sábado, 26 de septiembre de 2015

Questions for Citizens and Corporations about the Common Good

Public Morality and the Lure of Profit

by David L. Tubbs

The liberal campaign to redefine marriage is not over. Attempts to secure constitutional rights to polygamy and polyamory are on the way. Conservatives must pursue a new strategy to thwart private corporations from undermining public morality if we hope to prevent further changes to the institution of marriage and protect other vital elements of public morality.

Even after the economic slowdown of the last eight years, the high standard of living in the United States remains the envy of much of the world. That standard of living depends upon the spirit of entrepreneurship, a broad commitment to free markets, and a vast number of business corporations.

But what happens when corporations make money by undermining crucial elements of public morality in the United States? We have substantial evidence that more and more corporations are doing just that.

What Is “Public Morality”?

Public morality can be understood alongside the concepts of public health and public safety. Two scholars have provided particularly lucid accounts of public morality. For Robert P. George, it is a public good, involving principles of right and wrong and the regulation of individual behavior as it pertains to the common good. In Harry Clor’s account, public morality is an ethic of “decency or civility” that is widely understood to be necessary to the well-being of the community as such. Clor describes it as an “ethic of restraint,” distinguishing it from a competing public ethic of rights and liberties. The ethic of restraint is a “countervailing ethic” meant to restrain “excesses of individualism and sensualism” in contemporary liberal society. Clor notes that policies on public morality have typically dealt with matters such as prostitution, gambling, pornography, and standards of public decency.

Clor is sensitive to the tension between public morality and the lure of profit. Still, he notes that considerations of public morality can occasionally be used for commercial gain, citing the example of New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his campaign to “clean up” Times Square in the 1990s. The motive for that campaign was to attract more tourists to midtown Manhattan. But as Clor knows, that campaign was the exception, not the rule.

Corporate America and the “Ethic of Restraint”

The decade in which the transformation of Times Square started to take place shows how unusual Giuliani’s achievement was. More often, large corporations—typically in the fashion, entertainment, or “lifestyle” industries—mock basic tenets of public morality for commercial gain. Calvin Klein, for example, launched an advertising campaign in 1995 featuring photographs of eighteen-year-old models who looked considerably younger. The ads were regarded by many as child pornography. After widespread public outrage and an initial inquiry from the Justice Department, the company ended the campaign.

In the summer of the same year, Time magazine featured cover stories on the proliferation of internet pornography and the debased character of so much popular music and cinema. Later in the 1990s, the long-running controversy about Abercrombie & Fitch and its ubiquitous “soft” pornographic advertisements began.

In our current social circumstances, we have little reason to expect corporations to promote any “ethic of restraint.” Since the 1990s, the nation has become more secular, and among many Americans a “proudly pagan” mentality has taken root. As Clor reminds us, our “ethic of restraint” mainly derives from religious sources, especially Christianity. And because being anti-Christian—or at least disdainful of Christianity—is de rigueur in progressive circles today, the political influence of traditional Catholics and Protestants in the United States has waned.

Of course, small corporations can also do their fair share of damage to public morality. And small corporations can grow, sometimes spectacularly. The pornography industry, now a multibillion-dollar industry, is illustrative. So, too, casino gambling and state-sponsored lotteries—promoters of the “get rich quick” mentality—were once illegal in most jurisdictions in the United States for most of the twentieth century and now are blossoming.


Read more:

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario