Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Moralism without Morals

In a recent National Review article on the office of Surgeon General, Yuval Levin makes an insightful remark about the new American way of being moralistic but without a reference to any sort of objective morality:

The tone of surgeon-general reports makes for a telling case study in the way health has usurped the place of virtue in America's public vocabulary. Public health is the only remaining language in which to speak of vice -- an old-fashioned word that once would have been the obvious way to refer to, say, smoking and drinking. The self-righteousness that colors the crusade against obesity, smoking, and other modern sins is as near as the Left gets to religion, and the surgeon general fills the role of oracle.

Mencken once memorably said, "Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." The American elite are no longer be truly religious in attitude, but they are still Puritanical.

Yuval Levin "A Doctor, But Whose? Diagnosing the Disorder in the Surgeon General's Office," National Review LIX:15 (August 27, 2007).


Petrus said...

So true. I had friends *cough* acquaintances who thought drunk driving was a mortal sin simply because you might hurt someone. Drinking to excess, in the safety of one's home (or someone else's) was perfectly fine.

Jim Baxter said...
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Lawrence Gage said...

Jim, this sounds like boilerplate, like an advertisement. If you want me to keep your comments, they oughta apply to the post.