Is moral progress unstoppable?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Is moral progress in society unstoppable?

The moral progress of humanity is unquestionable: From ancient societies based on slavery (when huge numbers of people could be unjustly killed, tortured, imprisoned for no reason), to feudalism (when serfs were given some limited rights and freedoms), to modern societies (in which most people enjoy some basic protections from arbitrary murders, torture, etc. The discrimination against minorities is slowly but surely disappearing in most developed countries. At first, women, then African-Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities, and now gays and lesbians have been gradually moving more and more towards total equality. All of this constitutes moral progress.

So why do conservatives think that they can stop or slow down this moral progress of society? And why do they want such thing anyway?

The “moral progress” you’re talking about is mostly economics in disguise. Shift from killing prisoners of war to enslaving them occurred only when it became possible to ensure that slaves can produce more than is necessary for their survival. Ancient languages have kept this memory. In ancient Egypt, for example, the literal translation of the word “slave” was “the living killed”.

Back in 1960s, Evsey Domar, an American economist born in Manchuria to Russian parents, wrote a now-classic paper (Evsey D. Domar, “The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis,” The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Mar., 1970), pp. 18-32), in which he pointed out that if you look at history you notice that out of three things (free farmers, abundant land, and landed gentry) only two, any two, can exist simultaneously for a long time; situations where all three exist are unstable and usually end up either with the gentry enslaving the farmers or the gentry that can’t live off the land and actually starts to work for a living, or the land becoming scarce.

So here’s your answer: many conservatives either are de-facto landed gentry, or aspire to be landed gentry, or sympathize with landed gentry.

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