Moral Policy versus Economic Policy: Its Role in the Decline of America


Something is seriously wrong in the United States today.  Why is the first question that comes to mind, and it has received many answers.  Some experts will tell us that it is because Americans are angry.  Some will say it is because of income inequality.  Other reasons have been given as: persistent racism, policy divides between urban and rural areas, massive immigration, too many guns, climate change, a move towards authoritarianism, continuous military misadventures, narcissism, and of course greed.

None of these would be wrong, but none of them are really the underlying cause which some see as the decline of the American dream.  The end of the idea of America as the shining city on the hill or the last great hope of the world.  The light of America today is blinking on and off.  Fewer people see hope in America.  More people see the USA as a scourge on the world.  A country only interested in pushing its agenda on other countries whether through economic war or military war.

The decline of America lies in a very simple problem.  A failure to balance Moral Policy with Economic Policy.  A problem that may be simple to describe but extremely difficult to solve.  This failure began as soon as this country had its first pilgrims.  America was born out of a dream of prosperity and equality.  The equality did not have its roots in DNA but in the idea that all people (white and male at the time) through hard work and education could become prosperous and equal.  Equality would not depend on being lords, or barons or some other type of royalty as had been the norm in Europe.  This prosperity is still enthralled in some religions where it is promoted as “The Prosperity Gospel.”  An idiotic idea that the more you are favored by God, the more he/she will bless you with wealth and success.

Unfortunately, there is one rule in the Universe which cannot be undone or avoided.  It is the rule of balance.  What goes up must come down.  For every pushing force there is a pulling force.  Antagonist muscles must be developed equally with protagonist muscles.  The Chinese might call what I am describing here as the principle of Yin and Yang.  The Greeks called it the Golden Mean.

“The golden mean or golden middle way is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. It appeared in Greek thought at least as early as the Delphic maxim “nothing in excess”, was discussed in Plato’s Philebus.”  — Wikipedia

Since the beginning of America, we have ignored this rule of balance.  It is the main reason that we are in a crisis today.  Ironically, it is the separation of Church and State, perhaps the greatest innovation in America which has led to its decline.  Let me explain further by starting with an analogy.  We will say that there is a continuum in terms of policy needed for an efficient and effective country.  An efficient country is one where most citizens are well fed, well clothed and well housed.  An ongoing effort is made to insure that more and more citizens meet these criteria.  An effective country is one where most citizens are safe, happy and content with there lives.  Effort is also made to see that more and more people meet these criteria.


Economic Policy drives efficiency.  It is the main determinant of how wealthy and prosperous a nation is.  Economic policy puts the food on the table, pays for the overhead and allows people to buy things.  Americans today buy and buy and buy.  They shop till they drop.  On weekends they stage flea markets, garage sales, and church sales to try to get rid of the STUFF that they have accumulated.  Economic Policy gone unabated by Moral Policy has stuffed people until they are fat and bloated with too much stuff.  More is the anthem in America.  “He who has the most toys wins.”

Our politicians are troubadours for the American dream of “More.”  There is no secret to their being elected.  It is a very simple formula.  1.  Promise voters more stuff by way of the trickle-down theory.  2.  Promise to lower taxes to give people more money to buy more stuff.  3.  Raise more money than your competitor so that you can sell your promises to more potential voters.  4.  Find a way to scare voters into thinking that your competitor will not be able to deliver on the same promises.

Economic Policy in America has become a Frankenstein.  Without a balance of Moral policy, it is a monster which is destroying this country.  It has been destroying this country for many years now.  However, people are so blinded by the promises for greater prosperity that they have ignored the essential balance provided by Moral Policy.

Moral Policy looks outward.  While Economic Policy looks inward and asks what can my country do for me, Moral Policy asks what can I do for my country.  Moral Policy asks what can I do for other people.  I noted above that a great inspiration for our founders was to separate church and state.  While this was a truly great political idea, morally it was a disaster.

Prior to the emergence of America, most people received a balance between Economic Policy and Moral Policy through a balance between their obligations to their state or nation and their obligations to their church or religion.  They would go to jail if they ignored their state obligations and go to hell if they ignored their religious obligations.  Their church laid out its obligations in its Moral Policy.  For some, this was thought of as religious doctrine.  Perhaps the best example of a Moral Policy is the Eight Beatitudes described in Christianity and formulated by Jesus of Nazareth.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
  3. Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
  4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
  8. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. —-  Matthew 5:3–12

There is no question, that Jesus was describing a moral responsibility to others.  Jesus talked about greed often and the “cure” to greed lay in giving as much as taking.  Jesus constantly talked about taking care of others who were less fortunate.

174018-domoralsmatterThus, the uncoupling of Church and State in the constitution of the United States set the stage for a catastrophic imbalance between Moral Policy and Economic Policy.  Over the years, the lack of influence in organized religions at the political level was abetted by the horrendous influence and power of Economic Policy.  If Moral Policy was once the heart of a religion, it was supplanted by an Economic Policy which has become the main religion in America.  This policy states that more is better and that you can never be too rich or have too much stuff.

Ultimately as with all imbalances, they eventually lead to a disaster.  America has gone over the tipping point.  The decline of the American Dream, the schism between conservatives and liberals, the rural versus urban divides, the dissatisfaction with the current political system and the rise of fascism in the USA are all symptoms of this imbalance.

