MacIntyre continues in a passage quoted by R&D: “What the good life is for a fifth-century Athenian general will not be the same as what it was for a medieval nun or a seventeen-century farmer.” (231)
But come now, that one is a nun is a contingent fact; it does not guarantee that she ought to have become or continue to be a nun; perhaps she’d eagerly change her vocation to general if she had the chance. Maybe later she’ll have a change of mind and leave the convent to pursue commercial endeavors or marry and start a family.
The goodness of a nun may indeed consist in different things than the goodness of a general; but the choice of the vocation itself cannot reasonably be imposed by force. Again, the skills of an acrobat differ from the the skills of a philosopher, and it is true that a certain commitment to one’s line of work is requisite; but to have the “community” (i.e., the state) coerce one into a particular trade is a monstrous injustice.
The freedom to choose a specialization or personal identity is distinct from the specialization or personal identity freely chosen or given immutably by nature. Consider that feminists have gone so far as to propose the elimination of the domestic division of labor. Let both the husband and wife devote equal time to earning money and doing each chore around the house. I don’t know if such a policy is “fair,” but it’s certainly extremely stupid and inefficient. Karl Marx babbled about how the communist society “makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” MacIntyre makes the opposite error. One’s “social identity” conferred upon him by the circumstances of his birth and childhood is allegedly permanent, inviolable, and even sacred.
R&D counter effectively by pointing out that “the particular cultural and social manifestation of human nature or the human good should never be taken as defining or constituting human nature or the human good itself.” (234)
MacIntyre disappoints completely a few pages later: “There may have to be self-imposed limits to labor mobility for the sake of the continuities and the stabilities of families and other institutions.” If he means that uprooting oneself and moving can be costly and even heartbreaking, then I fail to see how anyone could deny an observation so obvious. R&D comment:
…if some individuals in a small town should on their own judge economically it is best for them to no longer shop or work at the stores in the center of the town, but should instead travel to stores outside of town to make their purchases of find employment, then such activity might have to be limited or subordinated.
Possibly, such individuals would, and indeed should, judge that such a decision might be contrary to the community life they enjoy, and that the savings or increased salary from traveling to the stores or jobs outside of town are not worth possibly destroying the community life that is so vital to them. (237)
Is it really my duty to subsidize inefficient businesses “in the center of the town” who dare to demand my patronage despite offering inferior goods at high prices, selfishly hoping that their vile propaganda about “community life” will allow them to profit at my expense? I am not prepared to satisfy such outrageous delusions and self-conceit. There is no moral principle that bids me to forsake a better and more exciting job elsewhere and instead keep toiling away for a failing company under a bad boss earning peanuts just in order not to upset some folks with whom I have once or twice engaged in “giving and receiving.”
Speaking of which, is MacIntyre talking about sucking dick while having one’s own dick sucked? We are to “give and receive” what? There are relationships based on self-interest and relationships based on charity. Business transactions like which food to buy or where to work are instance of the former. Such relations are not marked by “union, mutual indwelling, ecstasy, and zeal,” all effects of love according to St. Thomas (ST, II-I, 28); instead, they are simply a network of useful contacts, business partners, customers, allies, and acquaintances. They depend entirely upon immediate expediency and mutual profit right here right now. That today I make an exchange of goods with Smith does not mean that I have acquired a “relationship” with Smith. Each of us is free to forsake the other the moment another person offers us a sweeter deal. And that’s a good thing: it keeps every producer on his toes. A mere business or employment contract differs from a life-long covenant like marriage. It seems therefore that MacIntyre has fallen victim to an elementary error of conflating naturally impersonal relationships like between business owner and employee with personal relationships like between family members.
R&D continue that for MacIntyre, “it is the individual reasoning and acting apart for the process of communal deliberation that destroys the relationship of giving and receiving. This cannot be countenanced.” (237) But if I am part of the community, am I not supposed to contribute to the “communal deliberation” my own notions? Or must I simply obey the council of elders or the majority or whatever? Perhaps he means that I ought to consider the common good and not just my own good in my actions. But it is a fact that almost the entirety of the common good is simply the total sum of the private goods of the members of a community. The most efficient way to maximize the overall welfare is to take care of one’s own, including indeed shop and work wherever one wants.
R&D conclude: “Individuals making choices about which communities to belong to and about their degree of involvement therein is not ipso facto a denial of community. It is only a denial of communities where the role of the individual, and most of the significant choices of the individual, is decided collectively, rather than by the individual himself.” (238) Well put. To say that I prefer America to Cuba is not to deny that there are such things as nations or to assert that nations are mere figments of the imagination; it is only to reject the Cuban-style socialism where I am not allowed to migrate at all.