Legislating morality

Legislating morality

You couldn’t tell by my posts, but I like to debate politics.  Many of my debates center on the concept of liberty, usually with an emphasis the degree of governmental involvement in social issues.  One major argument I often hear in the defense of freedom and liberty is how the government shouldn’t legislate morality.  It seems a number of people would like to be able to do whatever they want as long as the act is consensual and victimless.

Allow me to offer a wake-up call.  All governmental action falls into one of two categories: 1) the legislating of a moral position, or 2) the enforcing of a moral position.  Currently it is illegal to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve.  Why?  Because environmentalists believes it is morally reprehensible to drill for oil.  The federal government has banned insider trading, but libertarians believe insider trading should be allowed.  (While the general public is prohibited from insider trading, it is only recently that it has been made illegal for Congressmen and their aides to engage in the practice.)

Here is a short list of issues in which government taking one position or another is actually a moral position.

  • Drilling in ANWR
  • Insider trading
  • Emissions standards
  • Charging interest for overdue tax filings
  • Abortion laws
  • Gun laws
  • School lunch programs
  • Sex ed
  • Preemptive war
  • War of defense
  • Redistribution of wealth
  • Entitlement programs
  • Government taking money by threat of force and investing it in your retirement
  • Steroid use in professional sports
  • Prosecuting Muslim terrorists
  • Prosecuting non-Muslim terrorists
  • Not prosecuting terrorists, specific or otherwise
  • Food safety
  • Drug safety
  • Spanking
  • Consumer safety
  • Air travel
  • TSA pat-down standards and regulations
  • Credit card fees
  • Hate speech
  • Traffic signals
  • School curriculum
  • Non-smoking laws
  • Free speech
  • Alcohol laws

Every position is a moral one, even the minute positions of stop signs.  How?  There are a great many places without traffic signals, yet here in the United States, traffic signals abound.  I have heard first hand of people complaining about the speeders down their street, and petition the local government to stop it.  The moral position of the speeders is that their speed is perfectly safe.  The position of the complainers is that the speeders are unsafe and irresponsible.

The aforementioned list is not an indictment of one government entity, but a function of all government entities.  Even at the most basic functions of government, (i.e. protection, caring for those who cannot'Cannot' should not be confused with 'will not'care for themselves) moral questions still arise.  Sometimes it seems as though an act of legislation has no moral position, but that is because our society as a whole (or large majority) agrees on a particular position.  Compare our position to that of a foreign culture and the contrast may be starkAmerica's compassion for rape victims vs. Sharia law's honor killing of rape victims.

The next time you find yourself in the middle of a debate of government’s role in social issues, remember that every action by a government entity contains a moral position.


1 Comment

  1. When explaining why I supported the protection of marriage here in North Carolina I was confronted with an argument about why the amendment was bad and I have not been smart enough to rebuke it. The argument is that man should follow the laws of God and not the laws of men. Men are corrupt and making laws to defend the law of God will eventually backfire. A law will always be used not for moral reasons but to benefit some group. (Reference the Baptists and bootleggers example in economics.) The best type of government is no government or one that tolerates “whatever they want as long as the act is consensual and victimless.” This makes sense to me as I see how the Catholic church must fight against the HHS mandate for religious liberty and government intrusion. Why then is it okay for Catholics to force our beliefs on a non-Catholic society using man made laws and man made consequences? Gods laws come with their own consequences. Isn’t living out the Catholic faith the best way to role model correct behavior and the graces of God instead of legislating it? I would much appreciate your input.


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