Criminals Are Moralists (was Re: Responsibility)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sun Jan 23 21:45:33 PST 2000

Justin wrote:
>I am puzzled on what basis Yoshie condemns rapists, racist thugs, and violent
>cops, since she rejects morality.

I don't reject morality out of hand. I'm simply saying that the notion of desert, retribution, personal responsibility, etc. do not prevent crimes; nor will they make criminal justice less oppressive toward the working class. As a matter of fact, nearly all Americans are more attached to such moral standards than social democratic Europeans are, and look at the result. Both American crimes and American criminal justice are in worse shape than their continental counterparts. It is _in this historical context_ that I'm making an argument that it is _immoral_ to be a moralist. Oscar Wilde wrote: "The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are much to be regretted....They have made private terms with the enemy, and sold their birthright for very bad pottage" ("The Soul of Man under Socialism). Until enough workers get really sick & tired of personal responsibility, there won't be any socialism. Not only that, until then, there won't be any mass movement protesting the further destruction of social welfare programs, much less demanding anything better than what exists, for, to quote Saint Oscar again, going "on the considered by many to be a form of stealing." It is not just impertinent but grotesque to recommend more personal responsibility to the American working class who have no shortage of this tragic & cruel virtue. (Remember, also, that many crimes against property, drug dealing, prostitution, etc. are acts of enterprising individuals taking personal responsibility for their own maintenance.)

Still and all, perhaps you prefer the responsible John Locke to the paradoxical Wilde:

***** The multiplying of the poor, and the increase of the tax for their maintenance, is so general an observation and complaint, that it cannot be doubted of: nor has it been only since the war that this evil has come upon us; it has been a growing burden on the kingdom these many years; and the two last reigns felt the increase of it, as well as the present.

If the causes of this evil be looked into, we humbly conceive it will be found to have proceeded neither from scarcity of provisions, nor from want of employment for the poor, since the goodness of God has blessed these times with plenty, no less than the former, and a long peace during those reigns gave us as plentiful a trade as ever. The growth of the poor must therefore have some other cause; and it can be nothing else but the relaxation of discipline, and corruption of manners: virtue and industry being as constant companions on the one side as vice and idleness are on the other.

The first step, therefore, towards the setting the poor on work, we humbly conceive, ought to be a restraint of their debauchery, by a strict execution of the laws provided against it; more particularly by the suppression of superfluous brandy shops and unnecessary alehouses, especially in country parishes not lying upon great roads.

Could all the able hands in England be brought to work, the greatest part of the burden that lies upon the industrious for maintaining the poor would immediately cease: for, upon a very moderate computation, it may be concluded that above one half of those who receive relief from the parishes are able to get their livelihoods....

...For the suppression of...begging drones, who live unnecessarily upon other people's labour, there are already good and wholesome laws, sufficient for the purpose if duly executed....

...But, for the more effectual restraining of idle vagabonds, we further humbly propose that a new law may be obtained, by which it be enacted:

That all men sound of limb and mind, above fourteen and under fifty years of age, begging in maritime counties out of their own parish without a pass, shall be seized on...and...sent...not to the house of correction (since those houses are now in most counties complained of to be rather places of ease and preferment to the masters thereof, than of correction and reformation to those who are sent thither); nor to their places of habitation....But, if it be in a maritime county, as aforesaid, that they be sent to the next sea-port town, there to be kept at hard labour till some of his Majesty's ships coming in or near there given an opportunity of putting them on board, where they shall serve three years under strict discipline, at soldier's pay (subsistence money being deducted for their victuals on board), and be punished as deserters if they go on shore without leave; or, when sent on shore, if they either go further, or stay longer, than they have leave.

That all men begging in maritime counties without passes, that are maimed, or above fifty years of age; and all of any age so begging without passes in inland counties nowhere bordering on the sea, shall be sent to the next house of correction, there to be kept at hard labour for three years.

...That if any body or girl, under fourteen years of age, shall be found begging out of the parish where they dwell...they shall be sent to the next working-school, there to be soundly whipped, and kept at work till evening.... ("Draft of a Representation Containing a Scheme of Methods for the Employment of the Poor. Proposed by Mr Locke, the 26th October 1697") *****

More preaching of personal responsibility is the last thing that American workers need, who are already well on the way toward Mr. Locke's paradise of virtue and industry.


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