Dear Islam:  Liberty is not the source of our immorality

Copyright 2002, by Alec Rawls

 

If the Islamic world is to come out of its moral, political, economic and technological backwardness, it must embrace liberty. One obstacle is its murderer's row of dictators, terrorists and Islamo-fascist theocrats, all seeking to keep the Islamic world in chains. Another is the in some ways disastrous role model for liberty provided by America and Europe.

The scenes are startling. Pre-teen girls are desperate for boyfriends. Parents can't get their children to pull their pants up. Our kids are great kids, but the dominant influence in their lives is a thrill oriented, prematurely sexualized, drug and violence tinged kid-culture that is utterly beyond parental control. Then comes young-adult culture, where the gloves come off completely.

American parents worry half to death as their children run this gauntlet, even when they themselves were the pioneers of the sexual revolution and the drug revolution and the divorce revolution. Think how this gauntlet looks to those from traditional societies, as ours was a mere forty years ago. If they are sane, they are horrified, and asking themselves with pained disbelief: "The price of liberty is THIS?"

Actually, no. The out of control kid-culture and the paucity of adult control in our society are NOT a product of liberty, but are the result of one of our greatest betrayals of liberty: the public monopoly on education.

If parents could choose their children's education, they would send their kids to schools where adults are in control and inculcate adult goals and standards. Kids that rebel incorrigibly could just be kicked out, leaving their parents to find schools that have the resources to deal with them.

Many parents would choose schools that offer curricula consistent with their own judgements of right and sense, something that public schools cannot morally do. Serving a whole community with diverse views of right and wrong, they cannot morally teach right and wrong, so in part they do not teach it, and when they do teach it, they inevitably get it wrong. They are a political instrument, an instrument of force, while morality comes from individual agreement. Only liberty can get morality right.

When the courts try to lessen the damage, they compound it. The ACLU was able to convince the Supreme Court (correctly) that First Amendment speech rights do not allow government to tell kids how to dress. So how did no one bother to notice that, if government cannot tell children how to dress, it certainly cannot spend twelve years telling them how to think?

Instead of parents being able to pass on their wisdom about how to lead a valuable and effective life by choosing who to charge with their children's education, we get a government imposed moral relativism, trying not to pass judgement, until abdication of judgement has been transmogrified into a perverted principle of right, empowering the idiot rebellious and chopping the legs off of parents.

It is not liberty that is to blame for America's out of control kid-culture, it is violation of liberty. But how in the world can we explain that? Our failure to live up to our principles and our Constitution makes the present struggle for the heart of the Islamic world far more difficult than it ought to be.

This article was originally published in The Stanford Review, 10/24/02. Contact alec@rawls.org

 

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