Via one of my far-flung correspondents, I see that Daniel Henniger has taken to the Journal to decry "the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America." These moral failings, he explains, are what underly the "subprime behavior" that lead to the current financial calamity. And let's not be too dismissive. Moral sentiments and economic behavior have long been partners in our theories about political economy. On the other fucking hand:
Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."Adam Smith it ain't.
It takes no particular perspicacity to note that our holidays-without-the-holy came about not through the secularizing efforts of "Northerners and atheists," the gangs of post-doctoral post-modernists slavering to gnaw on the soft edges of Christendom, but through the commercializing efforts of the various and sundry pillars, columns, flutes, and scrolls of American state capitalism. The gradual erosion of "Merry Christmas" in favor of "Happy Holidays" doesn't mark a moral retreat in the face of religious multiculturalism or anti-Christian laïcité. It marks the commerce-driven extension of a shopping season, one that now extends from before Halloween to the post-New Year sales. "Happy Holidays" isn't culturally inclusive; it's commercially inclusive.
Meanwhile, the perihelion of religious feeling's orbit around the American political economy would have to be the successful culmination of the Temperance movement. Need I point out that Prohibition was the greatest sustained period of criminality in American history, coinciding with an immense speculative bubble, disastrous bank policies, and an ecological disaster in the Midwest and Great Plains, all of which convergence ultimately caused the Great Depression? Ho. Ho. Ho.