"Sorry, but there's a big conflict between libertarian principles and people who want to enforce religiously-based "morality" on who people who don't share their religious beliefs, and to use the power of the state to do this via legal discrimination against the non-"traditionalists"."
The author makes it quite clear that he is referring to moralists who do not seek to enforce their views on the public via state coercion. In fact, both Christian libertarians and early 20th Century "Old Right" conservatives, recognized that religiously based morality presupposes Free Will and can not be imposed. The very idea of "imposing" morality is itself an oxymoron. This is an argument that a large number of social conservatives understand and the notion that all social conservatives want to "enforce religiously-based "morality" on people who don't share their religious beliefs" is as falacious as the one which assumes that all libertarians are completely unconcerned with moral issues.
A case in point, the non initiation of force principle is a moral principle that originally had its roots in a religious understanding of human nature and dignity. This is a principle that those libertarians, who accept the legitimacy of the state, wish to see imposed on the public. If we are to absolutely insist that no moral principles can be inforced by the state, we arrive at an anarchist position of denying the legitimacy of the state entirely. Why should the state enforce laws against force of fraud? They are, afterall, moral principles that have a religious origin. Why not accept the ancient Sophist and Pagan notion that "Justice is the benefit of the stronger"? The truth of the matter is that minarchist libertarians DO expect the state to impose morality on the public. The differnence is that it is in a VERY limited framework, that of protecting the rights of individuals against force or fraud.
posted on 12/22/2001 11:07:51 AM PST
If we are to absolutely insist that no moral principles can be inforced by the state, we arrive at an anarchist position of denying the legitimacy of the state entirely. Why should the state enforce laws against force of fraud? They are, afterall, moral principles that have a religious origin.
Definitely not the same thing. No one wants to be the victim of robbery, fraud, assault, murder, etc. Thus if it is taken as a given that the state must treat all citizens equally, there is unanimous support for legal prohibition of, and punishment for these offenses. While the prohibitions are incorporated into virtually all religion's teachings, that is because they really are universal principles. They arise spontaneously in isolated communities, even absent any religious or governmental influence -- do away with the formal prohibitions and they pop up again almost immediately due to near-universal demand. Sure there are people who want to COMMIT these offenses, but even they don't want to be victims of them. Current conservative efforts to legislate their brand of morality, for example by campaigning for "defense of marriage" legislation and/or against same-sex marriage legislation, while preserving special legal privileges for people who organize their personal lives according to the religious precepts, are totally different. There, they ARE trying to impose religiously based moral precepts on unwilling people. They frequently make claims like "the institution of marriage would be threatened" if other people were allowed to marry differently, and then demand that government use its power to support this religiously based institution by decreeing that "you will marry this way or not at all, and the government will confer certain privileges on those who marry". The obvious corollary to this is that the institution does not have the overwhelming support of the people, and can only be maintained by government intervention (which I don't happen to believe -- only a handful of the flimsiest opposite-sex marriages would actually be weakened or ended by the advent of legal same-sex marriage).
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