North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Goldberg gets Phat

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Jonah Goldberg’s column at NRO today is very good. What else is new?

[Oliver Wendell] Holmes used the Pragmatic razor to trim the law’s useless fat of morality off, leaving only the efficient muscle and sinew. But as any cook will tell you, it’s the fat gives the flavor to the meat, the theme to the pudding. While it would be no surprise to a Hayekian that the common law was already efficient and useful, as Holmes argued, a conservative would also note that morality plays an important role in the law: It communicates to the average citizen that right and wrong is more than a matter of simply playing the odds. It may well be marginally more efficient to make the law into nothing more than a set of efficient rules for the efficient conduct of commerce (and Holmes’s jurisprudence certainly greased the wheels for America’s industrialization), but by doing so you undermine the role of law as an institution that teaches right from wrong. Sure, societies outlaw murder in part because societies that condone it fall apart. But simply because there’s a utilitarian case for banning homicide doesn’t mean the only case for banning it is utilitarian. Moreover, if you tell people that we ban murder solely because it’s efficient to — and not because it is immoral — you offer no guidance to people who care not a whit about societal inefficiency (which is most of us).

… a good mother will surely explain that proper manners and respect for others is the right thing to do even if it makes your life more difficult. As the saying goes, character is what you do when no one’s looking.

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Written by Curt

January 7, 2005 at 10:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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