23
   

LAW VS. MORAL VALUES

 
 
Foxfyre
 
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 09:35 am
Many of us who are older than say 50+ can remember an America that was for the most part kinder, gentler, less coarse, more civil, more safe for everybody. We could leave the windows down and the keys in our auto ignition with no concerns whatsoever. We slept with the windows wide open at night or even slept outside on a hot summer night. We could throw a pallet out along the highway and sleep in perfect safety when we couldn't afford a motel. People weren't afraid of the hitchhiker or the hobo who offered to work for a meal or the stranger who needed road assistance. There was far fewer children born out of wedlock and far fewer people in prison.

Walter Williams touches on those times in this essay, along with his opinion that it was basic shared moral/social values that created that a more satisfying quality of life for all.

Do you agree? Disagree? Could such a society be re-created? Should it be? Or would the price be too high?

Quote:
A MINORITY VIEW
BY WALTER WILLIAMS
APRIL 29, 2009

Law vs. Moral Values

A civilized society's first line of defense is not the law, police and courts but customs, traditions and moral values. Behavioral norms, mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings, represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. The failure to fully transmit values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of the so-called greatest generation.

Behavior accepted as the norm today would have been seen as despicable yesteryear. There are television debt relief advertisements that promise to help debtors to pay back only half of what they owe. Foul language is spoken by children in front of and sometimes to teachers and other adults. When I was a youngster, it was unthinkable to use foul language to an adult; it would have meant a smack across the face. Back then, parents and teachers didn't have child-raising "experts" to tell them that "time out" is a means of discipline. Baby showers are held for unwed mothers. Yesteryear, such an acceptance of illegitimacy would have been unthinkable.

To see men sitting whilst a woman or elderly person was standing on a crowded bus or trolley car used to be unthinkable. It was common decency for a man to give up his seat. Today, in some cities there are ordinances requiring public conveyances to set aside seats posted "Senior Citizen Seating." Laws have replaced common decency. Years ago, a young lady who allowed a guy to have his hand in her rear pocket as they strolled down the street would have been seen as a slut. Children addressing adults by first names was unacceptable.

You might be tempted to charge, "Williams, you're a prude!" I'd ask you whether high rates of illegitimacy make a positive contribution to a civilized society. If not, how would you propose that illegitimacy be controlled? In years past, it was controlled through social sanctions like disgrace and shunning. Is foul language to or in the presence of teachers conducive to an atmosphere of discipline and respect necessary for effective education? If not, how would you propose it be controlled? Years ago, simply sassing a teacher would have meant a trip to the vice principal's office for an attitude adjustment administered with a paddle. Years ago, the lowest of lowdown men would not say the kind of things often said to or in front of women today. Gentlemanly behavior protected women from coarse behavior. Today, we expect sexual harassment laws to restrain coarse behavior.

During the 1940s, my family lived in North Philadelphia's Richard Allen housing project. Many families didn't lock doors until late at night, if ever. No one ever thought of installing bars on their windows. Hot, humid summer nights found many people sleeping outside on balconies or lawn chairs. Starting in the '60s and '70s, doing the same in some neighborhoods would have been tantamount to committing suicide. Keep in mind that the 1940s and '50s were a time of gross racial discrimination, high black poverty and few opportunities compared to today. The fact that black neighborhoods were far more civilized at that time should give pause to the excuses of today that blames today's pathology on poverty and discrimination.

Policemen and laws can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/wew/articles/09/LawVsMoralValues.htm
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Type: Discussion • Score: 23 • Views: 22,200 • Replies: 197

 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 09:48 am
@Foxfyre,
Foxfyre wrote:
Walter Williams touches on those times in this essay, along with his opinion that it was basic shared moral/social values that created that a more satisfying quality of life for all.

It might also be that we remember the past with rose colored glasses to some extent. And also the population was generally smaller everywhere years ago, and I think you will still find a more trusting, neighborly air to things even today in areas with less population.

So before I would agree with him on shared moral/social values being the core cause of our perception of present society, I would like to see the other variables (and many I didn't even mention) somehow taken into account.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 09:51 am
@Foxfyre,
Foxfyre wrote:

Quote:
A MINORITY VIEW
BY WALTER WILLIAMS
APRIL 29, 2009

Law vs. Moral Values

Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become.

Or not. It might also be a measure of how complex we've become.
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:09 am
@rosborne979,
Complexity = hostility? Lawlessness? Coarseness? Breakdown of 'virtue'? Would you enlarge on your thoughts about that please?

Bearing in mind that Walter Williams is a black man who grew up under segregation, he grew up in Philadelphia which was a big city in the 1940's and 1950's. Thomas Sowell, also a black man growing up under segregation in inner city New York City has also observed that back then there was far more poverty but far less crime, and you could walk the streets of his low income neighborhood in perfect safety.

Demographics of those cities back then:
http://www.demographia.com/db-metro1940.htm

Even in small town America now, people lock their cars and doors and don't let their kids run with unmonitored freedom as I was allowed to do.
ebrown p
 
  8  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:24 am
You conservatives are so silly...

