Friday, May 15, 2009

Which Law is Right?

Asking which of the following positions is right is almost impossible, as they are definitions of what is right. It is similar to asking, "Which blue chair is actually blue?"

Social liberals - "Something should be illegal if and only if it violates the rights of others."
Social conservatives - "Something should be illegal if it is immoral (by some standard)."

As the previous post discussed, the utilitarian answer seems to favor a liberal approach. The reasoning is that since there is no longer a common standard for morality in society, one must either replace that standard to return to a conservative position, or "rights" must become the standard. In other words, liberalism "works" in our current situation.

The challenge to those who do believe in a universal moral standard is determining whether to surrender in the war of worldviews for something that "works" or to continue the battle for what is right. Even those who appeal to the Bible for moral truth recognize that the only way to demand that morality=legality is to establish a theocracy. Attempts at that in our own history have failed severely, as the leaders often do not live up to their own standards.

What remains is a system where people from entirely different worldviews are acting like they're talking about the same thing (i.e. legality) when they are talking about two different things (rights or morality). Even in financial debates one's "right" to a social service is pitted against the view that it is "wrong" to tax someone to pay for someone else's services. Either the battle will continue, or the culture will continue to shift back and forth.

In other words, the next installment of the 18th Amendment will probably be soon met by the next installment of the 21st Amendment.

This the last post in a series on why laws should be made. The first post defined commonly held positions. The second post described pros and cons of those positions.

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