The New Clarion

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The Morality Police

May 4th, 2012 by Inspector · 21 Comments · Culture, Politics

I find it very interesting that the Left likes to complain about the members of the Right – specifically those called Social Conservatives – who are out to be “The Morality Police.”

Not because the Left is wrong here. They’re right to complain about this. It’s just ironic that they, of all people, do.

What do I mean?

Well, The United States of America, after all, was founded on the idea of being a “Free Country.” I’m not suggesting that they succeeded at it. We had to fight a civil war, for one thing. But the goal – the idea – of the founding was that of a “Free Country.” I think that most of the mainstream Left will recognize this; at least in those terms.

But, what does this mean? What is a “Free Country?” Free from what?

A Free Country is one where we’re free from the Morality Police. The government would police people to stop them from initiating force on each other, but it isn’t supposed to use the police – i.e. the force of the law – to otherwise intervene in our moral lives. Again, at least in those terms, I think the mainstream Left is with me.

As a Leftist friend of mine mentioned to me recently, people have wildly different ideas on what is or isn’t moral. Some people think that homosexuality is immoral. I’ll use that as an example, because that’s something that Leftists generally cite as an example of the Morality Police. Well, whether homosexuality is moral or immoral doesn’t matter to the law in a Free Country. The homosexuals aren’t initiating force on anyone, so the police rightfully have nothing to say on the matter. That’s the difference between a Free Country and one in which there’s a Morality Police.

Now, some clever folks might point out that stopping people from initiating force on each other is a moral judgment on the initiation of force. And, indeed, it is. This is the one, single, moral edict that a Free Country makes by law. I would argue that this is moral precisely because to use force in any other circumstance would be far more immoral than any “good” achieved by enforcing other ideas about morality at the point of a gun, even if those ideas were correct.

But the beauty of a Free Country is that you don’t *have* to agree with me about any other point of morality. Only the one: that to initiate force is evil and that we must use the force of law to stop it. Beyond that, the law can and should be blind to all other questions of moral behavior. It should police that one thing, and nothing else.

So to complain about the Morality Police is precisely correct. In a Free Country, there shouldn’t be a Morality Police. Good show, Leftists! I genuinely applaud this.

But why do I find it ironic?

Because the Left are the biggest cheerleaders for the Morality Police of them all. The Left declares, “You rich people should give more of your money to charity than you are. And if you don’t want to, we’ll force you to.” That rich people “should” give more to charity is a moral statement. And their call to use government to enforce this moral statement on people who haven’t initiated force, themselves, is exactly what it means to be the Morality Police. It’s exactly what they (rightly) criticize Social Conservatives for. This is naked, bald-faced hypocrisy of the worst kind.

So, yeah… I find it ironic.

21 Comments so far ↓

  • Michael

    they approve their version of the morality police, of course in their own realm, the realm of economics. to them being rich or wealthy is a sin.

  • Drew

    Didn’t Ayn Rand write about how conservatives and liberals tend to grant freedom to the realm they deem metaphysically unimportant? Is that applicable?

  • Inspector

    Yep, you’re both right. And I did have that in the back of my mind, here.

    It’s my hope that it might jar a few people a little to see it laid out for them, like this.

  • Jim May

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the “Green Police” ad.

  • Inspector

    I will see your Green Police ad as an exposure of the essence of environmentalism and raise you… Green Team.

    Definitely, definitely NOT safe for work.

  • Antacid

    The trouble is the “Green Police” ad is too realistic.

  • Inspector

    Yeah, I think it kind of fails as satire those grounds (being too realistic). Someday, I’m going to write a piece about satire being essentially difficult today, what with actual current events being too absurd to allow satirization.

  • David Thomson

    First of all, morality is those actions and behaviors that lead to the good health and well-being of individuals and communities. Second, every law ever enacted is a moral law. And third, morality is not the enforcement of morality. The enforcement of morality is just that; law enforcement.

