Outsourcing Morality

Outsourcing Morality by Robert Gore – Straight Line Logic

Remember when you had to do something virtuous to signal your virtue? Some of the virtuous way back when did virtuous acts and didn’t even tell anyone else about them. If you go into older museums and other civic monuments and look at donors’ names on plaques, you’ll find anonymous donors. They didn’t get a wing named after them, there were no press releases, they just gave to a good cause and that was its own reward. If they were alive today, they wouldn’t have Twitter feeds. Private virtue and public anonymity—incomprehensible!

At least plutocrats who plaster their names where they donate are donating their own money. Perhaps the most odious form of virtue signaling demands everyone’s taxes fund a chosen cause, then claims the same moral stature as the plutocrats. Strictly speaking this can’t be virtue signaling. There’s no virtue, only coercion and theft. The merit, if any, of the cause never justifies the immoral means used to fund it.

Gresham’s law of virtue: phony virtue drives out the real thing. It’s partly mathematical—what the government steals cannot be donated—but it goes much deeper.

There’s an intergenerational understanding rooted in biology: parents take care of children when they’re young; children take of parents when they’re old. Rearing children and caring for aging parents impose inconvenient burdens, but for most of history people had little choice, the only alternative was neglect and abandonment. Enter the state. In most Western countries responsibility for both child rearing and elder care has in whole or in part shifted to it.

Any respectable list of progressive “demands” includes access to day care, either funded or provided by the government. In truly advanced welfare states, day care is already an “entitlement,” like unemployment support or medical care. It’s a comforting sophistry that turning children over to third party caregivers in their formative years doesn’t attenuate the bond between parents and children. Two or three hours a day—always labelled quality time—is not ten or twelve hours a day. Day care personnel attending a group of children cannot devote the time and attention to one child as that child’s stay-at-home parent could.

The flip side of taking care of the young is taking care of the old. Social Security and Medicare are pay-as-you-go transfer schemes masquerading as funded pensions and medical plans. They have, judging by so many aging baby boomers’ lack of assets, nominally relieved individuals of the responsibility to provide for their own golden years. It’s fair to assume that such provision also attenuates for many boomers’ children any obligation they may feel regarding their parents’ support. In fact, the obligation often seems to run the other way, children demanding their boomer parents support them well into adulthood.

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Robert Gore

Robert Gore was born in 1958 in Livermore, California. He grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where both his parents worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His undergraduate education was at UCLA. He graduated in 1980 summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in economics and political science. He completed the JD/MBA program at UC Berkeley in 1984. He held part-time jobs throughout undergraduate and graduate school. He passed the bar exam and is an inactive member of the California Bar Association. Mr. Gore’s career in finance began in 1984 with a bank in San Francisco, trading municipal bonds. In 1985, he went to a Wall Street firm’s west coast municipal bond office in Los Angeles as a bond trader. He developed its block and institutional sales capabilities and after four years was promoted to manager of the region.