What Moralizing accomplishes
and what it does not
Establishing what is moral is not the purpose of this post. As the headline says, we are going to investigate what moralizing accomplishes. For the purposes of our conversation, Oxford’s first definition provided by Google will work as a jumping off point:
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.
To restate: if we are dealing with what is moral, we are dealing with what is right and wrong. Pretty high stakes if you ask me.
Of course, you can shop around for your morality these days. Even if we were to take the dominant religions of the world - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, & Hinduism we are presented with at least five different determinations of “what is moral.” This is not to say morality is relativistic, but it is to say people will claim different things to be moral.
Moralizing is defined by Oxford as “the action of commenting on issues of right and wrong, typically with an unfounded air of superiority.” For the purposes of our discussion, the definition will work.
Let’s take three examples of moralizing headlines from the Progressive Left, Conservative Inc, and Libertarian circles to see what moralizing accomplishes.
The above headline from CNN is a great example of Progressive Left moralizing. See not only does someone like Representative Thomas Massie own firearms (a crime in any true Progressive’s book), but he will take the extra step of taking a cheesy photo with his family and posting it to social media. The fact that there was a tragic school shooting in Oxford, Mi last week isn’t the reason the Progressive Left hates Thomas Massie, it gives them an opportunity to moralize against him.
The above headline from Fox News is a great example of Conservative Inc moralizing. It relies on a common misconception in conservative circles that Democrats are “just to dumb” to recognize the “truth about Free Markets” the way they were discussed in the 1970’s. See, Biden’s “Build Back Better” isn’t wrong because it’s a money pit, or because it forces children into government schools at the tender age of 3. No! You see the moralizing Conservative Inc says the Build Back Better agenda is wrong because it does damage to “medical innovation” and guess what matters right now? You guessed it, medical innovation!
From Agorist Nexus: Government: A System of Slavery
I’m now feuding with some Agorists after my post “Friendly potshots at Agorism” got some attention 2 weeks ago. This article is simultaneously the prequel/sequel to the original post I poked holes in1. See, this libertarian circle of Agorism is committed to an anti-politics position, as such they must moralize against anyone who would consider running for political office, or voting in political elections. I’m frankly not sure whether the author can even escape his moralizing framework. Because all governments are equally bad, any participation in the political process is equal to you supporting slavery. It follows then anyone who wants to participate in it must really like slavery. So say the moralizing agorists.
In the definition we used above, moralizing comes from one who has an “unfounded air of superiority”, that still leaves undiscovered what moralizing is meant to accomplish. From my perspective, moralizing only serves to reinforce an already established in-group preference. This is why “moralizing” is perceived by the out-group as being unfounded.
In our first example, every moral progressive knows gun ownership is wrong. This means even if you think people can own firearms, they should never be happy about it.
In our second example, every moral conservative knows democrats are stupid. This means they will always get things wrong, just when “the country” needs them to get it right!
In our third example, every moral agorist knows government is slavery. This means you can’t be in politics no matter what, even if most of them were inspired by Ron Paul’s presidential runs of 2008 & 2012.
Blood-soaked monsters (and the #murdercult)
I told this story in a recent appearance I made on the Free Man Beyond the Wall Podcast. I was arguing once a number of years ago with someone about American Politics. In the course of our argument, I deployed a common pejorative slung by libertarians and other anti-war types. This pejorative is referring to “upstanding” members of the American Political Elite as “blood-soaked monsters” because many of them can be considered responsible for the “terror wars” of the 21st century which have killed and displaced millions across the Middle East, as well as the lives of American troops and their families who were sent to wage these wars.
My expectation when I deployed this pejorative was to stop my rhetorical opponent in their tracks. Surely they would have to contend with this most vicious of insults! Instead they completely dismissed my characterization and continued to argue their point. Why? Because they weren’t primed for my moral message and therefore they didn’t care about my “moralizing.”
Moralizing therefore does not persuade the non-believer and in most cases, further alienates someone from your position. This is because most humans consider themselves to be moral, so by challenging their moral frame with one of your own will trigger cognitive dissonance.
There is one thing moralizing does beyond reinforcing the in-group - it can drive a wedge in relationships. So be careful when deploying them.
translation? I really didn’t do a good job the first time