    An action or behavior is immoral not because someone decrees it so, but because those particular actions make someone sick or miserable. The freedom our country stands for is not the freedom to make people sick or miserable, but the freedom of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is, we have the right to be healthy, move about freely, and pursue a life free of misery.

    Insofar as an action or behavior causes sickness and misery, the government has the responsibility to restrain those behaviors so the rest of us can enjoy the moral life of health and happiness.

  • c andrew


    I think that you would benefit from a reading of Lysander Spooner’s “Vices are not Crimes.”

    I think your prescription of law enforcement would open the road to the total state and whether it would swing Left or to the putative Right would depend entirely on those who happen to exercise power on those premises.

    For instance you write, “Every law enacted is a moral law.” Really? The Fugitive Slave Act? The Sedition Act under Wilson? The various miscegenation statutes in the Jim Crow South?

    That is why, in a free society, government does not legislate morality. It legislates to protect individual rights and that legislation does fall into the moral realm – as a subset, not as the totality – and only to the extent that those proscribed action harm other individuals. The harm an individual may do to himself does not fall into the purview of gov’t force.

    The purported “right to be healthy” is ambiguous. Certainly, you should be protected against actions against you that compromise your health – to the extent that such actions comprise rights’ violations. But let us say that I love a woman and she does not return my regard. This makes me miserable, depressed, and ultimately, ill. Do I have a right to use gov’t to compel her to return my esteem? To force her to go through the motions of returning my esteem? Obviously not.

    This is why a legitimate gov’t is restrained to protecting rights and is not empowered to enforce morality.

  • Inspector

    Mr. Thomson,

    C. Andrew has covered most of what I would have said, so I can safely direct you to his reply, above.

    That said, a big thrust of my article was concerned with the point that the Left would act as Moral Police – something they explicitly abhor from their opponents on the Right – when it comes to enforcing the moral edict to give to charity. That the Left is all about how terrible and Un-American it is to have a Morality Police (and they’re correct to say so), and yet ignore the man behind the curtain when they want Morality Police of their own to force people to give what they consider acceptable amounts of their wealth to charity.

    I don’t think your comment really addressed this, the central thesis of my article. Unless you’re claiming that Not giving a certain amount to charity can be counted as “causing sickness and misery?” (which is a dubious and fatally flawed notion, for the reasons C. Andrew talks about)

  • Inspector

    *(Corrupt, inefficient charity, at that!)

  • Jim May

    Insofar as an action or behavior causes sickness and misery, the government has the responsibility to restrain those behaviors so the rest of us can enjoy the moral life of health and happiness.

    Insofar as your ideas would certainly cause plenty of sickness and misery if they were ever implemented, count yourself lucky that they aren’t.

  • Jim May


    Have you heard of “Poe’s Law” by any chance?

  • Inspector

    Haha, yes. Hmm… good point. Heh.

  • c andrew

    Hmm, well maybe I got “Poe’d.” As opposed to being “pwned.” Or maybe I was Poe’d Pwned. I think I’ll postpone any further discussion of this.

  • Inspector

    Now we just wait for the trollface pic and the standard query: “problem?”

    Don’t sweat it; it happens.

  • Inspector

    The other possibility is that the spambots are getting more sophisticated. I mean, read that again and tell me you’re sure a human wrote it…

  • c andrew

    Maybe another “law” is in order? It is impossible to distinguish between a spambot and a grammar challenged poster…

  • Inspector

    We need some kind of turning test… Of course, in this case, the grammar passes muster, it’s just… the non sequitur… it burns.

  • John McVey

    Imagine a desparate and yet hopeful Mr Pope sending daughter Betty to Patrick Henry University, only to have his hopes dashed when she comes back filled with half-baked ideas and sloppy thinking that nevertheless – barely – has faint echoes of what he had in mind for his princess. Now imagine her bringing home a boyfriend of equal mental stature. What kind of drawing room commentary might said boyfriend offer? See David Thompson’s words.


  • Inspector

    Ha! I wonder if he’s even reading any of this. It wouldn’t surprise me if he wasn’t.