I came across this the other day and will be using it in Daily Spiritual Seed. Pretty good, methinks.
The 7 Modern Sins:
- Politics without principles
- Pleasures without conscience
- Wealth without work
- Knowledge without character
- Industry without morality
- Science without humanity
- Worship without sacrifice.
by Canon Frederic Donaldson
I can’t find much info on Lewis. One entry lists him as part of the Westminster Christian Socialist movement. Here’s more info as well.
If true, the likely implication is the belief that the sins listed — which indeed is a pretty good list — are something that can, and should, be cured by government taking control of people and industry.
Add to that list of sins the belief in an earthly social Utopia and a naiveté regarding government — particularly among many Christians. If, instead, he advocated for a personal morality and a limited government, then right on!
From what I recall, the late 19th C. - early 20th C. Christian Socialists were more dealing with worker rights issues, child labor, unemployment, and related issues. As "Christians" they weren't sympathetic to the atheistic approach of Marxists.
I hadn't heard of him before, however; just thought it was a good quote.
Some general musings. Please ignore at your own convenience...
One of the things that I think makes Thomas Sowell such an interesting and wise political commentator (but certainly not infallible) is that he realizes that so much of life comes down to economics. It’s one of the realities — like gravity — that we ignore at our own risk. One of the fundamental laws of economics is that everything has a cost, everything is a matter of making choices and assessing various trade-offs. We can’t, in essence, have it all.
But when it comes to politics and the promises of politicians, we are too easily seduced by the idea that we can have it all. Social ills are exaggerated (or their causes misattributed) and the solutions are inflated and we soon believe that not only is criminal behavior solvable, for instance, but we may even come to believe that such behavior is the result of some abstract thing called “society” and lay no blame on the actions of individual people themselves. (And this is the very mindset of the left in this country. And it has had real, and deleterious, effects on the crime rate.)
We are very easily seduced by such Utopian beliefs. This is where (if you don’t mind me saying) I think Christians have (or can have) a decidedly firmer grasp on life. Instead of thinking themselves victims and looking to blame others for things that are either of their own doing or just a normal and unavoidable part of life (such as competition, the need to work, the need to struggle and persevere), Christians understand (at least the traditional ones do) of the idea of having a cross to bear.
No Utopian socialist nightmare could ever stain and spoil this earth if everyone held this belief. We will never run out of social ills. They can’t all be cured. And we see this in our tens of trillions of unfunded entitlement liabilities. There is not a pot of money big enough to build Utopia. And it’s the nature of humanity that as soon as you do cure one ill (assuming it ever can be cured, but just for sake of argument), the other smaller ones that exist become exaggerated until they replace the old ones in assembly-line fashion.
Note that great wealth in this country (due to freedom and the free market) where even “the poor” live better than kings of less than a hundred years ago. And note the trillions of dollars spent on social programs starting from the New Deal up to The Great Society and continuing on into Bush’s Medicare Part D and Obama’s further socialization of medicine with Obamacare. And yet there is no shortage of people who think this is just about the worst country in the world and things have never been so bad. In short, not only does money not cure all social ills, but by trying to do so, it engenders ingratitude (as well as dependency).
I agree with all that list of seven sins. But I likely would not agree with Donaldson’s cures. A Utopian or socialist mindset might try to cure these things by (as is always tried) creating the “new man” in an exalted society. And how does one do this? Via a very large and intrusive government, of course. And such a thing only ever succeeds in creating the “old man” which is the man who is a serf subservient to his masters.
Politics and government are a horrible way to try to instill a good morality. That is because the interests of politics and politicians are mostly at cross purposes to such a thing. Nearly all of the Founders, for instance, said that our republic was suitable only for a moral people. Surely, by implication, this meant that you couldn’t expect government itself to be the instiller of good moral values. They had to come about from some other process outside of, and before, government.
A few reflection on those 7 sins, perhaps with a hope to refute any Utopian inclinations:
1) Politics without principles — Good. But remember that it is the nature of politicians to say whatever they can in order to gain elective office. It is *our* integrity (or lack of same) that largely determines who is voted into office. And all the campaign finance laws in the world won’t change this reality. (And, in fact, as others have noted, campaign finance laws have — no surprise — acted to increase the level of incumbency retention.)
