Thursday, August 14, 2008

Political Morality

After asserting that we should not attempt to legislate morality, it probably seems odd that I would speak about anything which I would define as 'political morality'. Perhaps I would do better to state that we should not attempt to legislate personal morality. And the reason that I say this is because the attempt to legislate personal morality creates heavy restrictions upon the individual in the name of the State (or the people, take your pick).
Political morality, on the other hand, takes into consideration the actions under which a government can still be considered a good, liberal government.1 I submit for consideration a simple means by which we can make this determination. A good, liberal government passes laws and enforces them in such a way as to provide for the greatest level of individual freedom while still protecting the individual's inherent rights.
It is under this consideration that I make the following statement:
“[I] would stand between the rapist and his victim ready to fight, kill, or die as needed. Our willingness to accept this action as right and just is what makes the laws against rape moral in the political sense. This same argument can be used to justify the laws against murder, theft, fraud, and many others. We cannot give onto the State the power to do things that we will not do as individuals and call ourselves a just society.”
To make clear the reasoning here I will go from a to d. A: The rapist has no inherent right to commit his action, but the victim has the right not to be violated. B: Defending a rapist against his victim protects the individual's inherent right against violent attack. C: Therefore, defending the victim is a just act. D: Because the individual has the inherent right not to be violated, the laws against rape are also just.
Now, lets talk about vigilantism versus policing power. As I stated in Rights in Conflict, one of the primary functions of government is to provide a neutral arbitrator when rights come into conflict. This naturally assumes that policing power of government is generally preferable over vigilantism as mediator of justice. This only works, however, as long as that government continues to work in such a way that protects the inherent rights of all. The very danger of vigilantism is as Mike has put it, that it will bring innocents into the conflict and become a matter of revenge versus a matter of justice. It is protecting 'kith and kin', as Mike puts it, that allows for a government to provide for a free and secure society and insure that individuals, and only those individuals, are held responsible for individual action.
And again, I will say that none of these arguments work well against the availability of abortion. Let me try and sum up my whole problem with the abortion debate. First, I find abortion morally indefensible. There can be no more innocent or defenseless life than that of the unborn. My problem with legislating against abortion, however, is when it comes with the State trying to assert itself as de-facto decider of the unborn. A blanket law against abortion provides the State with the power to determine if a particular woman will bring her child to term. Considering the general tendency for government to expand its powers (more on this later) then how long before the government decides it can order life to be created? When the ability becomes available, what is to stop the government from deciding that the life created must follow particular ideals? Our government already states we must buckle our seat-belts to protect ourselves. What's to stop them, once in conjunction with right to determine the fate of possible future citizens, to tell all parents that they must remove all genetic markers for the tendency towards obesity? Or homosexuality? Or aggressiveness? All of these would be 'good' things and would protects us, wouldn't they? Yes, all of these traits are influenced, though not completely controlled, by genetics.
While this argument may seem fantastical or paranoid, consider this: government power rarely decreases. Our government already attempts multiple laws for 'our own good'. The technology already exists to change the genome of a eucaryotic cell. The human genome has been mapped and new genes are being identified at a quick pace. The US court system has already provided mixed results on your rights over your own tissues and genetics (see Really, how paranoid am I to worry about the government asserting its power over the unborn?
1. Liberal government here is used as a government that supports basic freedom and expression, this is not a reference to the Liberal political ideology.

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