Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Eugene Volokh has argued that people ought to be free to impose their moral view on others through law. More specifically, in the case of abortion, he writes:

But all judgments about when human beings acquire certain rights rest on unproven and unprovable moral calls.


...arguing that any law is an attempt to impose certain values, and consequently those who have strong feelings on a matter should feel free to force their opinion on the rest of us. The argument, Volokh says, applies to any issue, but is "clearer" in the case of abortion.

It is somewhat troubling that such a view has a significant following: a testament to the low level of political discourse in this country. I can only be glad that Volokh was not alive during the framing of our constitution, as presumably he would oppose the bill of rights ("Free speech? All law is an imposition of morality; if a majority thinks its wrong to criticize the President, why shouldn't they have their way? Freedom to assemble? But what if the majority believes large gatherings are immoral?" and so on).

It is a testament to Volokh's poor ability to think logically that he makes such arguments while calling himself a libertarian. Virtually any law can be justified by claiming that what it makes illegal is actually immoral - Volokh's libertarianism seems to involve giving the government absolute power.

Not every law is an imposition of morality. Every society requires laws - such as those against murder, theft, etc - that exist not because the aforementioned acts are wrong, but because these laws are the minimum needed for the society to survive. It could be argued that this is an imposition of a value - i.e. survival - and that may be so, but its hardly an imposition: this is the very reason why we have government. Those who do not shar this value are free to take no part in our social contract.

The question before us is simple. Do we want to live in a state where the government has the power to pass any law it wishes - or do we want to live in a free society where each citizen is free to decide moral matters for himself?

I hardly know what to say to people who (often without realizing it) defend nearly absolute government power in this manner. I'm sorry that you were not born centuries ago when people believed this?

22 Comments:

At 11:55 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

-- Volokh is one of the most logical thinkers in the blogosphere.

-- Volokh does not call himself a libertarian.

-- The arguments that Volokh makes about valid bases for supporting/opposing legislation presuppose constitutional restrictions.

-- Please point to a specific statement in Volokh's MANY excellent posts on this issue which can be construed as a defense of totalitarianism.

-- You haven't bothered to refute the single statement of Volokh's that you include in your post: "All judgments about when human beings acquire certain rights rest on unproven and unprovable moral calls."

-- Volokh is a legal scholar. All of his arguments about U.S. law occur in the context of a state that CANNOT "pass any law it wishes."

-- Volokh himself says he tends to prefer secular reasons for supporting/rejecting specific legislation. His point is that his secular reasons are no better or more valid than someone else's religious/moral ones.

The Founding Fathers did NOT base their ideas on some notion of the social contract, but on the idea of "inalienable rights." But let me ask you this, Alex. In your opinion, do people have rights? If so, where do they come from? If not, how would you argue -- in your social contract scenario -- against, say, the institution of a fascist dictatorship, by which the strong would maintain order but would simultaneously murder, oppress, and subjugate the weak and confiscate their property?

 
At 1:30 AM, Blogger alex said...

I'm going to bed so I'll reply to this tomorrow. But a quick response to the first two:

"Volokh does not call himself a libertarian."

Volokh routinely refers to his "libertarian views," see for example this post. In one of his early posts he described his views as "presumptive libertarianism" - a post that is now gone because volokh.blogspot.com has been erased.

" Volokh is one of the most logical thinkers in the blogosphere. "

Clearly, you mean that you consider Volokh to be one of the most logical people in the blogosphere. Not sure why you are telling me this. I, on the other hand, consider Volokh to be stupid. Such an exchange of views does not advance the debate.

 
At 2:07 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

In the post you link to, he calls himself "conservativish-libertarianish." He generally votes Republican; he has libertarian leanings. Can we agree on that?

Yes, of course, I mean that I consider him one of the most logical people in the blogosphere. Our exchange of views on the matter does not advance the debate, certainly, but neither does your original characterization of Volokh's "illogical" thought without any real refutation of his specific points. Everything depends on definitions, of course, but there are lots of people on the left who make bad arguments (in my opinion, of course) whom I would nevertheless not characterize as stupid. When you say he's stupid, do you mean he has a low I.Q.? That he doesn't express himself clearly or well? Are there any thinkers/writers/bloggers who argue from a conservative/libertarian perspective whom you consider to be intelligent?

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger alex said...

"He generally votes Republican; he has libertarian leanings. Can we agree on that?"

