Morality and legislation can never be separated…

A new blogger to my material liked yesterday’s post so I naturally headed over to see what he was writing about.  Low and behold, another blogger after my own heart.  I like his style, thinking, and presentation of the topics that I saw on his site: The Politics of Writing. That link will take you to the article that I am about to comment on.

Writeforthemasses wrote a blog on Can a Secular Nation Ever Exist?.  The thought process in the article stops short of the really important question:

Can you create any form of legislation without it being based on morality?

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The answer is an emphatic NO!  Morality is tied to every piece of legislation, court decision, bureaucratic regulation, etc…

Take as an example tax legislation.  On the surface it seems that the laws and regulations are only about taxes – how much should someone else pay for having sold, bought, or distributed something?  But go deeper.  Where does the right of taxation come from?  Why is it okay to tax the people operating under a government’s authority and protection?  Where did the government get the right to form in the first place in order to offer protection and to establish authority?  Why is government needed?

The questions continue and all lead into ideological philosophies of individuals as they apply their worldview to any given situation.  Secularism in the form of a government would still be supporting a set of idealistic morals.  This, as others have said, is not bad in and of itself.  But mankind has proven itself to be intrinsically selfish and self-motivated.  Whether you believe that to be the sin-nature or a product of humans struggling to survive through the process of evolution is beside the point.  Mankind cannot be trusted to look out for our fellow man.  In small groups – without a doubt, but in large formations the desire to protect, serve, share, and otherwise seek the benefit of the group over our own lives is greatly diminished.

Most of this I posted as a comment on his site so it will be interesting to see what others think.  Can legislative ever be separated from morality?  Keep asking questions about what it is you propose to legislate that doesn’t involve morality.  That is what I will do in my response if  you give me an example as ‘proof’ that it can be done.  Anti-communism

My next post might be on restructuring America in a way that allows for ‘freedom’ of religious practices – another myth that will never be absolute in its creation.

Thanks for reading.

Keith

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8 thoughts on “Morality and legislation can never be separated…

  1. If you are talking about the Philosophy of Law, then morality cannot be separate, it is a part of law, its backbone. The ten commandments of the old testament bear witness to that effect, for they are almost a universal set of basic law giving. Most, but not all law is derived from this set. On the other hand, there is legislation, laws put into place that have nothing to do with morality. We might liken these to “Nanny State” legislation. The labeling of the warning printed on a package of cigarettes and its ever changing size has no morality behind it. Some may think it does, just as a law passed by New York City limiting the size of cups that sodas could be sold to the public is deemed to protect the public health, in essence, it is purely an attempt to regulate behavior that is neither moral or immoral. The laws regarding the size and manufacture of knives is another non morality base set of laws. Well, it’s for the public’s safety. On that score, then a law that would outlaw private automobiles would be in the interest of public safety and still have nothing to do with morality. One finds hundreds, even thousands of laws that were enacted that have no moral basis in fact. It is one thing to require disclosure in a financial matter and another to require that individuals be given forms to sign stating that such disclosures were made. Each involves a moral question. But the legislation regulating the size of the sheet of paper to be signed and how it is the be written and where the signature and date must be placed has nothing to do with either moral issue. There is no moral code that states that uniformness of design must be observed at all time else one rots in hell.

    Yes, for the most part, law and morality are joined at the hip, like siamese twins. And those in a common culture share a common sense of morality. But we do not all share the same beliefs and thus our individual sense of morality will differ from that of others, even if ever so slightly.

    • But all of these Nanny Laws do have their basis in morality. Why should we care about consumer safety? Where do the rights of consumers come from with regards to receiving protection from producers of goods? In other words, why is it ‘wrong’ for a producer to mislead, misinform, or willfully create a product that is unsafe? The laws exist because we believe that producers should be good, truthful, careful, concerned, etc… and that consumers have a right to be treated fairly or justly. All of these terms have morality as basis for their existence: good/right verses evil/wrong and the definition of both of those terms.

      I completely agree with your last statement. There are numerous ways that individuals differ in their ‘sense’ of morality. And that sense of morality is extremely important to recognize because it forms the basis for all of our decisions. I cannot see how morality is separated from anything. Maybe we should define morality so that we are on the same page. A quick google search (define morality) reads: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

      Right and wrong, good and bad – definite moral terms, and definitely what all laws seek to establish. Even the size of a knife or sword.

      • You speak of rights as if they were morals in and of themselves. But a right is, if you like, a god-given token, for lack of a better word. A right is something that occurs naturally. The so-called consumer “rights” are not rights but privileges, enacted by man. They do not exist in nature. We exercise our freedom of choice in the market place. Will some try and cheat us? Oh yes, against our moral code. Will we indulge in the right to buy tobacco and consume it? Yes. We would do that even though we know it may cause us harm. If we all thought of good/right versus wrong/evil as you do then we would refuse to sell anything harmful, we would not refuse to fully disclose all the harmful effects of any product. Indeed, we would only manufacture good products and sell them honestly. And if I were running that cafe down the street, I would serve you only portions that would sustain your weight and refuse you that second piece of pie. In short, our freedoms end and our “Morals” become a tyranny. You can’t have freedom without the right to make your own mistakes. You can’t pin the blame on others for you lack of interest in doing your own research. You can’t have a free market and then regulate it out of existence. I do believe you have confused the argument. The problem is not the exact definition of morality but your insistence that it is the basis of every human decision. It is not and never will be. I understand all too well what you want, but life is not that black and white. It is a messy affair and morality is a guide, not a set of laws that apply to every decision, every action, every aspect of our lives.

