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Phony Virtue is Ruining Western Society

What counts as virtue among Western elites? As Aristotle teaches, if you can identify what a society considers to be virtuous or good, you can understand the moral outlook of that society’s institutions, from its schools to its foreign policy. One needs only to study any gathering of American elite culture to see that virtue, traditionally centered in personal character, has become redefined as public sympathy for humanitarian causes. When watching any cultural awards program, for example, one is treated to a parade of “beautiful” souls voicing support for myriad progressive causes. This moral preening has become so commonplace that a term has developed to characterize it: “virtue signaling.”

The West’s moral outlook is now animated by the widespread belief that virtue is measured by one’s professed sympathy for causes such as combatting homelessness, extending civil rights for various protected groups, and decrying poverty in far-off places. The more publicly ostentatious one is in attaching oneself to these causes, the more virtue one is assigned by our elite culture.

Yet the continuing sex scandals of our elites are (pardon the phrase) laying bare the inadequacy of this definition of virtue. In Hollywood and other elite institutions, puffed-up paragons of “virtue” reign, but backstage are characters such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer, people wholly lacking self-control, decency, moderation, temperance, and civility. In short, many of “the beautiful souls” who have been telling us how to live are reprobates–or protecting them, either tacitly or directly. While there are many perfectly praiseworthy philanthropies and social causes, the glib dismissal of personal probity and the substitution of a moralistic public commitment to “society” and “the world” has corroded our understanding of morality.

We might simply chalk this up to the everlasting tendency of human beings toward hypocrisy. Yet something more insidious is at work: Over the past 300 years, Western culture has overthrown its traditional understanding of virtue and replaced it with an ersatz morality. This revolution has allowed personally vile people to claim the loftiest moral standing while, in their daily lives, freely treating those around them with gross disrespect and abuse. The Clinton Foundation is the cleverest and most cynical exploitation of this perversion of virtue: associate yourself with a smorgasbord of progressive causes while grabbing as much money as you can. Solving the world’s problems is less important than the moral approval associated with one’s public commitment to solving them. In short, morally substandard and self-aggrandizing human beings are the very people who are now regularly engaged in moral preening.

Traditional moral philosophy once recognized that, within each individual, there are two selves. The human soul is made up of a range of impulses, desires, and passions, but there is also a voice in the soul that works to control these impulses and desires. St. Paul described this duality as the “law of the flesh” and the “law of the Spirit.” Virtue, traditionally understood, belonged to the individual who performed the inner work required to overcome unjust desires and shape his temperament according to something higher in his own nature. A person of character must subject impulse to self-control. Confucius put it this way: “That wherein the superior man cannot be equaled is simply this—his work which other men cannot see.”

This traditional understanding of virtue as inner ethical work is all but gone. Morality is no longer understood as reforming oneself, thus making oneself a better member of society, but as wishing to reform society. This new morality of social conscience has replaced the virtue of St. Paul and Aristotle, which combined an awareness of the darker side of our humanity with an effort to overcome it and develop our higher humanity. Though moral progress was possible, human flaws dictated humility and ruled out moral pretentiousness.  

A central intellectual figure in the re-definition of virtue was the 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rejecting the definition of virtue as ethical work and personal effort, Rousseau took precisely the opposite position: men are born good and virtue requires no ethical work. Goodness is found in spontaneous emotion, in sentimentality, and in instinct. Rousseau finds it in the noble savage, the “natural,” pre-social man who is untouched by the trappings, rules, and admonitions of civilization. For Rousseau’s strain of Romanticism, traditional checks upon impulse and desire are not virtues but vices. In Rousseau’s legacy, the irreverent and vulgar Bohemian emerges as more natural and good than the refined and polite gentleman. Virtue ceases to be a matter of character and personal action. It becomes an emotional sympathy with the plight of the downtrodden; the admirable are those who foment societal revolutions not those who master themselves. As the famous Harvard scholar Irving Babbitt remarked of Rousseau: “He was the inventor of that cant-phrase, ‘goodness of heart,’ which is everyday used as a substitute for probity, and means little more than the virtue of a dog or a horse.”

Rousseau’s understanding of morality has, of course, had great appeal in the West, for obvious reasons. His morality does not require that one train oneself to avoid very pleasurable vices; one can throw personal restraint to the wind and assume the mantle of virtue simply by attaching oneself to an approved “idealistic” social movement. Under the Rousseauistic notion of morality, one can, as Hollywood knows, simultaneously be vile and virtuous. Western theatergoers have, for 150 years, affirmed Rousseau’s ethics by cheering for Jean Valjean, the thief and ex-con in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, whose revolutionary fervor for the poor washes away any personal failings.


