Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Using the Government to Enforce Morality

What is, and what should be, the role of government in regards to morality?

It seems that both the right and the left want to use the government to enforce different moral positions. The right wants the government to outlaw abortions and defend traditional marriage. The left wants the government to take care of the poor and offer healthcare to all. And of course, both sides want the government to enforce laws against murder, theft, and other universally recognized moral laws.

So, on what basis do we use the government and laws to enforce a particular moral position? If the government should outlaw abortions and defend traditional marriage, why not have the government take care of the poor and offer healthcare? Usually the answer that is given is that it does not work. Capitalism works. Socialism does not.

But this is a pragmatic argument, not a moral argument. Would we argue against laws that outlaw abortion based upon pragmatism? Even if these laws did not work all the time (say, women who who wanted an abortion went to Canada), they would undoubtedly work some of the time. The moral basis for these laws would be upheld, even if they were not 100% efficient.

And we at one time had laws against things such as adultery. Would we be for these laws now? How about laws against pride? Lying? Gossip? Where do we draw the line?

I do believe that some moral issues ought to be upheld by laws. But it seems that we do not have a consistent rational for why we use the law to uphold some moral issues and exclude others. I would be interested in someone providing a good rationale.

What moral issues do you want the government to enforce? Which do you not want them to involved in? Why?

4 comments:

Kyle said...

if you're going for fireworks, this should be a pretty good trigger :) I'd love to talk about this in person...comment sections tend to get a bit out of control with this hot of a topic.

James Nored said...

Kyle, I would hope for a robust but civilized (no insulting or name calling) debate on this issue. I'm always up for talking in person too!

Kyle said...

one would hope, but i've seen much different too many times.

EndUnknown said...

What should they enforce? murder, rape, and child abuse charges for an off the head response.

What should they stay out of? what someone does to their own body, or consentingly with that of another, be it an abortion, gay marriage, homosexuality, marijuana, or eating trans fats, so long as it does not directly harm another.


why are Christians for some bible laws, and not others? they don't really believe it. if they did, it would be reflected in their lives. they just pepper up the cognitive dissonance with some flowery theological sayings.

also, that 'Capitalism works. Socialism does not.' argument of the right has a few flaws. first is all the other things we have socialized:

K-12 education
Police
Fire fighters
Public Libraries
Roads
Airports and air traffic control
Military defense and offense

are these bad. I can't think of any rational person who would be against these necessary public services.

secondly, socialism works great. many of those 'evil socialist' countries in Europe are doing MUCH better than us right now. maybe capitalism is what doesn't work.