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ETpro's avatar

Why do the very people who routinely rail against the moral relativism of others turn to it themselves to cover for their own transgressions and those of their group?

Asked by ETpro (34472points) June 14th, 2011

I’m talking mainly about Meta-ethical and Normative moral relativism here. American politics got me thinking about this, but I would bet it is true among all cultures and all topics of interest that touch on the moral behavior of mankind.

But specific to politics, there are those who want to condemn various common human behaviors that are, at worst, victimless crimes. Whenever opposed, they claim that those defending the behavior they do not personally like are guilty of moral relativism. But raise a criticism about dishonesty in their own political rhetoric or their level of vitriol in political attacks and low-and-behold, moral relativism comes into play. All politics is dirty, they say. All politicians do nothing but lie. All politicians smear others equally. There is no way to measure the objective truth of who resorts to these tactics more often.

Come on! Are we to believe that George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower were exactly like Richard Nixon or Spiro T. Agnew. Are we to believe that politicians who ended up convicted of multiple felonies are exactly as honest as politicians that spent their entire adult lives in public service with never the slightest taint of scandal? I don’t believe that for one minute. I don’t believe that it’s impossible to say which politicians or parties resort most to attack dog strategies. I don’t believe its impossible to determine which politicians and parties rely more on Big Lie politics to advance their agendas. Heaven help us if it really is impossible to determine such things. That would mean we would always have to fall victim to every new scam and lie that comes along.

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11 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I agree with your premise.

One small bone to pick. If we are talking about Weiner (pun intended), his crimes were not victimless. Women who were sent pictures of his naked genitalia were assaulted if they did not consent to it beforehand.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Sure, it’s all relative but another point of relativism, for me, is the matter of degree. A person CAN be more violent than another or commit MORE of a heinous crime.

syz's avatar

Wait, what do you consider a victimless crime?

ETpro's avatar

@marinelife I wasn’t thinking about Anthony Weiner. But I do wonder in his case, and also in Republican Rep. Christopher Lee had to instantly resign for sending compromising photos of themselves, while Senator David Vitter and Senator Ensign were cool to soldier on after being found to have committed possible crimes and having actually done things of a sexual nature. Both Vitter and Ensign campaigned heavily of family values, holding themselves up as morally superior paragons of virtue who the rest of us would do well to emulate. They won office partly by claiming to be morally superior to their opponents.

Vitter was found to be a client of the DC Madam. Prostitution is a misdemeanor crime and both the prostitute and Jjohn are equally guilty. Ensign was schtupping a staffer who was the wife af a best friend and staffer. To cover up the indiscretion, he arranged the payment of a large bribe and illegally set up a potentially lucrative lobbying practice for the friend he cuckolded. The lobbying assignment broke the revolving door law. Ensign finally resigned, but only when he learned that the Senate Ethics Committee was going to act to remove him and possibly refer the case to the Justice Department for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

ETpro's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Thanks. Degree matters.

@syz Victimless crime is a well defined concept. One can claim that not worshiping Quetzalcoatl is a heinous crime and all who refuse to offer human sacrifices to Quetzalcoatl damage the entire society. But failing to worship Quetzalcoatl is demonstrably a victimless crime. There is no objective proof that it damages anyone. Being gay is a victimless crime. Marrying outside your race or religion is a victimless crime. Being an atheist is a victimless crime. A victimless crime is one in which no injured party can objectively be shown to exist.

Jeruba's avatar

@ETpro,
A victimless crime is one in which no injured party can objectively be shown to exist.
Doesn’t “victimless crime” have to satisfy two conditions? It has to be victimless, yes. But doesn’t it also have to be a crime? How is being an atheist or marrying outside your religion an “infraction of criminal law” (per your linked definition)?

syz's avatar

I agree. None of the examples that you site (except perhaps for Quetzalcoatl, which is not exactly current) are crimes at all.

ETpro's avatar

@Jeruba Point well taken. The link I provided does point out that part of the definition. And while they aren’t crimes today, it once was a very serious crime to declare yourself an athiest. It carried a penalty of death by torture. Marrying outside your faith was equally verboten. When I was growing up in the South in the 1950s, there were criminal statue against a crime called miscegenation—marrying someone not of yur racial background. All wee victimless crimes.

Current victimless crimes include laws against prostitution, gambline, smoking pot, etc.

athenasgriffin's avatar

I think people should be judged on the basis of their own values.

That is why, to me, a Republican who campaigned and won for family values who commits adultery commits a much more heinous sin than that of a Democrat who never claimed to have morals superior to the general population’s.

ETpro's avatar

@athenasgriffin I completely agree. But somehow it works out just opposite. Several of the Republicans, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who were most strident and shrill in leading the charge to impeach Bill Clinton were at the same time guilty of far worse, and thought their actions should be forgiven. And we’ve just witnessed Mark Sanford, David Vitter and John Ensign all fall from grace but cling to power. Vitter even got himself reelected as, you guessed it, a family values man.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@ETpro Yes, that is completely my problem with the Republican party in general. I agree with certain Republican ideals, but the party itself is so full of hypocrisy that I find it difficult to take them seriously. Plus, I’m pro equality, which certainly puts a dint in things. . .

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