Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Moral Ambiguity

How does one explain a good man doing bad things or a bad man doing good things? Well we get a hint of that from Dennis Prager today in a column in which he exonerates both Clarence Thomas and Bill Bennett.
I note this because it brings home a point that is often lost on most people -- religious or secular, conservative or liberal -- that human beings all have what I call moral bank accounts. Just like a real bank account into which we make monetary deposits and from which we make monetary withdrawals, we make moral deposits into and moral withdrawals from our moral bank accounts based on the actions we engage in during our lifetime.

Now, of course, some people make so many withdrawals -- Hitler, for example -- that no imaginable good act they can do will seriously change the balance from extremely negative to positive. But most people need to be assessed based on this bank account analogy. I first came up with this idea when Clarence Thomas was accused by Anita Hill and the Democratic Party of sexual harassment. Needless to say, no one knew for sure which party was telling the truth. But I made the argument on my radio show that given all the good Thomas had done, given the absence of indications of him ever acting indecently toward women employees, his moral bank account was, to the best our knowledge, quite in the black.
Fair enough. And truthfully, something I can see some value in.

But I sense that this sort of logic only applies to generally good people, and, as the old saying goes, no liberals need apply. This is Dennis Prager, after all, who has written in support of a second civil war (between Liberals and Conservatives). Both of his examples are about prominent conservatives, and I seriously question whether he'd extend the same generosity to a Al Gore or a John Kerry.

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