Rousseau’s destruction of the long-held definition of virtue has had disastrous effects on Western institutions, from the family to organized religion to government. But consider the impact in just two areas of American life: education and foreign policy. Elite higher education in the United States in the early 19th century entailed a curriculum that sought to reinforce the traditional understanding of virtue. Students read the classics, such as Plutarch’s Lives and the Bible, with the goal of becoming gentlemen who had the character, temperament, and knowledge to serve as national leaders. This earlier tradition of higher education was tarnished by class-based snobbery, overt racial discrimination, and the denial of opportunities for women—deficiencies that could have been corrected over time without throwing out a traditional understanding of morality. But the latter is precisely what the most famous reformers of higher education did.  

In the late 19th century, Harvard President Charles Eliot sought to align the university mission with Rousseau’s understanding of virtue. The goal of higher education was not to produce leaders of superior character and probity, but to address social causes. “Service” to the nation and to mankind, not character, became the goal of higher education. Harvard, Eliot thought, must produce leaders who could run large companies, unlock the secrets of the atom, and find ways to alleviate the plight of the “lower classes.” Courses in the great Western classics that taught students about their own nature as moral beings became “electives” while courses designed to equip mankind for both scientific and humanitarian endeavors became the heart of the university, as it is today.  

In politics, the re-definition of virtue in elite universities as “service to humanity” has produced a leadership class that believes American domestic and foreign policy is only “moral” when it involves humanitarian goals and crusading. American foreign policy, particularly in the post-Cold War era, has been characterized by self-glorifying and self-aggrandizing rhetoric about America’s global commitment to the great causes of democracy, human rights, international institutions, and the rule of law. Speeches by American policymakers have the same moral flavor as that perennial speech at the Oscars by a narcissistic Hollywood star claiming the mantle of virtue through an ostentatious display of his or her exceptional social conscience. The foreign-policy elites of both parties proclaim America as the “exceptional” nation, with no need to second-guess its actual behavior on the world stage, virtuous by the very nature of its noble pedigree. One may characterize this strain of foreign policy thinking in various ways, but “conservative” is not one of them.  

The now century-old American foreign policy rhetoric, from Wilson’s commitment to make the world “safe for democracy” to George W. Bush’s goal of “ending tyranny in our world,” can only be described as virtue signaling. The yawning gap between our leaders’ moral preening and the concrete reality of our foreign policy was on full display in the flowery rhetoric and action of the president who launched the war in Iraq. Hubristically, he asserted that the “urgent requirement of our nation’s security” was to restore human rights and dignity given to all people by the “Maker of Heaven and earth.” The practical reality was gruesome for the Iraqi people and the soldiers who fought there, with thousands of dead and the unraveling of Iraqi society.

Bush asserted that America’s beautiful soul has the potential to redeem the world and that our foreign policy is the very handmaiden of the Almighty. Implied was that restraint in foreign policy does not apply to such a god-like nation and only those countries with non-beautiful souls—the not-so-exceptional ones—need to have their foreign policy circumscribed.

Yet, like the ersatz virtue of Hollywood, the reality of American foreign policy is not quite so morally lofty. America’s boastful virtue signaling against dictators, for example, has killed tens of thousands of innocents in Iraq and Syria, created a zombie state in Libya, and may some day instigate a nuclear war with Russia. As in Hollywood, at the forefront of American foreign policy are prideful proclamations of sympathy for the oppressed in other nations, but backstage one finds the droning of innocents and whole nations reduced to terrorism, famine, and anarchy.  

It is an enormously welcome development that a plethora of realist scholars of foreign policy are emerging at prestigious places such as Harvard, MIT, Tufts, and Notre Dame to point out the real-world consequences of this hubristic foreign policy. Desperately needed in diplomacy and national security policy are men and women of sagacity and real-life experience who can take the place of the crusading humanitarians.    

Those wishing to change American foreign policy should also recognize the genuine appeal of our elites’ moralistic tone. As Aristotle recognized, all human beings and societies aim at “some good.” It is the highly dubious, even perverse moralism of our current foreign policy of redeeming mankind that needs to be replaced with a genuine morality and the realism that is indistinguishable from it. For a realist foreign policy to have broad appeal, particularly among young people, it must offer a persuasive account of the true nature of morality and a vision for foreign policy grounded in that sounder morality. Our leaders must begin to distinguish between real virtue and shoddy, destructive, ersatz virtue both in themselves and their nation.  

