his living as a parson. His Watergate experience stands himnin good stead in Columbus, Ohio, where the mayor—onnthe theory “set a thief to catch a thief” — has appointed himnchairman of an ethics panel. Columbus has its share ofnethical dilemmas, and Magruder’s appointment was sparkednby a well-publicized local incident: when a million dollarsnworth of bills fell out of an armored car, Columbus motoristsnstopped to grab as much of the cash as they could. MayornRinehart—himself accused (though not indicted) of sexuallynmolesting a thirteen-year-old girl — thought that what hisncity needed was the advice of an expert on public misbehavior,nand the Rev. ]eb Magruder now spends part of hisntime raising the ethical consciousness of central Ohio.nMagruder spent only seven months in prison for conspiracynto obstruct justice and is now finishing a book on ethicsnthat combines his religious with his political experience. Inthought there were Son of Sam laws to prevent criminalsnfrom profiting from their past. The only one of thenWatergate team who displayed any moral courage was G.nGordon Liddy, who took orders, kept his mouth shut, andnwent to jail, while these choirboys sang like birds to thenWatergate Committee.nThe problem with ethics professionals does not lie in thendoubtful character of Gary O’Neill or the checkeredncareer of Charles Colson. Even supposing they had bothnacquired philosophy and theology degrees from Yale ornChicago, there is no evidence to suggest that moral philosophersnand churchmen are possessed of purer morals thannpettifoggers and ward heelers. One of the oldest themes ofnsatire is the long-haired ascetic (pagan as well as Christian)nwho cannot control his appetites; Paul Tillich, by moving hisnmistress into the house with his wife, was only following antime-honored tradition. But at least the ancients did notnappoint some miracle-peddling sophist to advise the Empirenon its ethics problems, and until recently ordinary peoplenbelieved that good behavior was more to be valued thannphilosophical argument and that a good character was anstronger foundation for personal morality than any numbernof seminars and advanced degrees.nHowever, what ordinary people have taken for grantedn(and Aristotelians attempted to prove) was rejected long agonby most philosophical schools. The program began withnSocrates, who seemed to believe that knowing the right andndoing it were more or less identical; this mistake, relativelynharmless in the hands of Platonists and Aristotelians, wasncompounded by the Stoics, who tended to confound rightnconduct with right reason and elevated rationality above thenconcerns of everyday life. But it was left to the moderns tonreduce morality to the exercise of moral reasoning.nJohn Locke describes “the great principle and foundationnof all virtue” as a man’s ability “to deny himself of his ownndesires . . . and purely follow what reason directs as best.”nLocke was not a fool and realized that a rational, selfdenyingntemperament could not be inculcated by exclusivelynintellectual means. The formation of character was asnmuch a matter of habit and taste as it was a function ofnreasoning, but later moralists have not been so cautious, andnit is possible to read through all of Rawls and Nozick withoutnever coming across a passage that acknowledges the nonrationalndimensions of moral life.nThe rationalist approach to ethics would be harmlessnenough—like a disease that is always fatal but confinednlargely to people who brought it on themselves, i.e.,nacademics — were it not for its intrusion into everyday life bynway of government schooling. Some conservatives like tonthink that schoolteachers are all disciples of John Dewey.nThose were the good old days. As wretched a philosopher asnhe was, Dewey had his good points. His own watered-downnversion of pragmatism, for example, preserved at least somenThe question is not who will watch thenwatchdogs, but who will watch thenwatchdogs hired to watch the watchdogs? Itnis an infinite regression toward a point thatnrepresents the extinction of our liberties.nof the wholesome and pungent savor of William James.nWhat James, at his best, could give his readers was a sense ofnflesh-and-blood human beings grappling with moral reality.nToday’s academic moralism is more likely to deal with suchnalien and irrelevant topics as whom to throw out of annoverloaded lifeboat or what proportion — 50 percent, 60npercent, 75 percent? — of our income we should devote tonrelieving famine in Ethiopia or Bangladesh.nThe real culprit in the schools has been LawrencenKohlberg, who designed (over a period of thirty years) antheory of moral development that begins with an obedientnchild and culminates in a sage whose every decision is annexercise in universal benevolence and disinterested rationality.nTo prove his thesis, whose sensible parts are hijackednfrom Jean Piaget, he borrowed Piaget’s method of interviewingnchildren who have been first separated from thenfamilies and communities upon which their moral existencendepends. Kohlberg did not actually need any evidence fornhis belief in a steady progression from obedience to annacknowledgment of contract up to the Kantian golden rulenwhich says that our moral actions must be totally disinterested.nTrue morality for Kohlberg means that if I decide to donX, it is not because I or my family and friends will be helped,nbut because I think that X is always and under allncircumstances the right decision. If the world really needs angarbage dump or housing project in my neighborhood, as anmoral person I must welcome it, regardless of the dangernand unpleasantness it poses to my children and neighbors.nBut progress in moral reasoning is not the same asnprogress in moral living. Kohlberg, like the Freudian EriknErikson, would have us believe that a moral logician whonmistreats his family while serving the world is superior to thenmoral primitive who takes care of his family, keeps hisnpromises, and risks his life for his country. In other words,nAlvin York was wrong to lay aside his universal principlen(pacifism) in order to defend his country — as he believed —nagainst the wicked Kaiser. So were the other good men —nWilliam Jennings Bryan and Robinson Jeffers, to name onlyntwo — who opposed the war and volunteered their services.nnnAPRIL 1990/13n