American conservatism often tends toward a Pharisaical kind of morality. As the late Christopher Lasch once noted:
"Conservatives stress the importance of religion, but their religion is the familiar American blend of flag waving and personal morality. It centers on the trivial issues of swearing, neatness, gambling, sportsmanship, sexual hygiene, and school prayers. Adherents of the new religious right correctly reject the separation of politics and religion, but they bring no spiritual insights to politics."Lasch's point about American conservatism lacking spiritual insight is especially important. I have seen very few articles coming from prominent conservatives on the subject of the morality of the Iraq War, asking whether we, as a nation, should be engaging in soul-searching over the fact that we fought a major war that led to tens of thousands of deaths, all over fabrications regarding non-existent weapons of mass destruction and a non-existent alliance between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
But we do get plenty of Bill Bennett and others writing about the bad habits of the unemployed and underemployed. Even if you agree with Bennett, it is obvious that the bad behavior of the poor is given a great deal of attention while the sins of businessmen, politicians, and generals are either ignored or excused by appeal to "reasons of state" or "the requirements of the market." I am all for having a debate about morality and public policy, but let us be fair about it and include the high and mighty along with the lowly and weak.