William S. Smith is research fellow and managing director of the Center for the Study of Statesmanship at The Catholic University of America.

41 Comments (Open | Close)

41 Comments To "Phony Virtue is Ruining Western Society"

#1 Comment By Nelson On December 7, 2017 @ 12:48 am

Conciseness is apparently a lost virtue too.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 7, 2017 @ 1:12 am

The moral preening is accompanied by the basest actions. I don’t think the virtue signaling is sincere. It’s like back in high school: “Let’s not, but say we did.”

#3 Comment By Realist On December 7, 2017 @ 3:33 am

The fact that some people value the opinions of entertainers is pathetic.

#4 Comment By KD On December 7, 2017 @ 9:29 am

Let’s be clear, modern American “moralizing” is rhetoric, and legitimated by serving up carefully selected and heavily edited examples intend to play on sentimentality.

This rhetoric is persuasive in the masses, but rhetoric is a tool to get people to believe and support policies that are contrary to their actual interests. The danger of rhetoric is that it clouds the mind to the point you actually begin to believe your own rhetoric.

The traditional virtues were based on behavior, specifically behavior exhibiting a large measure of self-discipline and self-control. The first problem with the virtues is that they are hard work, and Americans want a magic pill that instantly makes them virtuous (and lose 15 lbs, and have a better complexion). Virtue-signalling serves as a pseudo-morality that doesn’t require any work, just re-tweeeting vapid celebrity quotes.

The second problem with the virtues is that consumer capitalism requires a consumer, which is basically an empty and ever hungry vacuole willing to feed and consume anything and everything available. “You deserve a break today.” Exhibiting the self-discipline required for the classical virtues would restrict a person’s ability to manifest their “true self” which generally requires indulging in self-destructive and antisocial behaviors, and at very least, exhibiting an unmitigated narcissism incompatible with the communal reference point from which the virtues emerge.

As a practical matter, one would have to go in search of a new man before you could pass “go”.

#5 Comment By EarlyBird On December 7, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

There is an opposite but related side to this. While indecent people are lauded for their expressions of public sympathy for the latest Good Cause, many others who may be decent in their own personal lives and actions towards others are slimed as “haters” merely because they hold traditional, non-progressive views.

#6 Comment By andy On December 7, 2017 @ 12:34 pm

Do you actually get to write for TAC without having a basic understanding of how charitable foundations operate?
Your editors might want to consider the ramifications of allowing glaring factual errors in published articles.

#7 Comment By TheIdiot On December 7, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

The likes of the Clinton Foundation and more generally the entire DC establishment is exactly why John Galt said, ‘altruism is evil.’

It has taken me a long time to see that Galt was wrong. He DOES provide an alternative to this moralizing culture. But it ends up only an easy out for me; excusing me of my own failings while I righteously rant against these hypocrites.

This culture has secularized Christian virtue sans personal sacrifice and duty. We have completely lost the plot. It is not that we have lost the moral sense of what we ‘ought’ to do. It is only that we have, each one of us, conveniently deligated what we ‘ought’ to do to a broader culture. But if we cannot/do not take individual responsibility, why should we trust our institutions will? Everybody’s dog is nobody’s dog. When will victims realize that this virtue-signaling is only meant to appeal with no intent to help; to help would reduce the voting block.

The road forward, both personally and culturally, is hidden in the fog for this idiot.

#8 Comment By Mel Profit On December 7, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

This is unusually good piece—especially in its linking of the empty moralizing of the entertainment elite with the Wilson school of US foreign policy. Never has so much elevated speech and spirit produced such debauched results

#9 Comment By Dan Green On December 7, 2017 @ 2:35 pm

Anyone with half a brain, should not be surprised by what emulates from Hollywood, or the TV media. They market sexism, and that is what their fans thrive on. This crap sells.

#10 Comment By David Smith On December 7, 2017 @ 3:06 pm

Another example of virtue signaling and not much else: “Thank you for your service.”

#11 Comment By paradoctor On December 7, 2017 @ 4:36 pm

I did a word-search on this article for “Roy Moore”. No results. Then “Trump”. Ditto.

You were saying something about phony moralism?

#12 Comment By Lee Marston On December 7, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean becomes a man of virtue in Les Miserables, a redemption story proving that an embittered thief can be transformed by grace. The reformed Valjean generously cares for the poor, but also achieves true nobility of character. He does not hold grudges against those who pursue him (spares Javert), he turns himself in rather than allow an innocent man to be jailed by mistake. He rescues Marius from the barricade out of love for Cosette and concern for her happiness–even though he fears losing her company. On the whole, this is a solid article, but I don’t think Hugo’s work is a good example of Rousseau’s “ethics.”

