The meaning of the Strauss-Kahn scandal

Why is the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is currently sitting in a New York City jail cell, such a big deal? If he were “merely” a leading French politician and the front-runner to be the Socialist party’s candidate for president, it would already have been a huge story, of course. But given his position as the director of the International Monetary Fund, his alleged behavior takes on an extraordinary moral and symbolic meaning for our time. The current economic system, in which Strauss-Kahn plays a leading role, is in grave crisis because it lives on debt, i.e., on inordinate and uncontrolled desire. Strauss-Kahn’s personal life is a life of inordinate and uncontrolled desire. Of course the French, and liberal Americans, believe that there is no connection between the health of a society and the private morality of its citizens and leaders. In reality, the two are closely connected, as French deputy Bernard Debré indicates in his open letter to DSK.

To illustrate this idea, I will quote from my April 2006 commentary on George Washington’s first inaugural address:

[A]t about midpoint in the address, Washington says that instead of recommending specific government measures, he wants to commend the good character of the men who constitute the government, because he sees in them

the surest pledges, that as on one side, no local prejudices, or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests: so, on another, that the foundations of our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of a free Government, be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its Citizens, and command the respect of the world.

He expands further on the connection between morality and political prosperity:

I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between [private] virtue and [public] happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity:

The health of the state thus depends on the morality of its leaders and citizens; and on what does this morality depend? Here Washington reaches the culmination of the speech:

Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.

Goodness does not come from man; it comes from God. And the happiness of human society depends on men’s following it.

[End of excerpt from 2006 entry.]

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LA writes:

I would add that the West’s tyrannical intervention in Libya was also an expression of inordinate and uncontrolled desire.

David B. writes:

I agree that this is the result of “inordinate and uncontrolled desire,” which has bad effects in public life, contrary to what liberal Americans say when one of their own misbehaves.

I just saw on Headline News a clip of Strauss-Kahn appearing in a Manhattan court. I couldn’t help but recall what I wrote to you in the past about the dark lighting the Law & Order TV show utilized in their fictional portrait of these very courtrooms. In real life, a Manhattan courtroom doesn’t look like the TV show.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 16, 2011 09:15 PM | Send

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