Politics is largely made up of onerous little things, and often very specific things – business tax assessment rates, subsidies, purchases and investment projects. Every now and then it becomes generic, and has to do with “how do we want to live together” or whatever the catchphrase is. It’s not just craftsmanship, tweaking screws and bureaucracy, the big picture has to have its place too, and when that happens, there’s always talk of one thing: values.
So it’s no wonder that the electoral statements of the two most powerful parties currently, for example, talk a lot about values and related things as “communities of values” (interestingly, both in the Union and in the Greens are hesitant). It’s good to talk about values, but what do we mean by that?
The word “values” raises two relatively obvious difficulties: first of all, because it is simply this word and no other, it avoids evading, because “value” means that what you are talking about is something the value It must be. Sentences like “I don’t care about values” or “Values are useless” sound weird. So, if you want to get angry, you can suspect that someone talking about values might want to use them to distort something.
Why do we need values?
The second difficulty matches this. When one comes to concrete examples of cloudy Sunday rhetoric, these are often generally binding rules to guide action. Even if it seems like a requirement today that gentlemen do not forget their swords when they go out of the house: shortly before the outbreak of the epidemic, the highest authorities demanded that “we” in Germany “shake hands with ourselves in salute”, each of them. But what exactly is the value? And as it becomes clearer, where the moral content is buried in the demands of the rules, it suffices in fact to speak of the virtues – charity, honesty, courage, whatever they may be called, there are, as is known, many of them. In the case of other values, when they become tangible, they seem to relate primarily to the preservation of certain things (such as cultural treasures) or certain technical knowledge (such as the ability to write a handwritten, error-free letter), that is, goods. This is a classic point in the discussion of values: Why do we need values when we have virtues and good things? What can you justify with values that you cannot justify without values?