#13 Comment By The Wet One On December 7, 2017 @ 6:28 pm

Here’s some old timey virtue: [1]

Were things better then?

Serious question.

#14 Comment By Scott On December 7, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

At fundraising dinners for causes that protect the innocent defenseless from abuse, they eat animal products — which are made through the vicious abuse of the innocent defenseless.

#15 Comment By Andrew On December 7, 2017 @ 9:49 pm

It is easier to make grand statements about how society could be better – something no one person has any control over – than to put one’s own life in order – something the individual is actually responsible for.

#16 Comment By Youknowho On December 8, 2017 @ 7:24 am

When to comes to charitable giving, and giving an aura of virtue to those who give, how is the Clinton Foundation any worse that Mother Theresa, who accepted donations from serious human right abusers who then got an aura of virtue?

Charitable giving is like that. You have to stroke the ego of your donors to keep them giving. As long as the money goes to where it is supposed to do, then there’s no complaint

#17 Comment By F.R. Duplantier On December 8, 2017 @ 8:01 am

Here’s an essay on virtue signaling from 1987, long before the term existed: [2]

#18 Comment By Youknowho On December 8, 2017 @ 12:14 pm

You might want to comment on virtue signaling, and there is a lot to be written about it (though it is said that hypocriy is the tribute vice pay to virtue – and it never hurt to point out to society what is to be admired and imitated, and what shunned – call it education).

But charity is a different endeavor. Basically it is getting money out of people, and giving them warm fuzzy feelings in return. How many, and how fuzzy and warm depends on how much you need the money, and how much their ego needs to be stroked.

You may call it the modern equivalent of selling indulgences.

Personally, I ask two things of any charity: That they use the money on a goal I support, and that the bulk of the money collected is put to good use. The rest, how much they have to whore to get it, is besides the point.

#19 Comment By Ray Woodcock On December 8, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

This article provides the service of expressing what is wrong with certain other people’s concept of virtue. As some commenters have observed, from [3], the article leaves that job half-done.

#20 Comment By Youknowho On December 8, 2017 @ 6:35 pm

You do not like the virtue signaling in supporting charities, and the pandering that charities have to engage in?

Support a robust, inclusive welfare state.

Then people in need will not have to resort to charities, and charities can handle the outliers, the ones that fall through the cracks. When the demand contracts, it will be possible for charities to attract only the pure of heart, who give purely out of love for neighbor.

As it is, the demand is too great, and charities cannot afford to turn away those who just want to preen themselves as to how charitable they are.

Sure, Angeline Jolie visiting refugee camps can be irritating and we can scream “phony” But do you think the refugees, and those who ministe to them care that much about her motives? They are grateful for what they can get, and if stroking her ego keeps the flow coming their way, then by all means, pander to her.

As I said if you want all that preening to stop, provide a more reliable support for the obects of charity – and if that means by government, so be it.

#21 Comment By Hal Fiore On December 9, 2017 @ 12:28 am

At first I thought this would be just one more right-wing snarkfest against leftist celebrities. And there was certainly a hefty portion of that (along with the gratuitous swipe at the Clintons), but that all turned out to be an intro to the core point regarding US foreign policy and its philosophical foundations. Well done!

Unfortunately, few of your readers, judging from the comments, seem to have gotten that. Oh, well, love them or hate them, we are a celebrity-obsessed culture.

But what does it say that we are now led by a celebrity who has no visible use for any form of morality whatsoever?

#22 Comment By Dan Green On December 9, 2017 @ 9:19 am

To make some sense of foreign policy study realism. The rest is gibberish .

#23 Comment By Youknowho On December 9, 2017 @ 12:54 pm

Well, why do you conflate celebrities and bad foreign policy decisions?

As far as I can recall most celebrities were against the Iraq war, which W rammed down our throats. Ask the Dixie chicks about it. And there were no celebrity calls to do Lybia.

So, if you want to discuss realism in foreing policy (which in my view is the cynical support of “good” dictators to oppress their people) do not bring in irrelevant points.

#24 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 9, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

It’s hard to speak to an article that demands a personal level of integrity beyond hopping band wagons of group causes. I took this article to be just that individual virtue is no substitute for a cause to demonstrate one’s virtue.

The author in my view is not challenging the validity of charity. He is challenging that the public use of shaming for not belonging to said charitable cause can be a substitute for personal accountability.