Quote:
The failure to fully transmit values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of the so-called greatest generation.


These people insisted that "colored" people sit at the back of the bus and thought that jailing people for loving someone of the same sex (or another race) was the right thing to do.

I think their failure to transmit their "values" (the very values that made lynching such a problem) and traditions is a great success.

Quote:
Behavior accepted as the norm today would have been seen as despicable yesteryear.


For example interracial marriages and women in the workplace.

Quote:
There are television debt relief advertisements that promise to help debtors to pay back only half of what they owe.


Of course putting poor people in debtors prisons was preferable.

Quote:
When I was a youngster, it was unthinkable to use foul language to an adult; it would have meant a smack across the face.


... and smacking your kids makes you moral...

Quote:
Baby showers are held for unwed mothers.


Oh.... the horror!!!

Quote:
To see men sitting whilst a woman or elderly person was standing on a crowded bus or trolley car used to be unthinkable. It was common decency for a man to give up his seat.


Why was Rosa Parks jailed again?

Quote:
Keep in mind that the 1940s and '50s were a time of gross racial discrimination, high black poverty and few opportunities compared to today. The fact that black neighborhoods were far more civilized at that time should give pause to the excuses of today that blames today's pathology on poverty and discrimination.


I guess I never considered the positive side of "gross racial discrimination" before.

Quote:
Policemen and laws can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior.


Unless you are dealing with immigrants.

Quote:
Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become.


This is a hateful and dangerous conservative fantasy-- that the "good old days"-- a time blacks who got out of line were often killed, homosexuals were forced to live in hiding and single mothers were forced into marriage or poverty-- were some kind of American utopia.

The good old days weren't that good (if you were did not fit into the white, protestant priveledged class).

Today we have racial diversity. We have social safety nets that keep our elderly and single parents from abject poverty. We have tolerance-- we accept people who are different from us. We no longer judge people based on race or religion.

I am proud of America... we have come a long way.

No silly utopian fantasy of an America that never really existed is going to make give that up.



boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:40 am
I'm just knocking on the door of 50 so maybe I'm too young but I don't remember the "civilized" America he talks about.

The things that happened in my schools that would maybe get you sent home for the day would get you tossed out on your ear now.

I rarely lock my doors, never lock my car, sleep with the windows down, etc., I think people are just more afraid now and that things haven't really changed, except for the better, as ebrown pointed out.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:40 am
@Foxfyre,
Foxfyre wrote:

Complexity = hostility? Lawlessness? Coarseness? Breakdown of 'virtue'? Would you enlarge on your thoughts about that please?

Complexity doesn't necessarily equate to all the things you mentioned. It's just another possible thing which I didn't think the author considered.

Think of it this way, the author could have said: "Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior might be a measure of how complex our civilization has become." It might also be a measure of how uncivilized we've become, but I don't think the author has established that connection yet.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:46 am
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:
I rarely lock my doors, never lock my car, sleep with the windows down, etc.

I don't lock my car in my home town, but I do lock it when I park in Manchester. It has to do with the neighborhood I'm in, not the year it is, or the civilization of today.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  2  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:49 am
@boomerang,
I'm with boomer. What's the problem, exactly? I feel pretty safe, am kind to others and others are generally kind to me. I've given up my seat on the train for people who looked like they needed it more, and I've seen others do the same. Some people are assholes but I have yet to see a study showing that there are significantly more assholes as a percentage of total population now than there were 50 years ago.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:54 am
@FreeDuck,
I bet the percentage of assholes in the population has been pretty much stable over the centuries. But if we have to quantify that, it's going to be a difficult study to perform Smile (the asshole study)
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 10:57 am
@rosborne979,
We can call it "the asshole quotient".
0 Replies
 
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 11:29 am
@ebrown p,
Quote:
Quote:
The failure to fully transmit values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of the so-called greatest generation.

These people insisted that "colored" people sit at the back of the bus and thought that jailing people for loving someone of the same sex (or another race) was the right thing to do.

I think their failure to transmit their "values" (the very values that made lynching such a problem) and traditions is a great success.

Quote:
Behavior accepted as the norm today would have been seen as despicable yesteryear.

For example interracial marriages and women in the workplace.

Quote:
There are television debt relief advertisements that promise to help debtors to pay back only half of what they owe.

Of course putting poor people in debtors prisons was preferable.

Quote:
When I was a youngster, it was unthinkable to use foul language to an adult; it would have meant a smack across the face.

... and smacking your kids makes you moral...

Quote:
Baby showers are held for unwed mothers.

Oh.... the horror!!!

Quote:
To see men sitting whilst a woman or elderly person was standing on a crowded bus or trolley car used to be unthinkable. It was common decency for a man to give up his seat.

Why was Rosa Parks jailed again?

Quote:
Keep in mind that the 1940s and '50s were a time of gross racial discrimination, high black poverty and few opportunities compared to today. The fact that black neighborhoods were far more civilized at that time should give pause to the excuses of today that blames today's pathology on poverty and discrimination.

