At Cheap Chalupas, one can read the following:
That said, most of the world is not regressing morally and arguably can be seen as advancing morally, at least on the fronts of general tolerance, democracy, and the moral virtues which are encouraged by prosperity and market exchange.
And then (hopefully) to parody modern economic thought, the author adds:
Is it possible there is more moral regression in the world today than say five years ago? Does moral regression have a unit root? Serial autocorrelation? Do we understand the causes of moral regression better as time passes? I don’t see that.
Ignoring the latter quote which I add only because it’s ridiculous, I’d like to discuss the idea of “moral progress.”
The idea that our ancestors were immoral is pervasive, wrong, and destructive to any reasonable understanding of history.
The entire notion is plagued by bias. Of course we more moral today when we judge morality by today’s prevailing standards. I would wager that 100% of people who have ever believed that “tolerance” and “democracy” are cornerstones of morality are currently alive.
The best recent book on the subject of moral advancement and decay is, of course, Charles Murray’s. Instead of hand-waving, Murray actually states what he considers to be moral values: industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity. It’s much harder to find anyone that disagrees with that list at any time (if I had to toss in another one, I’d throw in scientific advancement, but that’s no better).
(The worst recent book on this subject was Pinker’s).
Imagine reincarnating someone who was alive a hundred years ago and telling him that most children are born out of wedlock, they increasingly don’t go to church, and huge numbers of them are on some form of state assistance. Would our reincarnated friend be less shocked because the children get a say in who governs the country? (Would he not be more appalled?)
Far from progress, Murray finds moral decay to be pervasive in our society – the exception being among the elite who do seem to be experiencing some moral progress.
The sad fact is that people work less (if at all), commit petty crimes at increasingly high rates, don’t form families and aren’t religious. This is hardly a recipe for a society at the apex of morality. Surely this should be obvious, even for someone as far removed from the decline as he can get.