No. I hate those commercials in which that put ondisplay hurt and threatened animals. Not because I don’t think animals need protecting — they do. But those commercials are painful and guilt inducing. Every time they come on , I am forced to remind myself on the thousands we have spent rescuing cats.

No. of course, I have no intention of supporting anyone engages in some kind of systemic abuse, but must I find every accused guilty on the spot, just because they are accused? I don’t think so. But it is clear that not only is it required — it’s the best defense. So not me. Something wrong with an ethos demands mob justice in the name of virtue.

And am curious where it ends. The etst for what is applicable appears to be more political than m oral. Now conservatives have traditionally held a much higher standard on the issue of personal virtue. And it is not that it has been abandoned, But rather that it is clear that no level of level is sacred in the minds of the press and those with an agenda. As prudish as I am , when stripped bare, I cringe at what bumps my entire life has. And I used to think, that the shame of it was the rod — and that rod had value.

But what has happened is that when a political agenda is at stake, no history is to past, no context matters, and that means in my view that no one is safe. Because when you get old, you realize that few have lived lives clean enough to bear public scrutiny today . Which is why a lot of talented, intelligent, people with integrity simply don’t run.

And I certainly do not applaud the Conservatives involved in the virtue parade against Pres Clinton in response to the virtue attempted lynching of Justice Thomas. It was a might nasty bit of work. But I guess the party leadership fell for the “whatever it takes to win” practice. What we are seeing is what happens once you go down that road — it’s easy and it never ends. Because it is only buffered by prudence and the world is with increasing vigor shedding prudence.

I was no more inclined to jump on the Clinton parade anymore than I was the Thomas parade. I guess what should happen when some muck about one’s life arises is – the noble resignation. Which if that is the soul point, seems to me misses the point.

Since I am schooled in rhetoric, I am going to defend it purpose by noting what it is not.

It is not a means to obfuscate the truth or merely to say the opinions to a particular point of view at any cost as suggested previous.

The US does have robust inclusive a welfare programs. Those excluded should be those who are not in this country legally, or abuse the system , or simply don’t qualify. But it has been popular to toss about

“What would Jesus do.”

Jesus could have healed every single sick person on the planet, given everyone a a chicken or two in every pot . . . yet he did not do so. But liberals have been relentlessly throwing up crosses and daring Christians to challenge it. And the worse liberals dig, at the various plays of using the Christ they abhor because he demands one reject same relational behavior, murdering children in the womb, respect for parents, etc. There is but one God and he is his son.

Liberals have spent the last fourty years on a tear against all things conventional – regardless of how virtuous and now want to zig zag through what constitutes virtue to suit their political ends. And nothing has been more disabused than the ploy to guilt people of faith into all manner of causes.

1. immigration — sorry christ would not support illegal immigration. He would attend to their immediate needs, but any suggestion that he would support breaking what is a rather common law among states — borders that in no way hinders his mission — and it doesn’t — is the current “virtue” signal guilt trip on display.

2. Support for healthcare is another liberal — what would Jesus do cause.

3. Protecting children in the womb from the murderous intents of his or her mother has become, a war on women. Apparently liberals do have a line when it comes to pressing Jesus as a murdering physician in the matter of health.

4. Nothing has been more convoluted and disastrous on the human stage in the personal lives of individuals than using Jesus as a crusader in tangled, thin veil of “sexual abuse” scandals and sex trafficking. It remains the go to play that entraps Christians and puts them in bed with the political deviations of liberals to a virtuous cause. Anyone who does not immediately decry the matter must be on the side of child abusers and trafficking.

Virtue so as to be made a useless standard save in some cause of agendized group maneuvering.

Pres Bush is a warmonger along with his band of Darth Vaderian horde. But the previous Pres and his Secretary of State along with their band Russian hating crusaders advanced regime change as heroes of freedom and democracy against despots. Virtue has always been a tool of the unsavory, but never with so much unashamed broadbrush “me tooism”.

There is comfort in this, that women supposedly unleashed from the bounds of conventional and traditional practice are proving to be no more virtuous in the advances as the men they have spent the last fourty years castigating.

That is a relief — it’s them too.

#25 Comment By Paul Peterson On December 9, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

It’s a bit ironic I think, you have to believe that Socities exist and exist for a reason before you can lecture how Societies should behave. Please read Quigley, we are not all the same, we do not all share the same interests. We can help anihilate ourselves by denying who we are. Should we allow good feelings to become our preservation? I’m not convinced that all share these “feelings” and I’m eternally greatful for those who stand ready to do harm to others on our behalf. They do so because they believe they must defend their Society. I can not thank them enough.

