The past month has been pretty busy with finals, essays, and end of year cramming, so regretfully I’ve been unable to post anything substantial. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking, however. In fact, I’ve been saving up for something big. Now that I have a three week hiatus before I get busy again with an interchange to Germany, I’d like to get back into a more regular posting schedule. But first, I want to kick off the summer with a bang by writing something that’s been on my mind for a few months now.
Essentially, it’s a summary of the moral framework I accept as a libertarian. As avid readers will know, I support minimum government and maximum freedom. However, I am not an anarchist, because I feel that the appropriate level of government to maximize the protection of people’s rights is above zero. That seems like a contradiction to some people: I argue that all government wields force in order to function, and that initiating force on others is inherently wrong, and yet support some government. How can that be? For what purposes is it just to use force on others, and for what purposes is it not? Morally, philosophically, where do I draw the line, and why do I draw it where I do? Those are the questions these essays will attempt to answer.
It will come in a two parts. The first part will examine morality in more general philosophical terms. A core purpose of philosophy is to determine what people should do, how we ought to act. In such debates, whichever person, group, or entity is making the decision on how to act is called the “agent”. My first post will propose, compare, and contrast two competing metrics by which an agent might measure the morality of each option before him. In the process we will touch on some classic philosophic debates, including idealism, consequentialism, and if the “ends justify the means.”
The second part will apply this general moral framework to the specific case in which the agent is the government. This adds several complications to what was already a complicated equation. For one, there are now more people involved in making the decision; in our country, we claim that hundreds of millions of people, each with their own unique sense of morality, ought to be able to have a say in making the same decisions. In doing so we want to enable majority rule while protecting minority rights. The post will touch on issues like democracy, autonomy, legitimacy, tolerance, liberty, and the universal similarities between many moral codes.
These posts are doubly important because they’ll be referenced to explain positions on many specific issues in the future. I’ll try to keep them as short as possible while still fully exploring the topic. Here goes...