51junioCbqL._AC_SY780_What we once believed was a great political innovation to separate Church and State has led to this imbalance.  There was no place in the state for religion and no place in religion for politics.  America’s dominant dream for peace, justice and equality was replaced with a dream for more money, more power and more fame.  The push by the State for this dream dwarfed any efforts by religion to provide a moral balance and the State had no legitimacy for morality.  People are cast adrift amidst a chaotic and vicious ocean of competition for more and more stuff.  No moral anchors exist that are powerful enough to counterbalance the tide of greed that this has brought to our shores.  Guns have replaced morality as citizens arm themselves to prevent imagined attacks at taking away their STUFF.

Is there an answer to the problems facing America?  I will discuss this question in my next blog. 


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jilldennison
    Nov 03, 2022 @ 11:48:26

    A thought-provoking piece. I fully support the separation of church and state, for I believe that every person has the right to believe … or not believe … as he/she chooses. I don’t want the state telling me I must believe a certain way or must attend church, etc. However, I can also understand that at one time, a shared religion did provide some stability, a moral compass. But today … there is no religious consensus … many of us are non-believers, and even among believers there are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and people of every religion imaginable. And, we believe we have that right … to believe or not as we see fit. I look forward to your follow up on this!



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Nov 03, 2022 @ 12:16:21

      Thanks Jill for your comment. I am an atheist or sometimes agnostic depending on my mood. I don’t have much “faith” in organized religions so you can imagine where that puts me on this issue. Nevertheless, as you note, too many people no longer have any moral compass. I once thought and seriously believed that humans were rationale and ethical enough to create their own moral compasses and thus did not need God, the Pope or any other religious leaders to tell them what to do. The last few years have taught me the fallacy of that belief. There are indeed many people for whom it is true, but there are too many who either fall under the sway of some dangerous individual or who simply don’t care about moral compasses. Witness, the increase in road rage, mass shootings, lawsuits, not to mention never ending wars for economic supremacy. John

      Liked by 1 person


  2. Margaret
    Nov 03, 2022 @ 12:40:06

    I tend to disagree with you John.
    Morality does not necessarily depend upon religion, although the latter often has a strict moral code. In fact my experience highlights much hypocrisy amidst many religious faiths.
    How about strong religious sections of communities enforcing their opinions on everyone else eg. the abortion/pro-life argument?
    In my opinion – self-righteous, divisive, non-empathic, heartless! But a strong moral code!

    The separation of state and religion is a plus plus all the way for me. Religion is a personal faith – you either have it or you don’t – and it needs to stay that way. There are a multiplicity of religious and non-religious beliefs each of which has their own moral code; the imposition of one moral code on a nation state excludes all other codes and leads to tyranny.



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Nov 03, 2022 @ 14:30:17

      Hi Margaret. Thanks for your comment. It will help people to think about your points which are well taken. I am all for diversity and variety in moral codes but I think we all need a moral compass. I have come to believe that too many people when they are not given one will not bother to make one or if they do, it will be a weak code. Look at the road rage and entitlements mentality so prevalent, not to mention mass shootings in America today. I think too many people left to their own devices will decide that their morality is to do exactly what they can get away with either legally or illegally. John



      • Margaret
        Nov 05, 2022 @ 10:15:08

        Thought provoking John.
        I’ve been mulling over and thinking that when economic policy is unfair and unequal, benefiting only a small percentage of people, our personal moral compasses are severely tested. People resort to looking after themselves first when economic times are bad(?)
        (‘The Spirit Level’ – Kate Pickett & Richard Wilkinson).
        So a stable, fair and prosperous economic environment could lead to the sharing of a moral compass – people coming together and sharing the common good. A theme throughout many of Michael Sandell’s books.



        • Dr. John Persico Jr.
          Nov 05, 2022 @ 10:24:20

          Margaret, it is sort of like a chicken or the egg first dilemma. In terms of Yin and Yang, they both must happen. I see little interest nationally in morality today. Maybe we need to take a lesson from many of the great philosophers of the past and spend more time talking about morality and less time shopping.



  3. Majik
    Nov 08, 2022 @ 08:21:20

    Interesting post, John.

    Today is Election Day in America. In many countries, the vote is rigged and the powers that be remain the powers that be even though the ignorant masses regularly go through a charade of democracy. I’m NOT talking about our country, of course . . . but in “other” countries. You know, those OTHER countries. But IF America ever becomes one of those “other” countries, HOW would we know?

    More to the point of your post, John. Are you a communist? I’m not trying to pick a fight. I just thought I detected a little Marxist dialectic in your post here.



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      Nov 08, 2022 @ 09:56:14

      Hi Majik, I studied a great deal of Marx, Lenin, Engels, Bakunin, Marcuse, Anarchists and other “non-democratic” theorists in my youth. I never fit in with any socialist or communist groups. They were too dogmatic for me. I think I lean more to Jesus and Buddha in my social thoughts, though I call myself an atheist. But I think we must give back to the world as much as we get. Greed has always been with us but Madison Avenue and the Media have fanned the fires of greed until we have a holocaust of greed in America today. IMHO John



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: