The New Puritans

Forrest-McDonald1“There can hardly be room to doubt that the nation has undergone a grave decline in its moral standards; ‘sensitivity’ toward the behavior of others, no matter how despicable, has won; the notion that self-esteem is more important than achievement has won.” Forrest McDonald

Editor’s Note: One of my favorite historians is Forrest McDonald who died January 19th at the age of 89. He fully understood George Orwell’s observation that “During the times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” The following McDonald quote is from The Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2016, p. A 13

Notable & Quotable: Historian Forrest McDonald
‘It is leftists, not conservatives, who are Puritans, who want to make people over in accordance with their views.’
 
Historian Forrest McDonald, who died Jan. 19 at age 89, writing in a 1999 Commentary magazine symposium on the results of the 1998 midterm elections:
 
Still—to turn to the editors’ second question—there can hardly be room to doubt that the nation has undergone a grave decline in its moral standards. Relativism and permissiveness have won; “sensitivity” toward the behavior of others, no matter how despicable, has won; the notion that self-esteem is more important than achievement has won.
 
Many reasons for the decline can be adduced, not least among them being the intrusiveness into our lives of the corruption that pervades Washington. Earlier, the Grant and Harding administrations were corrupt, but the scandals had virtually no impact upon society; the federal government had nothing to do, for example, with the way parents raised their children. Now, by contrast, the government pokes its nose into everything, including standards of morality. To cite but one kind of instance, the Catholic church’s charities and the Salvation Army, which have been traditional carriers of religion and morality as well as of succor, now refrain from espousing religion and morality, lest they lose their government funding.
 
It is federal money that corrupts: take their money and they own you. Most people probably know this but are willing to take the money anyway. I once heard Frank Sinatra say on a talk show that it was easy enough to get along with the Mafia. “Just don’t ever let them do you a favor.” The same advice applies to the federal government.
 
Nevertheless, despite the general moral decline, I would insist that there is no widespread neo-Puritan impulse among conservatives. It is leftists, not conservatives, who are Puritans, who want to make people over in accordance with their views—in myriad ways, ranging from stamping out smoking to imposing correct thought; and that has been true since Rousseau. They constitute the most serious threat to our cherished freedoms.
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