Or; “That guy isn’t worth that kind of money, he only works at a bank while I bust my hump everyday working at a job I hate for a boss I hate even more.”  Bank executives, oil company executives, professional athletes and almost everyone at your company (who makes more than you do) fall into that category, they all make "too much" money.

It is the reason people scrape a key along the side of a BMW. Or why indignant teenagers dig up the greens at the country clubs their parents cannot afford to belong to. It’s also the reason people would romanticize Bernie Madoff while detesting his victims if only he had lived in a $500 a month apartment and given the loot to “Save the Whales” or the "Make a Wish" foundations. After all, his victims deserved to lose their money, the arrogant rich bastards probably inherited it. In some circles, his only mistake was in living larger than his marks.

The idea that nobody should have a lot more than anyone else is the basis for the most immoral ideology in all of history, communism. And its first cousin, socialism, is merely a rest stop on the road toward that destination.

While it is always sold as the only truly moral philosophy, in reality, it is the runt of the philosophical litter.

On Friday Aug. 21, 2009, a Russian immigrant, Svetlana Kunin, wrote the best “letter to the editor” of the Investors Business Daily that I have ever read. I recommend that you read it as well.

 In that letter she wrote, "Critics say that greed is the driving force of capitalism. My answer is that envy is the driving force of socialism."

Equal misery may appeal to the intellectual runts, but the water level of humankind has never risen under such thinking. And even the Envy Pimps are starting to sink under the weight of their rhetoric now that the prospect of drowning in a government run sea of health care rationing has even the most distracted among us finally treading water.

So, as long as the politicians brought up the usually taboo topic of morality first, I feel I can comment on it despite the lack of any above average moral bonifides. After all, even a run of the mill sinner knows at least as much about morality as Al Gore knows about global climate change.

Poor Al, the public option fever is cooling even faster than the world is. And morally speaking, that is something I pine for, if not covet.

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