Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ethics of Democracy

Dan S wrote that he has been in hibernation during this cold snap, putting "The Ethics of Democracy" online in HTML, with a paragraph-by-paragraph "gloss" in the left-hand column for quick reference.

http://www.savingco mmunities. org/docs/ post.louisf/ ethicscontents. html

"The Ethics of Democracy" is probably the most important book by Louis F. Post. Other sites have it in pdf and Kindle formats.

Post was a leader of the progressive movement before it was co-opted by socialists. Like socialists, progressives championed the cause of working people. However, there are important differences, and "Ethics of Democracy" expresses those differences pointedly.

The most important difference is that, while socialism (particularly Marxism) was based on an atheistic utilitarianism, most progressives advocated harmonizing with moral absolutes, which they sometimes labelled "natural law." This distinction is central to "Ethics of Democracy."

I should note that Post did not define atheism as failure to believe in a personal God, but failure to recognize that the universe is governed by moral law: "There are those who thus approach moral questions from fundamental moral principle intuitively perceived, who would disclaim being theists. They are, however, properly enough classified as such, even though they deny a divine personality, for they acknowledge moral truth as absolute. That is the essence of theism, and it distinguishes them from atheists."

The atheist is not best described as one who denies the existence of a personal God. Many a fervent worshipper of God as a personal being, is an atheist nevertheless. Atheism consists essentially in the denial of absolute moral principle - in the assertion that there is no such thing as an axiom of moral right, but that moral questions are to be determined by considerations of expediency ascertained by experiment."

- Part 3, chapter 1, "Honesty the Best Policy"http://www.savingco mmunities. org/docs/ post.louisf/ ethics31. html#essence

Post, like many progressives, saw personal liberty and legal equality as the moral cornerstones of progress, under attack by both amoral plutocratic monopolists on the right and amoral bureaucratic monopolists on the left.

The book gets off to an admittedly slow start, but although it is organized to make a single overall statement, each part and even each chapter within parts stands independently. That is, one can skip or skim sections that are of no particular interest.

Part 1 challenges superficial objections to radical thought that were being made at the time and are still made today. Post tackles four such objections, each with its own chapter. However, as the very similar defects apply to all four objections, reading one chapter invites a "skimming" of other chapters.

Parts 2 and 3 examine the focus on financial success at the expense of others and of one's own personal happiness.

Parts 4 and 5 focus on progressive economic principles. perhaps not as strong on pure economics as Post's mentor, Henry George, had been.

Also, like George, Post seems to have underappreciated the problem of debt-based currency. However, Post is much clearer than George on the difference between the progressive opposition to monopoly and the socialist embracing of monopoly as leading to monopoly socialism.

Part 6, on democratic principles, is quite good. Although Post confounded democracy with majority rule, he has clear statements on the moral limits of government over the individual, an analysis of legal vs. illegal crime, an attack on public debts, an excellent chapter on trial by jury as a protection against abuse, and an essay on why an imperialist nation cannot remain democratic for long.

Post was one of the strongest critics of America's imperialist adventures that resulted from the Spanish American War, and Part 7 contains excellent essays on the patriotic duty to oppose government when it is wrong. It does this from a perspective of profound loyalty to American principles.

I hope you will find these writings informative and enlightening.

Sincerely,Dan Sullivan, director of education Saving Communities 631 Melwood Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213 412.OUR.LAND

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

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