National Review / Digital
Crude Ethics


A website aimed at design professionals had a piece this month about keeping your ethical character snow-white when asked to work for dubious clients. Star profile: a young fellow who found himself in the horrible position of designing something for — steel yourself — a pesticide company. He begged his boss to dump the client; the employer, perhaps blinded by such crude concerns as keeping the lights on, declined to listen to his better angel. The article noted that the fellow was going to quit anyway, so he did a shoddy job on purpose. It has his name and picture, so bosses of design companies: fair warning.

The ethics of taking the king’s shilling and doing your worst work wasn’t addressed. But the article discussed another design firm with High Standards, and that meant they wouldn’t take work from . . . petrochemical companies. If you don’t believe liquefied dinosaur juice is Satan’s plasma, it’s like reading that someone won’t do work for Nazis, pogrom coordinators, vivisectionists, anthrax lobbyists, and hairstylists. One of these things is not like the others, as the children’s song goes.

According to the article, however, the firm realizes that there are many shades of grey in this morally ambiguous world. One of those shades resembles green, under the right light. That’s green as in money, not green as in coming up with new ways to guilt affluent Westerners into taking shorter, colder showers. Some clients, after all, may get money from oil companies, which try to wash away the moral stain of filthy carbon sauce by funding the Center for Innocuously Renamed Leftist Agendas. It’s a form of alchemy: Bad money turns into good deeds when you walk it through an office where people use the word “sustainable” in every press release. If you can print the work on paper made of 80 percent post-consumer materials with soy ink, all the better! Stick it to the man!

Watching these exquisitely calibrated moral sensibilities display their plumage in public makes a preening peacock look like a turtle in a mud pit. Pesticides are bad because they’re chemicals. Boo hiss chemicals that kill and have side effects! (Except The Pill. All praise to The Pill.) Oil is bad; oil brings naught but sorrow. The New York Times did a piece on the boomtowns of the North Dakota oil fields, which are boisterous and messy, awash with testosterone, and not an art gallery for miles. The pictures of the treeless expanse with their lines of grim dormitories lacked only “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” over the gate.

It’s odd. We’re told conservatives are “anti-science,” a charge that reassures the clever set that their opponents believe Ogg the Caveman rode dinosaurs around while shouting “Yee-haw, the world is 56 years old!” But the “anti-science” rap mostly comes from conservative reservations about growing people in dishes to suck out their cells for experimentation. When it comes to big scientifical thingamabobs, like huge humming nuclear power plants, or finding new ways to extract oil from all the cunning places Mother Nature has hidden the delicious stuff, the Right is generally pro-science, and the Left runs away fluttering its hands, shrieking in terror.

December 31, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 24

  • Channeling TR, President Obama advocates rule-by-elites.
  • Now is the time to make the case for military action against Iran.
  • When people say ‘Zionist,’ what do they mean?
  • Earnest worship versus the worship of cynicism.
  • A correspondence, nonfictional, between a young boy, a housewife, a headmaster, and the young boy’s brother.
  • You take a dubious record, you take some wacky ideas, you take a narcissistic personality. . .
  • And why President Newt would not
  • Gingrich’s plan would reward criminals and make the law arbitrary.
  • The former Speaker has a longstanding love-hate relationship with environmental reform.
Books, Arts & Manners
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .