Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bipartisan Hypocrisy on Moral Imperialism


Okay, now let’s apply my “Governing Morality” post to real-world political issues. On most modern political debates, Americans seem to be split somewhere near the middle. Those things on which we all agree aren’t very interesting to talk about (at least not for non-politics nerds!). In the mainstream, nobody is debating whether we have a right to property, or whether murder should be illegal, or things like that. The issues you’re likely to hear about in the news are limited to those which are controversial and contentious. This is where my feelings on universal and subjective morality come into play. There is certainly nothing near consensus on issues like gay marriage, welfare, taxes, the allocation of federal spending, or whether we should be at war in the Middle East. Yet law legislates on these things anyway, often by slim majority votes (or in the case of war, without any congressional approval at all).

The reason is that there is a pervasive attitude in American politics that in any moral disagreement, the government (read: wielders of force) ought to be the final arbiter of who is right, and who is wrong. For too long, we have been unable tolerate disagreement. We have been unable to live and let live. We are not satisfied by doing with ourselves and our own property what we may. We feel compelled to use law to force our opinions on those who disagree, to issue official mandates that it’s my way or the highway. When we happen to be in the majority, we fight tooth and nail to keep the law as it is so that our opinions are validated; when we happen to be in the minority, we fight tooth and nail to change the law to our way of thinking so that our opinions cease to be oppressed. But what we don’t do often enough is float the idea that maybe, there needn’t be any law on such matters.

The result is that today, we have way too much “moral majority” crap from both parties. The government’s nanny-state intrusions in our lives only embody our society’s intolerance and moral imperialism. Take gay marriage. Half the country wants the government to hand out shiny marriage certificates with all sorts of tax-breaks only to straight couples. The other half wants the government to hand those badges to both straight and gay couples. But neither side seriously considers the possibility that the government doesn’t have to hand out any licenses at all! Why can’t marriage be private? Why can’t everyone live with whoever they want, and call themselves whatever they want? If you disagree that two men can form “real marriage”, or that two women can be married, or that three men, two women and a goat can be married, then YOU don’t have to recognize it! YOU can teach YOUR kids that that is wrong! YOU don’t have to invite those people to YOUR wedding! If they find a church somewhere that is willing to proclaim them husband and wife, or husband and husband, or rooster and hen, YOU don’t have to go to that church! All you have to do is refrain from wielding force to harm that couple, no matter how badly you feel like punishing them for their sins.

Stop snickering, anonymous liberal reader, because you’re next. In this year’s State of the Union, Obama called for “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” It’s a common tagline of the left. Such flippant reiteration of the word “fair” assumes that everyone agrees on its definition. It is an assumption the President knows to be false. The majority of Americans might agree that people deserve a fair shot in theory, but they have vastly different notions about what that fairness entails. And as the recurrent battles on taxation show, opinions regarding how much people ought to give to those in need, or for the “common good,” are every bit as much of a subjective, personal moral belief as abortion or homosexuality. On those latter issues, Democrats are the first to complain about conservative moral imperialism forcing everyone to submit to a moral code that only half the country accepts. They demand the right for each woman to choose for herself if abortion is wrong, or for each individual to choose for himself what sexual behavior to engage in. They are right to do so. But they then reject the right of each citizen to choose for his or her self how much to give to charity, and to which charities, by taking that money by force for liberal causes. What a hypocrisy it is to coerce unwilling taxpayers to adopt an equally subjective moral framework of what fairness entails?

I don’t care how badly you want me to give my money to a knocked up teenager in the ghetto. Or to fund an art museum, or NPR, or a sports stadium, or anything else 55% of the populace may desire. You personally may feel these things are valuable to society, which is why YOU are free to donate to them. You personally may be appalled and disgusted by a billionaire who only gives 10% of his money to charity instead of 50%. Or one who chooses to give to a different cause than you do. Tough shit! It’s not your money! The solution is not to hold a gun to his head and tell him to fork it over. Nor is it to hold a vote, win by a slim margin, and say “Ha! Most people agree with me, so that makes you wrong! Just sit there in your wrongness and be wrong, fat cat!” That is a tyranny of the majority; the definition of moral imperialism.

Partisans on both sides of the aisle rightfully protest the oppression of the other party, but only when their ox is the one being gored. Only Libertarians oppose both versions of moral imperialism on principle. Only Libertarians protect everybody’s rights equally, regardless of whether they agree with our personal opinions or not. It’s none of my business whether you choose to have sex with a man, a woman, several men and women at once, or a plastic replica of a lesbian hermaphrodite midget. That’s your body and your property, which means you get to decide what the most moral way to use it is. As such, it’s also none of your business how much of my money my moral beliefs tell me is “fair” to give to others, no matter how old or poor or sick they are. That’s my property, and only I get to decide what the most moral way to use it is. Law on such matters is an opinion with a gun, and that force is unjustified, illegitimate, and oppressive.

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