They Call It Anarchy, But It’s Actually Hell

     Heard the name of Gonzalo Lira lately? If you have, it’s probably because the Zelensky regime in Ukraine has thrown him into prison him for writing stuff Zelensky doesn’t like. But at one time, Lira was better known for this essay, which embeds this critical observation:

     When the backbone of a country starts thinking that laws and rules are not worth following, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to anarchy.

     Now, I’m normally inclined to catechize such an abuse of the word anarchy, especially when the writer is intelligent and erudite enough to know better. However, Lira’s observation above is so important and so penetrating that I’ll give him a pass for it. He was right then, he’s right today, and present trends continuing he’ll be venerated as a prophet tomorrow.

     Gonzalo Lira was talking about the ancient phenomenon of moral hazard. And when I say “ancient,” I mean it in the fullest possible extent. A moral hazard arises whenever and wherever it’s possible for Smith to do something he knows is wrong – though possibly “legal” – to gain something thereby, and to get away with it.

     The “something Smith knows is wrong” must be a malum in se rather than a mere legal prohibition. (Ignore the fog the jurists have wrapped around that term.) The “something” he can gain by succumbing can be of any kind and of any size. The heart of the thing is that Smith knows that to do so would violate the moral standard to which he supposedly adheres.

     Another hoary old term for the phenomenon is temptation. You don’t hear that one very much. Even we theophages used it more back when than we do today.

     I’ve written about moral hazard myself. You might want to review some of those pieces before continuing on.

     We’re all tempted at some time in our lives. Human life would have to be unimaginably simpler than it is for that not to be the case. The opportunities for getting away with it, for some value of “it,” have multiplied to the point that many of us are tempted continuously. The tempters often include our friends and loved ones: people who have our happiness and well-being at heart.


     The celebrated Mockarena of Chicks on the Right cites a case of moral hazard this very morning:

     MOST airlines allow those in wheelchairs to get pre-boarded ahead of everyone else. This makes sense.
     But because the scummiest travelers on earth have figured out how to game that system, they’re now MAKING UP needing wheelchair assistance just to board earlier. The way they got found out? Well, because 20 people requested wheelchair assistance to board one flight, and miraculously, only 3 of those people needed assistance OFF THE FREAKING PLANE.
     As the mom of a son with severe quadriplegia, and as someone who saw PLENTY of instances of non-wheelchair-users parking in wheelchair-van-only handicap spaces, THIS ABSOLUTELY SENDS ME INTO A FURY.
     Unfortunately, when it comes to air travel, there’s next to nothing that airlines can do to prevent this.

     Couldn’t be much clearer, could it? Those “wheelchair users” are gaming the system to secure an advantage for themselves, at the (potential) expense of others who genuinely need the available pre-boarding provision. Under the prevailing circumstances, the airlines can do nothing about it, so the exploiters will certainly “get away with it.”

     In any particular case, it’s possible that no traveler who genuinely needs the provision will be harmed by this deception. But it’s certain that in some cases, some such travelers will be harmed. The longer it continues, the more persons of weak conscience will be tempted by it. And of course, that guarantees that more travelers will adopt it. Ironically, the advantage will diminish in proportion to the number of travelers who yield to the temptation…but don’t expect that to retard the trend.

     This is but one observable datum in an intensifying stream of moral hazards. In aggregate they’re destroying the basis for all human interaction:

     There is no need in human life so great as that men should trust one another and should trust their government, should believe in promises, and should keep promises in order that future promises may be believed in and in order that confident cooperation may be possible. Good faith — personal, national, and international — is the first prerequisite of decent living, of the steady going on of industry, of governmental financial strength, and of international peace. — Benjamin M. Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914 — 1946

     I’ve written a lot about trust, here and elsewhere. Not a lot of people are paying attention. Yet it’s the invisible cement that holds our society together. Once it’s gone, re-establishing it will take decades if not centuries. I doubt I’ll be wearing the flesh by then.


     In this recent essay, essay, I wrote:

     For centuries, sin has been operationally defined through Church teachings, and the indoctrination of the young in those teachings. Anyone raised with the old Baltimore Catechism might remember a sense that “anything not mandatory is forbidden” that it inculcated in its victims. The lists of prescriptions and proscriptions seemed endless…as did the absolute and utter necessity of weekly Confession. After all, with so very many things required or forbidden, it was guaranteed that one would slip now and then. One didn’t want to trip and fall in front of a bus when not in a state of grace.

     But the foundation for the concept of sin was neglected more often than not. The student who dared to ask his teacher-nun “Why is this a sin?” usually did so trembling. “God has forbidden it!” was the nun’s usual reply. As those nuns were equipped with fearsome instruments of correction – does anyone else remember those Bolo paddles? – we hesitated to incur their wrath.

     But questions that begin with “Why?” are the most important variety of all. The question “Why is this a sin?” is the key. Without it, the door to comprehension – our gift of rational awareness – cannot be unlocked. And the comprehension of sin as a violation of our human nature and its innate requirements is what We the Indoctrinated were denied.

     This was the great failure of Catholic education during my tender years: we needed explanations we seldom got. But then, the Baltimore Catechism forbade so many things that explanations would have made it a book ten or twenty times as long. The nuns who taught us tended not to be patient with “why?” questions. Easier to use those Bolo paddles.

     Owing to the deterioration of moral education, the deterioration of the institutions that once conducted it, and the corruption of our legal and political environment, moral hazards are ubiquitous today, as are those who succumb to the temptation they present. Many of those hazards are potentially profitable. There are people who’ve made their exploitation into industries. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t get a couple or three telephone calls from such persons. Perhaps you could say the same.


     There is no Last Graf. I have no recommendations for changes to anything except one’s personal conscience – and I doubt that many of my Gentle Readers need that to be strengthened. But that’s where the only defense can be found against the further deterioration of our society into an anteroom to Hell. Therefore I’ll make just one little plea. I won’t even use boldface, italics, or large font for it.

     If you know it’s wrong, don’t do it. Please.


1 ping

    • MrLiberty on June 29, 2023 at 10:24 AM

    Indeed, ANARCHY is simply the absence of government.  A wonderful concept.  In Ukraine and in the US, we see the tyrannical government NOT obeying its own rules, but STILL THERE, enforcing rules with its wonderful permanent violence apparatus, against whomever they wish….except themselves.  It should come as no shock that in the same way classical liberalism (essentially libertarianism) was bastardized to now be the horror of modern liberalism, the wonderful concept of Anarchy would be co-opted to now mean disorder, chaos, and rampant violence.

    • Evil Franklin on June 30, 2023 at 7:53 AM

    “Those “wheelchair users” are gaming the system to secure an advantage…”

    Securing an advantage by falsely claiming to be a victim has been the call of the socialists for millennia. Humanity suffers at every instance of the abuse of the meaning of “victim”.

    The handshake still signifies respect and trust among honorable men. However, that meaning has been so abused that now lawyers and the courts must create and adjudicate documents destroying both. Trusting that one will honor an obligation puts life on the line by the gamers.

    Every day we see evidence that our honor system is being destroyed. Criminals become heroes and heroes are cast as criminals. The Sheepdog is imprisoned while the wolves are encouraged.

    Evil Franklin

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