Sure. My post does not require that he be a hardcore libertarian of anything like that. I'm merely pointing out the incompatibility of calling oneself a libertarian (or conservative and libertarian, or saying you have libertarian leanings, or whatever!) and (as I'll argue below) supporting an incredible expansion in government power.

".... your original characterization of Volokh's "illogical" thought without any real refutation of his specific points."

My post included a refutation of Volokh's point, namely that any law must be an imposition of morality. Now perhaps you find my argument unconvincing, but it was an argument nonetheless.

"When you say he's stupid, do you mean he has a low I.Q.? "

On second thought, let me take that back. Volokh (and, incidentally, Dan Drezner) tend to irritate me greatly, whether I agree with their points or not, and I sometimes label either one of them "stupid" mostly out of irritation. Of course, I'm sure Volokh would perform higher than average on an IQ test, so clearly "stupid" is not correct. I need to think more about why these people irritate me so.

"Are there any thinkers/writers/bloggers who argue from a conservative/libertarian perspective whom you consider to be intelligent?"

Plenty. Even restricting myself to fellow co-conspirators, I consider David Bernstein, Orin Kerr, and the now departed Jacob Levy to be very intelligent.

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger alex said...

"-- Please point to a specific statement in Volokh's MANY excellent posts on this issue which can be construed as a defense of totalitarianism."

The entire argument is a defense of totalitarianism, whether Volokh intends it to be one or not.

If you accept that the majority should feel free to impose its moral views on the minority, you can now justify any number of totalitarian laws.

Public veiling of women? Check. Many people believe its immoral to look on an unveiled women. Banning women from driving? Many believe that God did not intend for women to perform tasks like that. State ownership of production? Sure. The majority feels the moral thing to do, for example, is to wage war and the production is needed for that end. Or it feels that the morally necessary course of action is to build communism (as the Soviet government once argued), and it needs production for that end. Pro-government indoctrinatin in public schools? Why not - there are many sermons out there on the virtues of obedience and such. Any instrusion into the private life of the individual is automatically justified by saying that it is meant to prevent you from performing an immoral action. The government could tell you who you can and cannot marry, what you may or may not watch on tv, and so on. This is the very definition of totalitarianism.

As I said, if all that is needed for a law to be justified is that it is the moral embodiment of the majority, then all of the above examples pass the test - as does almost anything else you can think of.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger alex said...

"-- The arguments that Volokh makes about valid bases for supporting/opposing legislation presuppose constitutional restrictions."

"-- Volokh is a legal scholar. All of his arguments about U.S. law occur in the context of a state that CANNOT "pass any law it wishes.""

Anyway, none of the examples cited in my previous comment are directly protected by the constitution, so the ability of the government to pass them is not affected by your rejoinders above.

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger alex said...

"The Founding Fathers did NOT base their ideas on some notion of the social contract, but on the idea of "inalienable rights.""

The two are not mutually exclusive. Anyway, one cannot speak of "government by consent of the governed" without invoking the notion of a social contract.

 
At 7:41 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Public veiling of women and banning women from driving? You don't think those laws are prevented by the constitution? You might want to check with Drezner and Orin Kerr about that.

There are all sorts of ways that the majority is NOT free to impose its morality on the minority. All other laws are examples of the majority imposing its views on the minority. Anyway, Volokh doesn't make an argument about what kinds of laws SHOULD be passed, or about what kinds of laws are constitutional, but about whether a religious/moral basis for supporting/opposing a law is somehow less valid than a secular one.

You haven't answered my main question, though. Do you think people have rights? If so, where do they come from? If not, what's wrong with the fascist dictatorship I described?

 
At 7:53 PM, Blogger alex said...

" Public veiling of women and banning women from driving? You don't think those laws are prevented by the constitution? "

Er, which portion of the constitution do you think banns these things?

Now don't get me wrong - there are loads of liberals who want to read all sorts of restrictions into the constitution. So to the extent that the constitution is just something into which you can read your pet beliefs about justice, it banns that.

So if you like, I'll amend my argument that a justification for totalitarianism follows inevitably out of Volokh's argument. It follows because he argues that the majority is free to impose its will on the minority and because he does not believe in the reading of the constitution I described in my previous paragraph.

Once again: which portion of the constitution do you think banns these things?

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger alex said...

"Anyway, Volokh doesn't make an argument about what kinds of laws SHOULD be passed, or about what kinds of laws are constitutional, but about whether a religious/moral basis for supporting/opposing a law is somehow less valid than a secular one."

