The Death Of Self-Restraint

Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal

The Harvey Weinstein sexual-harassment fire burns on, consuming famous men. Corporations and institutions are on automated rapid response: proclaim zero tolerance and throw offenders into the street, while directing human-resources departments to design fine-grained standards of acceptable behavior.

It would be a comfort to think that HR specialists could solve this problem, but what has gone wrong runs deeper than calling in the lawyers. A question persists: How did this happen?

How have so many intelligent, accomplished adult men crashed across the boundaries of sex? Psychiatric explanations—reducing cause to a uniquely individual neurosis—are insufficient. This isn’t just “really weird stuff.”

Some may have a distant memory of the culture wars of the 1990s. This looks like a moment to revisit some of its battlefields. 

Incidents of sexual abuse on this scale don’t randomly erupt. They grow from the complex climate of a nation’s culture. These guys aren’t blips or outliers. These men are a product of their times. 

Their acts reveal a collapse of self-restraint. That in turn suggests a broader evaporation of conscience, the sense that doing something is wrong. We are seeing now how wrongs can hurt others when conscience is demoted as a civilizing instrument of personal behavior. 

Intellectuals have played a big role in shaping arguments for loosening the traditions of self-restraint in the realm, as they would say, of eros. In Oscar Wilde’s quip, “There is no sin except stupidity.” 

There are in fact intellectuals who have watched these sexual passages with alarm and described how they were putting us on dangerous ground. 

The definitive critical history of this moral transition is Rochelle Gurstein’s 1996 book, “The Repeal of Reticence.” Ms. Gurstein describes how “the sense of the sacred and the shameful” gradually declined across the 20th century as writers and artists rejected former ways of thinking about personal propriety or reticent behavior.

“They demanded,” she writes, “that the traditional union of moral and aesthetic judgment be dissolved; the functions of the body needed to be considered apart from the values of love, fidelity, chastity, modesty or shame.” The result, she says, was a culture’s slow but steady estrangement “from any coherent moral tradition.” [Subscription required.]

Read full article

You May Also Like:

On Social Media, What's Genius For Obama Is Scandal When It Comes To Trump [Watch] Ben Shapiro, The Hill

The Problem Is Facebook, Not Cambridge Analytica Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg

The Sad Hysteria Of The Southern Poverty Law Center Shikha Dalmia, The Week

‘Armed School Resource Officer’ Took Down Maryland High School Shooter Christian Datoc, Daily Caller

What Went Wrong At The FBI Thomas J. Baker, The Wall Street Journal

Nafta Is A Critical Part Of The U.S.’s Economic Future Dan K. Eberhart, Investor’s Business Daily

Hillary Should Just Admit She Hates Half Of America Katherine Timpf, National Review

Democrats’ Obstructionism Is Unprecedented John Hinderaker, PowerLine Blog

Collapse Of Credibility In Mainstream Press Puts Burden On Readers Ira Stoll, New York Sun

At $21 TRILLION, The National Debt Is Growing 36% Faster Than The US Economy Simon Black, Sovereign Man

Two Million Get Off Food Stamps During Trump's First Year Tom Knighton, PJ Media

RNC Raises $12.8 Million In February, Breaks Another Fundraising Record Jack Heretik, Washington Free Beacon

What Could Go Wrong With Obama-era Appointees Putting All Our National Security Eggs In Amazon's Basket? Jared Whitley, Weekly Standard

Alert: Dems Just Got 5 Congressional Seats Courtesy Of The SCOTUS Kevin Daley, Conservative Tribune

The Truth About Medicaid Work Requirements Angela Rachidi, American Enterprise Institute

Millennials Aren’t Saving Because They Think Capitalism Will Be Finished By The Time They Reach 65 Matt Vespa, Townhall

Homeschooling: The Best Hope For America's Future Lloyd Marcus, American Thinker

For More go to the Home Page >>>

Join Our Email List



FreeMarket Central

Some titles recent, all recommended -

Special Video Feature

FreeMarket Central

Voices From The 2017 International Students For Liberty Conference


In Search Of History

The Reagan Tax Cuts Worked

Thanks to "bracket creep," the inflation of the 1970s pushed millions of taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their inflation-adjusted incomes were not rising. To help offset this tax increase and also to improve incentives to work, save, and invest, President Reagan proposed sweeping tax rate reductions during the 1980s. What happened? Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s, and the results are even more impressive when looking at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).


-- Daniel J. Mitchell,

Shadow Stats Snapshot

FreeMarket Central

ShadowStats alternate economic indicators are based on the methodology of noted economist John Williams, specialist in government economic reporting.

  • Unemployment:
    FreeMarket Central BLS: 4.14%
    FreeMarket Central Shadow Stats: 21.8%
  • Inflation:
    FreeMarket Central February Year-to-Year: 1.8% (CPI-U*)
    FreeMarket Central Shadow Stats: 9.9%

*[cpi-u is the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation rate for all urban consumers]