Monday, August 4, 2008

Morality and Legislation

The rest of your post is a well reasoned, cogent, and persuasive defense for a viewpoint I do not share. By my lights, one of the most injudicious pieces of folk wisdom we share is the notion that we can’t legislate morality1. Legislate morality? Admittedly, Conservatives have some ambivalent thoughts on the matter—mostly in the particulars under any consideration. But it inescapable that morality is the thick stuff of public life. Not only can morality find its place in the law, the reality is we do it everyday. Every law and piece of legislation no matter how minimal reflects moral choices our representatives have made. We may employ whatever “legal fiction” we like but there is no such thing a morally neutral or “agnostic” law. It is simply a fact of governance that in ordering our lives together we are discriminating between what is good and what is bad and what we count as justice among us.
In choosing or even in not choosing, somebody’s “idea” is being codified as to how we live our lives. (Ironically, the Libertarian notion to separate “personal morality” from “political morality” is a moral worldview you would oppose on a public not so inclined) We even go so far as to “constitutionalize” particular notions of what arrangements benefit us as a free and self-governing people. And, yes, the State uses the power of the sword to back it up. Argument and reason, yes, by all means. But we are men and not angels. It is a mistake to think we can do all the time what in fact we can only do some of the time. Much of the time we like to think of ourselves as philosopher kings. But reason is only a tool and we can reason our way into some pretty strange conclusions. Thus the law is there as a teaching authority for the thoughtful, the modestly gifted, and willful alike. The power of the sword is there when reason falters and malice prevails.
As to your hypothetical 16 year old rape victim:
“Tell me, Mike, would you stand before a 16-year-old rape victim, gun in hand, and demand that she not abort the child that is the result? Would you demand, on pain of violence, that she allow the child to come to term, even if she in turn gives the child up for adoption?”
Mr. Campbell, I am as close to an absolute abolitionist2 as you could get. I have no trouble using force to stand for justice toward the weakest among us—the unborn—whom I must point out suffer lethal violence in their “termination”3. What the Pro-Life movement advocates is nothing less than a “Copernican” revolution on the entire
question. A revolution that is every bit as political as it is “social”. There is no more public question than who we count as one of us and to whom we extend our protections4.

-Writen by Crabby Apple Mike Lee

1 If you mean that simply passing a law will not make a people virtuous then I agree with you. But it doesn’t appear that that is your point. I agree we have too many laws and the state attempts to regulate our lives way too much. But that is a subject for another day.
2 I am also a political realist. However logically inconsistent it may be, in our time the American people simply will not accept any prohibition against abortion without exceptions for rape, incest and the endangered health of the mother. It is not the “best”; but to climb out of the “worst” we’ll take the “better”. We can continue to make our case from there.
3 A rather cold, analeptic, and clinic term. A more accurate word would butchery.
4I think we should make a clean breast of it and recognize that what is obvious. One can certainly debate this in the abstract; but when, opponents abject to the “social issues” crowd, nine times out of ten what they are really mean is the single issue of abortion. What is often referred to as “blue blood” Republicans claim that economic freedom is the only thing the party should be about. Whatever the merits of being an “economics” party, at least as far as the Republican Party is concern, it is blatantly ahistorical. The Republican Party began as a anti-slavery party. As opposed to the present time, Republicans for at least half is existence was not a “free trade” party.

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