In an effort to appear more “conservative” than Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum stole headlines by promising that his administration would attempt to heavily regulate the pornography industry. In the parlance of executive action, Rick’s War on Porn was born. Now this is just begging for endless and endlessly childish puns, but for once I’m going to skip that. Instead, I’d like to sidestep the debate about porn itself, for this question: are moral legislations/regulations a “conservative” activity?
In Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court case striking down Texas’ anti-sodomy law, Justice Scalia’s dissent warned that the case could be the “end of all morals legislation”. That particular doom hasn’t yet come down upon us, but I wish it would.
One could argue that government is fundamentally a- or im- moral, which raises the old ends-means argument. On the other hand, one might say that an immoral act which produces a more moral result is our best response to the arbitrary dings and dent of an indifferent and cruel world. Thus, fighting arbitrary wrongs with small doses of righteousness is not only a worthy act, but a type of governmentally moral imperative.
These arguments aren’t productive, and interesting only in a college-dorm-philosophy way; that is, not at all to anyone sober.
Instead, let’s ask “why are morals so important?” Every day, everyone has to ask themselves serious questions about what is good and right and just, and try to live up to the answers they find. Generally, we can’t agree on where these determinations come from; God, a moral code, natural justice, the Tao, or whatever. But people find the strength and inspiration to embody their personal conception of ‘good’ in a variety of places.
What’s important about this is that people do this themselves. The moral actions, that is, the actions that show moral character or moral activity, the locus of the morality, is in making those choices. In choosing what to do and say, how to be, and thereby shaping the next set of decisions, people create the future with their choices in the past.
Using the government to make moral decisions for people abridges their ability to be agents of moral action. In a
nightmare world where Santorum is President, he’d pursue a policy to make the world more “moral”, while stripping morality from America’s people.
Morality seems, like most human activities, to be bottom-up. What do you think? Can you make someone else good? Can the government?