Saturday, June 22, 2013
Morals are a good and proper thing for a functioning society. They serve to govern the relationships between individuals, shared opinions among cultures, and provide structure for the discussion of the undefinable absolutes (right versus wrong). However, given their very objective nature, they do not provide a finite answer. What is deemed acceptable by one culture may be very objectionable by another. While there is nothing wrong with the differences in these objective definitions, conflict will arise between those that are overly invested in their version of virtue. Every religion, culture, or other definable segment of the population suffers from people that take the sentiments of their shared beliefs to the edge of considerations, and endeavor to force those views onto others. An individual, embracing the narrative of his ideals, is limited in what he can accomplish. A group, sharing the same viewpoint, while their voice is stronger, can’t inflict change, but only try to inspire agreement. A governing body, empowered by the consent of the masses with a monopoly on the use of force, can instill the viewpoints it agrees with.
Therein lays the threat of allowing a Government to legislate morality. Whose morals are going to be enforced? Such is the threat of a Democracy, where the whims of the majority reign. One group, with a shared belief of what is morally right, utilizing governmental might to enforce their view points and infringe the rights of those that disagree with them. Some public debates of the day that best reflect this problem are the issues of Abortion and Gay Marriage. Religious sentiments are that each is morally wrong, found in violation of the teachings they espouse, or at least the understanding that those opposed have adopted. So, they rally those that agree with their views around them and voice their objections, an activity protected by the Constitution. They vote for politicians and legislators that share their belief, that if elected will work to govern by these beliefs. These officials promote legislation that endorses and enforces these beliefs on the rest of society.
At that point, the limitation of Government Authority has been violated. For, much to the supposed chagrin of those that wish otherwise, the United States of America was constructed as a Republic, limited and governed by the rule of law, vice suffering the whims of the majority. The powers granted to the Federal government by the Constitution are finite, purposefully done to limit the overall power it can wield, for the stronger government is the less liberty the citizen can enjoy. Yet, despite those limits, our Federal Government has continued to enhance and extend its authority over the member States, taking actions that overreach the authority granted to it. Such activities have been allowed to take place because of the grand abdication of responsibility by the majority of the populace. In each of the mentioned arguments, and the many others that plague society, people view government as a tool to instill their ideals, doing so either in spite or ignorant of the fact they are violating the rights of those they object to. Government officials, eager to retain or gain authority in their office, follow the sway of the majority, placating the crowd. The crowd embraces the overreach of government, specifically in the areas that reflect and support their interests, surrendering more power to the behemoth.
Such is the threat of allowing the Government the power and ability to enforce morality on society. Creating social change, by bringing people into agreement with the merits of your belief, is an appropriate endeavor for any citizen. Using the Government authoritarian muscle to violate or subvert the rule of law is a perversion of its design. Everyone must be reminded, as often as it requires that there are things Government not only should not, but can not do.
Personal Viewpoint Corner:
I am opposed to Abortion, mostly because it is a demonstrated abdication of responsibility for actions taken. Past that it becomes a trickier issue that I haven’t completely settled on. At some point, the gestating parasite turns from a collection of cells to a life, with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That should be the defining line of any legislative protection for the ‘unborn,’ which brings its own level of subjectivity. When is the point when it can be considered alive?
Regarding Gay marriage, in their efforts to enforce the morals of one constituency, Government has served to violate the contractual freedoms of another. Government violates the sanctity of Marriage by taking any action at all. Marriage is solely the province of the religious entity that people seek to be wedded by. No matter the religious preference that people wish to be wedded by, that is a protected right to do so, up until it starts to directly conflict the rights of someone else. No one, however uncomfortable they might be, has the right to not be offended. The Governments sole role in this relationship should be to protect the contractual rights of each member, to include the realms of taxes, inheritance, custody, medical decisions, and other related matters. The only limitation the Government should be allowed to place is to ensure each involved party is of an appropriate age of consent and that they are competently entering into the contractual agreement. For clarity, note that I did not allow for any limitation on the gender or number of the participants in the contract. While it is my personal preference for monogamous relationships, why should my will override the will of those that would consensually participate in a polyamorous relationship?
Friday, June 7, 2013
Following the shooting at Sandy Hook, there was an understandably emotional, yet poorly reasoned, outcry for something to be done. President Obama put out a bold list of goals, matched with a hollow collection of executive orders telling components of the Executive Branch to do their jobs. In the legislature, the possibility of a renewed, stronger, Assault weapons Ban was dead on arrival, and every other ‘important’ measure the President called for fell flat on its face. Despite heavy doses of demagoguery from each side of the issue, the amendment moving to institute Universal Background Checks, heralded as a bipartisan compromise, failed. Represented simultaneously as a common sense measure and an effort to raise the cost of firearm ownership, it was burdened by the agitation of American Gun owners, derided by the anti-gun movement for not doing enough, and the target of massive dollars from both sides. Painted as an opportunistic attack on are freedoms, and defended as a long overdue correction to our countries loop holes.
Separately, the concept of requiring identification and proof of citizenship to vote, to the point of better defending the rights of citizens, is labeled as a sideways effort to disenfranchise the poor, elderly, and minorities. Multiple localities throughout the country have passed laws requiring identification, and are working to improve the requirements to get the identification, while the opposition cries it is a poll tax and will deny others the ability to exercise their rights, moving to challenge the laws in courts. The U.S. Department of Justice takes aggressive steps against locals that try to instill voter id laws, leaping to claims of racial discrimination.
So, the liberal side wants Universal Background checks for firearm ownership, which conservatives object to. Meanwhile, conservatives want a requirement to present proof of citizenship and identification to vote, which liberals object to. Having considered the costs and benefits of each ideal, weighed against constitutional limitations, I believe that there is a move that can gain approval from each side.
The legislature should revisit the Universal Background check legislation, and expand it. Let us make it truly Universal. Rather than just limiting it to the sale or transfer of firearms, make it a step in the application for government issued identification. Everyone would be required to undergo the background investigation as a matter of course, and could use the ID provided to then go forth and exercise the Constitutionally protected rights to vote or keep and bear arms. Rather than violating the 14th amendment to unfairly target one segment of the population, those that exercise the 2nd amendment, this law would apply to all parties. Also, there would be no exemptions for Law Enforcement Officers, Politicians, or any other connected party.
Much like the Individual Mandate of the Affordable Care Act, by requiring that each and every individual of voting/gun purchasing age underwent a background check, the costs for the bureaucratic infrastructure could be spread over the entire population, i.e. those who chose not to exercise their rights to vote or own firearms would subsidize the process for those that do. Overall, this would mostly be an amplification of the process citizens go through in applying for a Driver’s License at the DMV. Currently, most jurisdictions require: proof of citizenship, address in the issuing local, and proof of who you are. Following passage of the Drunk Cynic Universal Background Check, your criminal and mental history would also be taken into consideration, much like sections 11 and 12 of DD form 4473, that anyone who purchases a firearm from a Federal Firearm Licensee must fill out.
Tailing disclaimer: For any actively interested parties, the reason beyond the long delay between posts is that I just completed a massive move, and I didn't want to bother with the stress of diving political topics.