Monday, May 20, 2019

C. S. Lewis On "Moral Busybodies"

Robby Soave, in his post on the Game of Thrones finale, reminds us of this C. S. Lewis quote:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.
I make comparative points like this, too, but in more reflective moments I realize that I'm not very sure about them. Lewis's point is plausible, but that's all I can say. It's maybe more important to make the non-comparative point: regardless of whether they're better or worse than the robber barons, moral busybodies, left or right, will make your life hellish. The first group of moral busybodies I encountered in my youth was composed of conservative Christians. It took me awhile to realize that there was an analogous group left of the liberal left--the left-wing moral busybodies. Both groups want to micromanage our lives. Both...God help us...have theories--about what we should think, what we should be permitted to do, and how we should be. Both are dogmatically certain of their theories. Both crush dissent mercilessly when they can. Both should be diligently opposed and kept as far away from power as possible.
   One difference that concerns me, obviously, is that one group of moral busybodies is taken seriously in academia and the rest of the cultural superstructure. The other's been shoved out of power and isn't taken seriously at all--which, by my lights, is good. But the former one is granted enormous power and influence, despite having given us all the evidence we could possibly want that it's no less nutty and totalitarian than the latter.
   "Robber barons" are a separate problem--a problem I've got no particular insight into.


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