#26 Comment By Youknowho On December 9, 2017 @ 7:01 pm


I do not know what gets you riled. I just did the math.

You can have a far more robust cradle to grave welfare and private charity that channels the best impulses of those practicing virtue – and which can afford to screen the donors. And which does not work on your guilt feelings, nor calls you when you are sitting down to luch to extract a pledge.

OR (non-inclusive or)

You can have disminished government provision and let charity take care of the needy. In which case, when their casework jumps through the roof then you see all the unlovely aspects of private charitiy fundraising – guilt inducing, virtue signaling, celebrity courting, and calls when you are sitting down for dinner asking for pledge. And it has nothing to do with ideology. Why do you think that Mother Theresa got chummy with Pricess Diana?

Decide what you object most, and then act on it. And endure the unpleasant consequences of your choice with a smile. And understand why others choose the other alternative, because they find your some aspects of your alternative more objectionable.

#27 Comment By Youknowho On December 9, 2017 @ 7:11 pm

I wonder why the author lays the blame of our feckless foreign policy to modernity – unless he thinks that the US was born in modernity.

In fact American Exceptionalism was a constant feature since the founding of the Republic. Be it the Puritans believing in a Covenant with God to provide a moral example to the world, be it the republicanism installed by the Revolution, to be a model to feudal and monarchical Europe, be it Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty, it was present at the beginning, and has marked our foreign policy.

According to this, the fault if John Calvin’s


#28 Comment By Leslie Jacobs On December 10, 2017 @ 7:25 am

There is an irrational element at the heart of Western “thought.” Law for the religions of the West begins with Moses coming down off Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, five of which come word for word from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Moses was writing at the end of the Late Bronze age, fifteen hundred years after the Pyramids, and he was, it is said, given an education by the scribes of the court. Moses was giving the people the wisdom of the ages, a condensation of what literate people had learned by watching civilisation rise and fall several times.

However, Americans believe that virtue and law should be obtained by taking votes of the people. Moses should have been sent packing while the people did their own thing running around the golden calf, according to the logic of Jefferson. “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” For Americans the truth does not come from literate records of what has worked in the past but from the magic inner desires of the public.

There is no way that one can logically believe in the foundations of American democracy and at the same time believe in any Western religion or the values of Confucius. This modern Western fetish is from Viking lore, Spartan, barbarian nonsense all the way. It is not about civilisation at all, which is about learning from the written legacy of the past.

#29 Comment By Youknowho On December 10, 2017 @ 9:32 am

@Hal Fiore

If the author wanted to talk about the flawed assumptions of the US foreign policy, he did not need to go on meandering about celebrities, nor virtue signaling, nor any contemporary mores.

In fact, others have commented on it, and gone back to the beginning – finding it from the start of the Republic. It is called American exceptionalism, and what this writer describes is how it manifests itself these days.

Here is a more historical take on it


#30 Comment By blackhorse On December 10, 2017 @ 4:54 pm

Sorry. A movement that nominated Trump has no standing to argue about virtue. Period. And you are going to have to look closer to home than JJR to explain why that happened.

#31 Comment By blackhorse On December 10, 2017 @ 5:08 pm

re EliteC on WWJD: since Yeshua business was not of this world, the raised in your post really fall outside his scope. One has to extrapolate? Thus re immigration–would he separate families? Drive people from where the only home they have known? Healthcare is an extension of caring for the poor (duh). Re 3, it is one thing to be for birthing babies, another to care for them. Yr take on points 1 and 2 does not make that too promising.

#32 Comment By Daniel Baker On December 10, 2017 @ 10:34 pm

Lee Marston – thank you. I was trying to write something about the article’s abuse of Jean Valjean, but that was much better than I could have done.

#33 Comment By ElitecommInc. On December 11, 2017 @ 7:43 pm

“I do not know what gets you riled. I just did the math.

You can have a far more robust cradle to grave welfare and private charity that channels the best impulses of those practicing virtue – and which can afford to screen the donors. And which does not work on your guilt feelings, nor calls you when you are sitting down to luch to extract a pledge.

OR (non-inclusive or)

You can have disminished government provision and let charity take care of the needy. In which case, when their casework jumps through the roof then you see all the unlovely aspects of private charitiy fundraising – guilt inducing, virtue signaling, celebrity courting, and calls when you are sitting down for dinner asking for pledge. And it has nothing to do with ideology. Why do you think that Mother Theresa got chummy with Pricess Diana?