      • Do you know me? Please refrain from making ‘you’ statements.

        “The problem is not the exact definition of morality but your insistence that it is the basis of every human decision” – My point is that behind every decision lies a moral basis for that decision – not that we actively engage in making a moral decision.

        When law-makers enact a law, they don’t think of it in terms of morality – but the very basis of every law is moral one. Laws would not exist if we all agreed on AND followed the same moral codes that are inherent within us.

        Regarding rights occurring naturally, that is a presupposition that still involves morality. Having rights, whether naturally or God-given, still implies justice and fairness as principles of humanity. It all involves morality of the individual. Mankind will never agree on where inherent or natural rights come from, nor whether all of us have the same inherent rights. Therefore, we will never have a legal system that is inherently fair and just to all individuals within a given society.

        I appreciate the dialogue.

        Keith

      • Your argument is that all laws are based on a code of morals, therefore any law that is enacted must be based on a moral code. That argument is false and the reason should be obvious.

      • I don’t see a problem with my argument. Whether subconsciously, inadvertently, or otherwise with or without knowing it, all laws have their roots in moral terms.

      • Let us take an example of two arguments, one false and one true. All dogs have tails and bark. Fido has a tail and barks. therefore Fido is a dog. Incorrect, false, it has not been shown. Foxes bark and have tails. Other species had tails and bark. Thus having tails and barking is not the exclusive property of dogs. Let’s restate the argument again. All dogs have tails and bark. Fido is a dog. Therefore fido has a tail and barks. Now we have a correct argument.

        Again, your argument is that all laws are based of a code of morals. Yet you do not offer any proof, simple a statement of belief, not fact. You also state that no laws can be made that do not have a moral bases. How so, what would lead us to conclude the correctness of this argument? You offer no evidence. You have made a general absolute statement with no supporting fact or proof.

        Now take the case of a home owner painting his house purple with yellow accents. Code compliance comes by as says he must repaint the house a neutral color. By what ordinance or law. His neighbors have declase it an eyesore and assert that their property values have suffered, yet none has sold and taken a direct loss to prove such assertions. They do not like his color scheme. How then are they to claim any sense of moral basis for 1. their assertion that his color scheme is an eyesore, and 2, that they have suffered a property valuation loss when the true value of a property is what is paid for it at the time of sale and no sales have been recorded? i can give you thousands of these types of law with no moral basis. How then can we accept your claim that every law has a moral basis? At one time we claimed in these United States that slavery was an established law. On what moral basis did that law exist?

        I can remember a time when I, as a child, could buy cigarettes before they caused cancer. Prior to the studies done by doctors in the fifties, cigarettes were not agents of cancer. The act of smoking was not a moral question. Now you start talking product liability and moral responsibility. When and why did that attitude change and is it really a moral issue? You want everything black and white and it just won’t wash. We have laws against prostitution. We say they are based on a moral code? Really, is it immoral for one person to sell and act of sex with their body and another to pay for it? Why, what is the moral basis? well, the church says so. Not good enough, an appeal to a dubious authority.

        This will be my last attempt and if you still can’t see the problem, well, that is your problem. This is not about whether which one of us is right and which one is wrong. It is an exercise in thinking and logic. If I am wrong, then I am wrong. I have been wrong in the past on a few things and it is no shame in being wrong. The shame is in no correcting one’s thinking. It is in not exploring why one was wrong. And if you still believe you are right, so be it, this is not a judgment. People have the right to believe what they will.

      • Don’t stop at the surface of the paint being an eye sore and devaluing property values. Codes exist for what reason? Why do other home owners have a right to not have their property value decreased by a neighbor? Why can I not cross a street wherever I want to? Why do any traffic laws exist? Why is it that consumers have a right to protection? Why do homes have to be built to a set code? The core of all codes, compliance, regulations, laws, etc…are based on a right verses wrong way of life. Without these then the communities and societies built will not function in a way consistent with or standards of right and wrong. It is not a black and white issue because everyone, even within the same faith traditions, have to work through their perspectives that differ, whether drastically or slightly.

        Can I come up with an “if p then q” series of statements to prove my point? No. But I can ask questions of any law that you give me to prove my point and believe that I have done so.

        I do not see any proofs that you have offered which I have not offered rationale questions for that don’t lead to beliefs systems/world views/morality being the core issue.

        And lastly, why give up on trying to persuade or prove me otherwise? You and I have been civil and the dialogue has refrained from emotion for the most part. If you and I cannot debate for the purpose of changing our own viewpoints or persuading the other to change theirs then what hope do we have in society. I am willing to change my viewpoint but have not been persuaded that yours is correct at this point any more than I have yours. My email is Wadley.keith@gmail.com if you want to continue or you can keep posting here.

        Thanks for writing.

        Keith

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