Bruce Burleson – June 28, 2020

The Morality of the Left--or Should We Say, the Lack Thereof

Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg developed a theory of stages of moral development that has become widely used since his death in 1987.  He distinguished between pre-conceptual, conventional, and post-conceptual forms of morality.  The model has been applied to the study of ethics and morality for decades, not to mention the pursuit of social justice and equality.


Most people probably fall into the pre-conventional or conventional stages of morality.  They will speed, for example, but slow down when they see a police speed trap, not wanting to get a ticket.  However, those who are critical of the established political and economic order—at any end of the political spectrum—see their morality as post-conceptual.  In particular, leftists tend to be collectivists who see the capitalist system as unjust.  They feel as though they’re justified in breaking laws since according to them, laws that prevent society from “progressing” to socialism are unjust.


But is socialism an ideal compatible with post-conceptual morality?  Consider the fact that tens of millions of people have been murdered by socialistic regimes, from the early days of the Soviet Union to present-day North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.  From beginning to end, socialists have believed that the end justifies the means.  One of their organizations is even called “By Any Means Necessary” or “BAMN.”


The left believes they are justified in breaking the law based on the false assumption that police are systematically killing black people.  If that assumption were true, then perhaps such justification would be valid.  But statistics show that although there are 40 million black people in America, only a few hundred are killed by police each year.  So although its leaders see themselves as post-conceptual moralists, the entire Black Lives Matter movement is built on a pack of lies.


Recently the left has engaged in massive protests and riots following a few high-profile police killings.  The leader of Black Lives Matter went on national TV telling us all that they will “burn down the system” unless they get what they want.


Most ethicists believe in the principle of primum non nocere, or “first do no harm.”  Indeed, there is merit in the idea that everyone should avoid doing harm to others, and this principle is the centerpiece of many codes of ethics—from the American Counseling Association to the American Medical Association and others.  The idea is that we do each other—and society in general—justice by avoiding doing harm to people.


Although most leftists see themselves as ethical and moral, it’s difficult to imagine how destroying property, looting businesses and in some cases burning them to the ground fits within the framework of primum non nocere.  In fact, the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired riots that have driven a lot of black people out of work and black business owners into privation.  How is this reflective of post-conceptual morality, e.g. Stage 6 of Kohlberg’s morality—universal ethical principles for mutual respect?


It isn’t.


There is no compatibility between the contemporary behavior of leftist organizations and widely-held views of morality, such as Kohlberg conceptualized.  Ends do not justify means, and a lot of harm is being done to a lot of people.  Yet leftists feel as though they’re acting in a moral manner.  (So did Stalin and Mao, by the way.)


Capitalism certainly isn’t a perfect system (perfection isn’t a human trait), but an examination of its historical record indicates a compatibility between itself and primum non nocere.  Capitalism brings people together in massive productive capacity, and creates jobs and opportunities for anyone willing to work hard and put in some effort. 


But the left doesn’t want to work hard and put in some effort.  They want the world handed to them on a silver platter.  They demand that the wealth generated by one individual’s efforts be stolen and given to someone else.  History shows that—although it is often done with the best of intentions in mind—redistribution of wealth only causes longer-term economic misery for everyone.  The total collapse of the Venezuelan economy and resulting poverty and starvation is an obvious case in point.  So much for primum non nocere.


What would be ethical and moral would be for the left to stop lying, looting, vandalizing, and burning buildings, and instead engage in a marketplace of ideas where their beliefs would be weighed in light of the beliefs of their detractors.  But they won’t, because then they won’t get what they want—total control of society, the economy, and every aspect of people’s lives.


Conservatives and libertarians need to step up to the moral and ethical plate as well.  For decades, we have stood back and done practically nothing while the left have taken over the intellectual life of our nation.  The result is that we too have dropped the primum non nocere ball.  Post-conceptual morality demands that we reverse course and seize the narrative.