Decide what you object most, and then act on it. And endure the unpleasant consequences of your choice with a smile. And understand why others choose the other alternative, because they find your some aspects of your alternative more objectionable.”

I am not sure what the issues are given your response.

I am all in favor of private charities. And I have no doubts about their ability to actually accomplish what the federal government charities do not.

But I am going to be leary of any charity that suggests an ethos against traditional relations. And I am full support of faith based charities that outstrip federal spending. In fact, without faith based charitable support the nation and most likely the planet would be a far worse place to live, in my view.

I say that acknowledging that charities in the US were originally fashioned on the premises of christian ethos, despite largely being banned to blacks in the country.

As for guilt mongering — ha.

“since Yeshua business was not of this world, the raised in your post really fall outside his scope. One has to extrapolate? Thus re immigration–would he separate families? Drive people from where the only home they have known? Healthcare is an extension of caring for the poor (duh). Re 3, it is one thing to be for birthing babies, another to care for them. Yr take on points 1 and 2 does not make that too promising.”

Not at all. But I find it curious that you attempt to decouple christian faith and practice from an issue such as immigration and then proceed to argue the christian faith’s role in parent child responsibility.

So let’s take the first attempt to decouple.

The role of faith has played a major role in shaping the cultural and social mores of the country. And while we adopted the and pushed further the struggles of Great Britain in separating a government imposition on who practices what, people of faith bring that faith to bear on their understanding of politics.

Christ had little to say concerning politics. But it is clear that he never challenged laws that did not prevent his mission. In short he paid his taxes and obeyed said laws. He made it clear that some manner of appropriation goes to Caesar. He did not preach against military service for christians nor did he refuse to extent faith and practice to members of the state, despite not being Jewish — healing the Centurion’s servant. It is safe to say that the state was a tool for that God would use inspite of itself. Christ operated withing the laws or Rome. In fact, when Paul was accused, he pulled his political card — claiming that as a Roman citizen, he must be accorded the rights of the same.

I find it curious that you want to have the cake and it in the same boat at the same time. The law acknowledges that children are under the rule or responsibility of their parents. The bizarre faux argument that their is some confusion about what happens to children when their parents travel from point a to point b is laughable. Of course children go with their parents.

There is no mistaking the Constitution of citizenship and the fact of merely being born here does not qualify. In either case, the expectation that children head to their native lands with their parents. It is also a strange argument because in the case of Mexicans and other ethnicity south — it is often contended that they are family strong and supportive. So a question of where children go is peculiar.

Hmmmm . . . I am afraid if drive is the term you wish to use, I have to respond that they are occupying territory that is not their home. Every resource they take, use, or access in any manner has denied a fellow citizen. And my charity must first be to my own family —

Now we in the US are and will continue to be very generous. As well as our robust faith based community. I have done charity work in Mexico. And at no time did any law in the US or in Mexico prevent me or anyone else I labored with from doing whatever work we felt called to do.

You are confusing the story of the good Samaritan, which is responding to a person in crisis in the immediate need of help — which christians do as routine. via private and government methods.

This country has manged to ensure that children are born and raised before the practice of murdering them in the womb. I suspect that we can do so again and do so more effectively. And the argument that suggests murder is a fair response to the hardships of life belies both motive and sincerity in the case being attempted here. A charity that puts me in bed with killing children in the womb on the premise that their future care will shrift is the kind of soothsaying and diabolical supposition I am unwilling to embrace.

Unfortunately, charity alone is insufficient to the call.

Ah, the attempted switch. I have answered all of these positions in my first response. The issue was not healthcare, but the attempt to guilt play the matter as you attempted to with children and parents being driven from the only home and each other they have ever known — gambit. False dichotomies both. Like healthcare and murdering children.

Christ would no more support killing children than he would support relations outside of marriage or same sex relations.

Furthermore — and this should kill any further manipulative games — When christ spoke, when the apostle spoke — it was to the churches not the government. But he never made argument that christians should abstain from participating in their communities. There will come a time when this will be near impossible if at all. But until that time comes, as citizens, as Paul laid claim to his rights as a Roman citizen — so too can christians embrace their rights as citizens of the US and challenge the illegal infringement thereof. without losing an ounce of God’s grace or sense of justice by that unique membership — guilt mongering aside.

