Thursday, May 13, 2010

Government Legislating Morality

We all know that conservatives are all eager to act as moral policemen, eager to spy on liberals in the bedroom. And we all utterly deprecate it.

But what about liberals?

Moral Police Inspector Michelle Obama wants to tell us what to eat. Armed with a task force report she and her food police sergeants are eager to implement 70 recommendations to improve child nutrition.

Then there's Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn whose "Walk Bike Ride" initiative aims to change the transportation system in Seattle to encourage walking, biking and transit and discourage automobile transportation.

At a loftier level there's Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, and his new book The Politics of Happiness. Bok has looked at other countries whose governments now are working on Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. He has a stack of government policy recommendations for the US so that it can increase happiness.

Nobody doubts that it is a good thing for children to eat healthy and for people to walk and for people to be happy. The question is: should the government get involved, given that government is force?

Liberals get annoyed with me when I point out that all this government action that puts a moral spin on things, or puts government in charge of happiness, is a violation of the First Amendment, or at least Thomas Jefferson's take on it. In the US we have a separation between Church and State. That is, beyond actually banning an establishment of religion, we feel that the moral and the political should be kept apart.

Liberals get annoyed because they don't think that their political agenda should be considered a religion. But if you are secular and don't belong to a church, then your only way of establishing moral order is through government directly, or indirectly through government schools and government colleges.

Just as we all agree that the Spanish Inquisition was a bad thing, enforcing the moral rules of the Catholic Church with a moral police force and the death penalty, so the same should apply to all governmental efforts to sneak out of the bread and butter of government, the providing of basic public services, into the more exhilarating world of moral militancy.

It's comical, really, that our liberal friends have smuggled the idea of a national church in the back door, but they do that with everything. It will end, of course, in tears. The idea of separating the moral and the legal is a highly sophisticated idea that allows a gray area of behavior that may be morally condemned but not legally sanctioned. That gray area we call freedom. But liberals seem to end up implementing everything on their moral agenda with a law. And that means enforcement by the cops or, as we now say, "enforcement officers," and it reduces the area of freedom, the right to make mistakes.

The problem posed by the the secularization of society erupted immediately upon the birth of the secular society with the French Revolution in 1789. Politicians like Robespierre found themselves enmeshed in the moral, and enforcing the moral code with the guillotine. We have created a word to describe the government that combines secular lawgiving with secular religion: Totalitarian. And the French revolutionaries spawned the bloodier secular religio-political regimes we know as communism and fascism.

I'd just say to Michelle Obama, to Mayor McGinn, to Derek Bok, and to all my liberal friends: be true to your ideals. Believe in the separation of church and state and apply it to your own moral agenda. If you don't you'll be sorry.

1 comment:

  1. Chris,

    Why are you jumping on the blame the French for everthing bandwagon that seems to be in vogue these days? Starting communism and fascism? Come on, next you will be blaming the French for starting Islamic terroism.