The Problem with Morality

Fighting sweatshop labor, getting fair wages for Third World coffee farmers, protecting the traditional family, and keeping people away from Internet porn are all moral crusades these days. To varying degrees almost all such crusades are all good for people, "good" meaning people will really experience benefits.

Still, moral crusading causes problems, aside from the obvious problem of the other side winning the battle. Who wants to see their side lose in a moral struggle over homosexual rights or whatever? Who wants to see society race along in "the wrong direction"? .

Sometimes "crackpot" moral crusades are easy to identify and we can tell that people are wasting their time. Is there really any social value in fighting to outlaw masturbation for example? Or premarital sex? Or private property? (Remember when I claimed that almost all moral crusades are good to some degree? Those three are exceptions!)

Then there are all of those other well-intentioned crusades that may not be worth the trouble. Consider the idea that we ought to buy fair trade coffee, crafts created by worker-owned collectives, and organic food.

Consider the massive amounts of time and money Americans pour into efforts that have questionable value. Why not buy cheap food and donate money to an environmental organization? Why not buy cheap art, then donate money to an international development organization? Why not donate time and money to efforts that will really help families?

All I’m saying is this: As a society we need to be more rational about how we use our resources to fight moral crusades. Don’t just pick your battles, weigh the costs and benefits of your battle before you pick one. Society will be better off because of your efforts.

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~ by chetdavis on August 23, 2006.

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