12 December 2011

OneSTDV Misses It


So Paul is against gay marriage and abortion. One presumes that the gravity of these moral concerns, especially the latter, should be the most important consideration in enacting law. Yet, this isn't the case for Paul due to his opposition towards federal government:
"I don't want the federal government dictating marriage definitions nor a position on right to life. It should be done locally. It'll be imperfect, probably, because every state won't be the same, but what is really bad is when you allow the federal government to define marriage and put the pressure and make the states follow those laws."
In other words, abortion is murder, but only if it's done in a given state. For a man that casts himself a Biblical conservative, this reeks of moral relativism. An actual conservative sums it up wonderfully:
To us this is a morality issue. So the reason you don't have slavery in Alabama and not slavery in Iowa is because slavery is wrong. And we believe abortion is wrong. We don't believe it should be left up to the states. And the same way with marriage.
Right is right, wrong is wrong. Who cares where the sins occur? Law should reflect our morality, not exist as sort of an independent construct. In sum, Paul and other libertarians consider even life itself less important than a nebulous concept of "freedom." This is what libertarianism always comes down to, "freedom", a purposefully vague concept that somehow supersedes all others yet defies concise definition. Of course, I too support freedom, but I believe that some things are clearly more important - like life, traditional culture, and family.  [All quotes from initial post are italicized. –Ed.]

There are several things wrong with One’s argument.

In the first place, One completely whiffs on state sovereignty.  First, a definition of “state”:

A politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory; especially : one that is sovereign. (Merriam-Webster’s, 5a.)

Note the word sovereign; this will be important later.

One has apparently never wondered why it’s the United States of America.  The reason why this title is used is because the united states are a federation (hence the federal government) and not a country, hence the need for a constitution limiting the federal government.  A simple reading of the federal government (particularly the tenth amendment) makes it abundantly clear that all the powers granted to the federal government actually belong to the states themselves; it is the states that, by joining the union, choose to delegate certain, aforeknown rights to the federal government, presumably for the sake of efficiency.  The federal government is therefore equal in authority to state governments, and cannot thus override the states in any manner except those explicitly specified by the states in the constitution.

The reason for this method of governance, as demonstrated by the constitution is due to the issue of state sovereignty.  It is assumed that all states are sovereign, and therefore have the right of self-governance, and it is therefore not the federal government’s right to act on behalf the various states, or to direct the states as subordinates unless explicitly or implicitly authorized to do so by constitution.  Therefore, on matters not delegated to the federal government, the federal government has as much right to subordinate, say, Alabama to its laws as it does Sweden.  Both Alabama and Sweden are sovereign states, and there are some powers the federal government has no right to exercise over either.

The power to define murder is not granted to the federal government.  Nowhere in the constitution is the power explicitly or implicitly granted, and the tenth amendment states quite clearly that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people [emphasis mine].  As such, the government has no business defining murder.*  Therefore, Ron Paul is correct in noting that there is no legal ground upon which the proposal to ban abortion or gay marriage at the federal level can stand, save by a constitutional amendment.

In the second place, One mistakenly conflates legality and morality.  Something that is legal can be immoral, and the immorality of a thing remains unchanged regardless of its legality.  Abortion, for example, is perfectly legal but nonetheless immoral.  Something that is perfectly moral may be illegal (think saying a prayer in school).  And some matters of legality have no moral concerns (think speed limit laws).

The problem One faces, then, is trying to convert moral oughtness into law.  What he should do is determine the purpose of law and adjust his desires accordingly.

Law in the United States was not, historically, concerned with moral outcomes.**  Rather, it was primarily concerned with property rights, hence the founders’ preoccupation with natural rights.  Law in the united states was primarily concerned with the preservation of property rights, and this is certainly reflected in many of the older statutes.  Morality was a secondary, and more recent, concern.  Of course, if One is so desirous of a moral society, the question must be asked:  Is using the federal government of the united states’ penal code a good way to obtain the desired outcome?

And this brings us to Ron Paul’s point.  Giving the federal government power, even if done with the best of intentions, is very problematic because of power, corruption and all that jazz.  And giving the federal government power of that magnitude to use for good does not preclude the federal government from perverting that intention and using the power delegated for evil (see: the federal government for the last 150 years).  That’s why you don’t give the federal government power.  Therefore, if One wishes to argue with Ron Paul on the matter of law, he must first prove that his desire for using law to enforce morality is superior to the alternatives.

Basically, OneSTDV’s argument ignores state sovereignty and fails to address the underlying disagreement of visions regarding the role of law.  Essentially, he ignores the main premise of Ron Paul’s argument and attacks a straw man and follows that up with begging the question, and tops everything off with a good old-fashioned ad hominem attack.  Now, One’s concerns about the morality of society are certainly legitimate, but his attack on Ron Paul is simply illogical.

* Obviously this makes the Roe v. Wade unconstitutional because the Supreme Court decided to define murder, which is a prohibited federal function.  As Tom Woods argues in Rollback, the states would be well within their rights to ignore this ruling.

** I am, of course, painting in rather broad strokes with this, as there are obvious exceptions.   Just bear with me.
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