I guess I never considered the positive side of "gross racial discrimination" before.

Quote:
Policemen and laws can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior.

Unless you are dealing with immigrants.

Quote:
Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become.

This is a hateful and dangerous conservative fantasy-- that the "good old days"-- a time blacks who got out of line were often killed, homosexuals were forced to live in hiding and single mothers were forced into marriage or poverty-- were some kind of American utopia.

The good old days weren't that good (if you were did not fit into the white, protestant priveledged class).

Today we have racial diversity. We have social safety nets that keep our elderly and single parents from abject poverty. We have tolerance-- we accept people who are different from us. We no longer judge people based on race or religion.

I am proud of America... we have come a long way.

No silly utopian fantasy of an America that never really existed is going to make give that up.


That's a good post ebrownp. I wouldn't have thought about it from that angle and I think it brings up some more and different interesting thoughts.

Such as, was all the neighborliness and loving community spirit a facade?
I've always wondered how people could be caring and loving to those like themselves and absolutely cruel and derisive and derogatory to others who weren't like themselves.
And by that I mean, if a person is kind, they're usually kind to all and find it difficult to be cruel, so do you think those mothers who stood and spit at the black kids integrating their childrens' schools were cruel or kind? What were they? How could you love a child and spit in the face of another you don't even know?
I never got that.

Anyway - I don't lock my doors (car or home). I don't have a burglar alarm.. I walk all sorts of places at all hours all by myself, whether it's in rural England or midcity Manhattan.
Wherever I go, in the main, I always find people to be kind and courteous. Today two sixteen year olds came in to interview me about customer service and they were pleasant and polite and held out their hands for me to shake- they stood up when I walked in the room. And I wasn't surprised. It's what I expect. When I was teaching in the young offenders facility, those guys would hold the door open for me.
I guess I just don't see don't see all the uncivil behavior others seem to notice on a daily basis.
But I think you tend to get what you give out.
I know that youths who have people who are rude to them (on a daily basis- I've seen it happen myself to them over and over again) respond back with an icily rude demeanor. Why shouldn't they? Why should they stand there and be treated like a piece of crap?

I'm happy I live now instead of then.
I don't think I would have fit in with those who were polite as long as segregation was upheld, but lost all manners when the company was mixed.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  5  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:09 pm
@Foxfyre,
Quote:
Many of us who are older than say 50+ can remember an America that was for the most part kinder, gentler, less coarse, more civil, more safe for everybody.


Unless, of course, you were an unmarried adult woman, an American of African descent, an Hispanic or a homosexual.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:24 pm
Most Americans who are fifty years old or older can remember a time when black men and women were not allowed to eat at the same lunch counters as white people; when abortion was illegal and women died every year from botched "back alley" abortions; when mature women were called "girl" and were not allowed to pursue certain professions; when homosexuals were called "queers" and could be arrested and imprisoned for their sexual acts; when Hispanics were called "wet backs" and were welcome to come pick fruit and vegetables for pathetic wages so long as they got out of the country at the end of the harvest--and when anyone with brown skin and a Spanish-sounding name was considered a wet back . . . the list goes on and on . . .

Of course, if you're going to be honest about things . . .
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:40 pm
I don't suppose that it has occurred to any of the members posting thus far that Dr. Williams was not discussing the law of the land or civil rights or anything of that sort in his essay. It might be helpful to know that Dr. Williams is a black man, and he, Dr. Thomas Sowell, Dr. Shelby Steele, Bill Cosby, and several other black citizens of the 60+ year old generation have written opinion in much the same vein. Not one was or is opposed to civil rights and not one supported or supports segregation, discrimination, mindless intolerance, or any of the other societal ills being mentioned here.

He was speaking of something entirely different from those things.

I wonder if anyone would care to comment on what he is actually talking about in the essay?
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:42 pm
Whoever tagged this thread humor got that part right.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:43 pm
The source article wrote:
To see men sitting whilst a woman or elderly person was standing on a crowded bus or trolley car used to be unthinkable. It was common decency for a man to give up his seat.


Unless, of course, you were black, in which case you could move to the back of the bus. Funny how these black men seem to have forgotten that part. Rosa Parks knew what that was all about.
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:47 pm
@Setanta,
Do you suppose there were no women in the back of the bus? He has never defended discrimination or any of the injustices that came out of that in any way. But he would stand up and offer his seat on the bus to a woman. Is that a bad thing somehow? And how do you equate that with "forgetting" what discrimination was like?
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:56 pm
@Foxfyre,
I should qualify my response that Dr. Williams has never defended MINDLESS discrimination based solely on a person's race, gender etc. He is definitely an advocate for intelligent discrimination.

0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  2  
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 01:58 pm
Why is it impossible to only look at some good things without having to dredge through all the chaff the the negative nellies continuously feel they need to add?

Sure, everything wasn't all daisy's and rainbows, and there have been some good advances, but why not try to bring forward the good things from yesterday and join them with the good things today?

 

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