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Moral Atrophy

Tom Woods said something in his interview of Jonathan Haidt that had not occurred to me but in retrospect seems self evident:

“when the government takes over certain functions, then certain aspects of natural society just tend to atrophy”

Atrophy.  Yes.  Of course.  Perfect.  Why didn’t I think of that?  The idea of moral atrophy adds nuance and gravitas to, and increases the credibility of, the concept of Gemeinschaft and Geselleschaft.  

In other words….

It’s less accurate to say that advanced societies no longer NEED the binding foundations or moral capital, and that the individualizing foundations alone are therefore sufficient (as liberals familiar with Haidt’s work tend to argue).

It’s more accurate to say that advanced societies RELY LESS HEAVILY on the binding foundations and moral capital which therefore tend to atrophy from lack of use the way muscles do.

The result of the atrophy is that the importance of the binding foundations and moral capital becomes less obvious, less immediate, less present in the collective consciousness. The potential downside of the “care” of the welfare state and the damaging behaviors it may incentivize become harder to see, as does the idea that solutions to wicked problems may not involve increasing it, and may even involve reducing it.


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