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    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Legislating Morality. What's the Problem?

    I have friends on the left who always rail against the "Religious Right" or "Fundamentalists" or "Religious Fanatics" and how they want to "legislate morality."

    Today, on The Regular Guys show, someone called in to their FU line (you know what it means) and railed that if the republicans won the White House, our women would all be wearing Burkhas (I thought that was one of the things women no longer need to do in Afghanistan, thanks to a Republican war?). And, the Left wants to call us dirt ignorant!

    I don't really get this irrational fear of "Fundamentalist" Christians. Is it that a single Supreme Court justice stands in the way of these supposed nuts and all your freedoms, or is it that the left is just paranoid? I don't know.

    Anyway, what they used to mean was they were scared that if conservative republican presidents continued to get elected, the national "right" to abortion (usually defined as abortion on demand, as codified in Roe) would be repealed and states would have to enact their own laws regarding abortion. They like to use the argument that the government shouldn't tell women what they can do with "their" bodies, even though the government already tells us plenty of things we can't do with or to our bodies - things like stuff them full of illegal drugs, sell them for sex, heck, if the Left had their way, you wouldn't be allowed to ingest cigarette or cigar smoke, or trans fats. The right has no monopoly on telling people what they can do with their bodies.

    I'm not going to take the Libertarian view that we should be allowed to do anything we want to ourselves, sometimes moderated by Libertarians with the caveat, "as long as it doesn't harm anyone else."

    Instead, my view is that the "You can't tell us what to do with our bodies" ship has sailed. We've already crossed that line, and for good reason. What we do with our bodies in large measure effects society as a whole, sometimes in macro ways (the costs of addiction, the impact to our children, the health costs borne by society), and sometimes in personal, micro ways (the same, just at the personal level). I think these effects give us plenty of good reasons to debate legislation.

    If you agree with me that it is appropriate for us to "legislate morality," or, at the very least, debate the legislation of morality, then we should seek to legislate as we always should, at the level closest to the legislated. We have 50 states and thousands of municipalities, which offer thousands of places to experiment with laws to test their effectiveness, and thousands of places from which to have debates about the merits of those laws.

    In our Federalist model, we have a Constitution which guides us on when to elevate those laws to the federal level. I, for one, wish we would return to our Federalist roots. Big issues like abortion, need to be debated. In 1973, Roe closed that debate by elevating a mystical right to "privacy" to something in the Constitution. All else since then has been steady chipping away at that right. For the right, it's a similar tactic to what the Left used to use succesfully with gun laws and the second amendment. Of course, the big difference here is the Constitution actually gives guidance on guns, while abortion, or even privacy, is not mentioned in the Constitution.

    So, where do I stand on "legislating morality?"

    I stand with the people. If we the people decide, through our elected representatives, to legislate morality, then so be it. That's the way our system works. Unfortunately, in too many cases, courts are creating rights out of whole cloth to legislate their own version of morality.

    I don't care if you're Left or Right, wouldn't you rather give voice to your positions, have them debated, and let the chips fall where they may?

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