21 January 2012

Santorum and the Constitution


So we were founded as a country that had God-given rights that the government had to respect. And with those rights come responsibilities, right? God did not just give us rights. He gave us a moral code by which to exercise them.

God did give us a moral code by which to exercise our rights, which is why Jesus once said “go into all the world and use the government to force people to obey your interpretation of the bible.”  Or something like that.

Sarcasm aside, Santorum’s mistake is thinking that it is the government that should enforce a moral code at all. In fact, this is the general flaw in most conservatives’ thinking regarding the government’s role in social morality.

Now, there should certainly be laws against murder, theft, rape, and assault (and here I use these as broad categories, for the purpose of illustration).  However, these things shouldn’t be against the law because they are immoral.  Rather, these things should be against the law because they violate property rights, including the most fundamental property right: self-ownership.

The distinction between morality and property rights as a basis of law is crucial.*  If one accepts Judeo-Christian morality as the basis of the legal code, one is morally obliged to keep the entirety of it (and by “the entirety of it” I mean “the Bible”).  A failure to do this is a tacit admission that the Judeo-Christian moral code is not actually a moral code, for moral codes apply either in their entirety or not at all.  Consider:  if one can pick and choose which tenets of a given moral code one is obliged to obey, then one is really saying by his behavior that he is obeying his own predetermined moral code, plus whatever aspects of any other moral code happens to be in line with his own personal moral code.  In this case, it is clear that a failure to keep the entirety of a given moral is basically a repudiation of that moral code.  QED.

Since it is now obvious that one must keep the entire moral code if one is going to keep any of it, the obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that those who argue that morality should be foundation of the law are obliged to pick a standard of morality and apply it wholesale.  Since Santorum is presumably referring to the Bible as a standard for morality, Santorum is obliged to make the entire Bible the basis of law.

In this case, his opposition to welfare would be entirely unfounded (cf. James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-36).  Obviously, Santorum, like all conservatives, recognizes that the Bible (or, more broadly, Judeo-Christian ethics) should not be the basis of law in the United States.  But that doesn’t stop them from selectively referring to Christian morals when determining government policy.  This, of course, is hypocritical.

Santorum, and the religious conservatives who support him, need to figure out a coherent basis for the role of law in the United States.  Is it going to be morality?  If so, what form of morality?  Or is it going to be property rights, as traditionally understood?  Or is there going to be some other framework for law?

It is obvious, at this point, that religious/social conservatives have no governing principles regarding the role of law, which is why their policies tend to be both hypocritical and schizophrenic.  In fact, the only governing principle of any given conservative is their personal preference.  They don’t oppose homosexuality because it is merely immoral; they oppose it because they personally dislike it.  They don’t oppose drug use simply because they believe it to be immoral; they oppose it because they personally dislike it.  In fact, personal dislike is the basis of virtually all religious/social conservative opposition.  That it may happen to correspond with some aspect of a random moral code is simply a happy coincidence.

* One could argue that making property rights the basis of law is itself a moral judgment, and therefore the law is nothing more than an indirect moral code.  This assertion ignores other reasons for using property rights as the basis for law, such as pragmatic concerns and tradition.

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