Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Belated Observation on the Golden Rule

I realised a few weeks ago that I have been subconsciously resentful for quite some time – possibly my whole life – because I always subconsciously added a little extra bit to the Golden Rule:

'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you ... and they will.'

Of course, they won't.

The Golden Rule is what we ought to do. It is counsel for moral perfection, like the 'Turn the other cheek' thing. It is not practical advice for success. If you follow it expecting things to turn out pleasantly for you, at work, home, or in politics, you will end up bitter and miserable. I expect you already know this. Nine times out of ten people will assume it is their inalienable right to be treated the way you treat them and go blithely on treating you as they damn well please.

I think this vague feeling that if something is right in a moral sense it will also be successful in a practical sense is more widespread than just me and is part of the heritage of Protestant European cultures. This is why - I think – there was quite an extraordinary amount of abuse of 'Freakonomics' by members of the conservative commentariat I generally tend to agree with. I think the evidence that abortion reduces crime is pretty solid: but this isn't a good reason to condone abortion, any more than Judge Death's incontrovertible observation that all crime is committed by the living is a good reason to slaughter everybody. In fact the two observations are pretty much the same observation.

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