Ohh good grief, a vote for Mr Trump is not in and of itself a loss of virtue. one measures their political ideals to that of the candidate and decides who will best fulfill them. One accepts that the candidates are human beings. One hopes for the best, but is ever mindful, that these are people and in the case of christians, there’s no evidence that a great pastor would make as good a president. It’s a management post.

I am not ashamed of my vote for Mr trump and despite the employ of a good many tactics to heap shame on myself for that vote, it must be rejected. One need not approve of every statement, or act or policy to support him.

No Presidential supporter walks away unscathed by presidential tenure.

#34 Comment By ElitecommInc. On December 11, 2017 @ 7:55 pm

“Decide what you object most, and then act on it. And endure the unpleasant consequences of your choice with a smile. And understand why others choose the other alternative, because they find your some aspects of your alternative more objectionable.”

In a discussion about “the use of virtue” for political ends, your comments are in left field. I could no more object to Mother Theresa obtaining support from princess Dianna than I would the value of rescuing a kitten. It has just occurred to that tour entire response is a call to virtue by way of social guilt, regardless of what my personal virtue status is.

Which as I understand it is the point of the article. Disguise a dreft of sincere moral character in place of a social cause. Mother Theresa’s mission was a personal mission — a personal virtue. Princess Dianna’s call to remove landmines was partially born out of her guilt on the matter — making it a personal righting of a wrong done by western cultures of which she was a part. A righting of her conscience, so to speak. It was not a badge to excuse or hide personal failings.

#35 Comment By Youknowho On December 12, 2017 @ 8:44 am


Well, you like some charities and not others. So do I.

But since the goal of charities is NOT the moral improvement of the donors, but the relieving of suffering of those in need of help there area only two standards of how to judge them:

What is their goal, their target? Is it a goal I deem worthy?

How effective are they? How much of the money collecte goes into the field instead of being swallowed up by expenses?

After that, the moral state of the donors is irrelevant. Maybe giving the money makes them feel better. Maybe it somehow improves their character in that it forces to think of someone else beside themselves.

Yeah, you can compare the motives of Mother Theresa and Princess Diana. But the fact is that the Mother Theresas NEED the Princess Dianas to carry out their mission. So, they pander to them.

This is the downside of letting private charity take care of the needy instead of putting the Government in charge.

You want Government out? Then grin and bear at the pandering, and do not complain if the donors use it as a badge to excues or hide personal faiings…. Think of it as selling indulgences. Are you ready to nail your thesis on a door and go on a diet of worms?

#36 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 12, 2017 @ 11:15 pm

Since the only comments I consider relevant to the initial discussion, even if barely are the comments concerning the two advocates previously mentioned.

And of those only a response to one need be pressed.

Mother Theresa has been healing the sick, tending to the poor and ministering to people before Princess Dianna was born. If anything Princess Dianna needed her.


to suggest otherwise demonstrates a deep canyon of ignorance about who she was and her place on the planet. To top it off, she would embarrassed by comments and shun them — sincerely.

As for the rest, whether government is a good source of charity or ill is not really the point of the discussion. I stand where I came in.

#37 Comment By Roslyn Ross On December 15, 2017 @ 7:06 pm

It is not that religion is required for society to value ethics, morals and integrity, but that in tossing out religion the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.

#38 Comment By Jade On December 17, 2017 @ 7:40 am

I am surprised the article does not mentin the current President, that paragon of virtue.

#39 Comment By Pussilaminous On December 18, 2017 @ 5:59 pm

Virtue signalling is neither modern nor confined to the left. It’s what traditional morality was always about. Signalling one’s virtue by going to church, by supporting the king or whatever regime was in power, by killing people in wars, by proclaiming one’s belief in God or Jesus or whichever religious faith was deemed holy or virtuous. And at the same time, basically looking after oneself and one’s own people’s interests with little concern for one’s own moral life, ore even the moral life of the leaders of that day. so long as they supported the “virtuous cause”. See Crusades, as only one example.

Virtue signaling is vicarious salvation, common to Christianity and other religions from their beginning. Someone else makes a great sacrifice (Jesus), and everyone else who merely supports him gets saved also, as if they’d done something important. And those who didn’t, are damned.

#40 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 18, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

” Someone else makes a great sacrifice (Jesus), and everyone else who merely supports him gets saved also, as if they’d done something important. And those who didn’t, are damned.”

Your comprehension of salvation is might shrift of anything familiar to christians evangelical or not.

#41 Comment By Pussilaminous On December 20, 2017 @ 3:22 am

I’m making an observation of how Christianity is often used as virtue signaling by a great manner of its believers, not as a criticism of its core, esoteric doctrines.