2) Pleasure without conscience — okay, no problem there. That’s certainly not a modern pro-abortion message.
3) Wealth without work — One should note that the backward Marxist understanding of wealth — one that Obama himself seems to share to some extent — is where the value of a product or service to people is ignored in terms of what something is worth and, instead, it’s the labor involved in making a product that is the only attribute that determines value. Any socialist will thus tend to see true wealth producers as somehow cheating the system instead of understanding that it’s efficiency and value-to-the-customer that determine the production of wealth, not how much labor went into something. The critique by the left (and thus Democrats) of our free market system is substantially based on the mythology of Marxism. No, Bill Gates is not evil and he did not steal money from anyone. He created that wealth. And (something under-appreciated or ignored by the class-warfare left) is that rich people typically work much harder than you or me.
4) Knowledge without character — Actually, this is very good. This could also be written “Knowledge without wisdom.” Read Thomas Sowell’s excellent book, “Intellectuals and Society” for an extensive discussion of this.
5) Industry and morality — Let’s just say that this is a subject typically demagogued by the left. First off, profit isn’t evil. In fact, it’s the only way (and a good way) for an economy to work. Second, in developing countries, people are better off with the opportunity to work in some industry…even for wages that we turn our noses up at. But for them, it’s the path to a better life. But it’s also the path to demagoguery and self-righteous indignation where some huff and puff about how we are supposedly “exploiting” some third world country when, in fact, we are aiding in their progress and development. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about actual cases of exploitation, but with the Left crying wolf so often, how would we ever know?
6) Science without humanity — If that means “Science is not synonymous with morality,” then you betcha.
7) Worship without sacrifice — Another good one. Let me take a purely (or mostly) political aspect of this: We cannot maintain freedom and Constitutional government in this country merely by minding our own lives and our own businesses and hoping everything works out. Freedom, as Reagan said, “is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Good reflections, Brad. Thanks for sharing.
You sure do get going when the word "socialist" is on the table, don't you? I'm mostly opposed as well, especially to ventures that violate principles of subsidiarity. I generally don't have a problem with government harnessing financial resources to provide goods and services that would not otherwise happen effectively: e.g., national parks, public education, interstate highways, military, police force, fire fighters, etc. I'm happy to pay taxes to support these and many other government-sponsored ventures.
I think we also need to acknowledge the very dark side of capitalism that did, in fact, exist through the 19th and early 20th C., which motivated the protests of "Christian socialists." They weren't calling for a Marxist utopian state so much as government intervention in behalf of those being oppressed by unjust working conditions.
Thanks, Phil. And good. I think you're right. Those things are not the re-distribution of wealth with an eye to a Marxist-like conception of "fairness" and righting supposed economic wrongs. Only moonbats look at basic infrastructure such as roads and call it "socialism," although many of our government practices do tend to blur the lines quite a bit these days.
But, it's funny, our public education system probably does fit the basic definition of socialism. And it shows. In Washington State there was a report put out last year (by the state, of all people) that said that 1/3 of people didn't graduate from high school, 1/3 graduated with insufficient skills, and the other 1/3 graduated adequately (and, I would say, according to very dumbed-down standards compared to our day).
Thomas Sowell notes that our public schools combine two of the worst aspects: a government monopoly and union control. Thank God (perhaps quite literally) for home-schoolers and those who are able to get their children into religious schools and such where the academic standards are higher and the discipline is surer.
The dark sides of capitalism are simply the dark sides of human nature. No conservative I know thinks there should be no regulation of markets. But they should be regulated only for purposes of fraud, product safety, protection of limited resources ("the tragedy of the commons" effect) and that type of thing. It's not government's business to interfere with what kind of products are produced or the basic contract between employee and boss. But those days are fast going. You can bet that I won't be going to work for Wal-mart anytime soon and will remain self-employed if I can. (I have a friend who works there, and the BS he must go through, which is thoroughly typical now I think of most large businesses.) The politically correct crap is so thick now, I honestly sometimes wonder how businesses make a profit.
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