As long as you believe that a religious/moral basis is sufficient, as Volokh clearly does, you end up believing the kind of laws I described are within the legitemate purview of the government.

 
At 8:03 PM, Blogger alex said...

"You haven't answered my main question, though. Do you think people have rights? If so, where do they come from? If not, what's wrong with the fascist dictatorship I described?"

Sorry. I didn't answer because I did not think it was relevant. Anyway, I do not believe people have rights as such; I believe, however, that any law which imposes the beliefs of one group of people on another which does not share it is wrong and ultimately harmful to society. I make two exceptions to the above: i. laws which are necessary to ensure the orderly functioning of society, which presumably is what everyone who agreed to the social contract wants ii. The provision of public goods (which makes me a democrat, rather than a libertarian ).

Such a system of beliefs, while it lacks the protection of human rights for their own sake, is nevertheless far more expansive in its protections from government action than any enumeration of rights (since as society and technology evolve, new ways of violating rights will be found; see for example the quite plausible claims advanced by conservatives that the constitution does not protect privacy, and its implication that a 1984-style government surveillance of every aspect of your life is constitutional).

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"Once again: which portion of the constitution do you think banns these things?"

-- I'm not a constitutional scholar, Alex, but I believe that any attempt to discriminate on the basis of sex (as a ban on driving would) wouldn't pass the heightened scrutiny required for it to be considered constitutional. I'm pretty sure that Volokh would argue that a ban on women drivers was unconstitutional. He's generally responsive to e-mail of that sort. Why don't you ask him?

"I do not believe people have rights as such; I believe, however, that any law which imposes the beliefs of one group of people on another which does not share it is wrong and ultimately harmful to society."

-- Why is it wrong? It's clear that such laws are harmful to a portion of society but not to society as a whole. If Hitler's Germany had not invaded other countries, but had simply concentrated on exterminating all Jews within its borders, what is the basis for your claim that that is wrong? For that matter, why are actions/laws that are "harmful" to society as a whole wrong? Your statements imply that you consider individual freedom and orderly societies valuable. Is there some provable claim on which that value is based?

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger alex said...

"I'm not a constitutional scholar, Alex, but I believe that any attempt to discriminate on the basis of sex (as a ban on driving would) wouldn't pass the heightened scrutiny required for it to be considered constitutional."

i. Er, and where does the constitution require heightened scrutiny of such proposals?

We could continue down this line and at the end we'd come down to a constitutional passage that says nothing of the sort (to be specific, we'd come down to the equal protection clause, which only guarantees to every citizen "the equal protection of the laws.")

Women are discriminated against in many avenues of life - for example, many positions in the armed forces are off limits to women. Not to mention the draft, which was obviously discriminatory. If you want to say that these policies are constitutional, but veiling women isn't, you have to read a lot of stuff into these few words in the constitution that simply isn't there.

But perhaps I am wrong in believing Volokh is not a liberal judicial activist. The fact remains, however, is that such liberal judicial activism is the only way to rescue Volokh's position from being a defense of any conceivable totalitarian action.

ii. What about my other examples? Shall I assume that because you do not bring them up, you have in fact conceded that Volokh's argument inevitably implies that government has the right to interfere in every aspect of our lives? That it is within its purview to tell us how to dress, what to eat, what to watch on tv, if it is the opinion of the legislative majority that the prescribed choices are the only moral ones? None of these rights are protected by the constitution.

iii. "-- Why is it wrong? It's clear that such laws are harmful to a portion of society but not to society as a whole."

It was, however, every member of society that participates in the social contract.

You seem to assume that the content of the social contract is "order at any cost." It is not - at least I'm not aware of anyone who has ever thought of it in this way. Indeed, one reason why the notion of the social contract was so revolutionary was the implication that citizens are justified in overthrowing a government if it abuses its power. This entire notion on the bounds the social contract places on the government was fleshed out in Locke's Second Treatise.

" Your statements imply that you consider individual freedom and orderly societies valuable."

Nope. Don't get me wrong, personally I do. But government is justified in acting to keep society functioning (by doing things like making murder illegal) because that is the whole point of the social contract. It can "impose" this value because it knows that everyone who agreed to the social contract shares it. In other words, its no imposition.

 
At 1:27 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"But perhaps I am wrong in believing Volokh is not a liberal judicial activist. The fact remains, however, is that such liberal judicial activism is the only way to rescue Volokh's position from being a defense of any conceivable totalitarian action."

-- ANY conceivable totalitarian action? State censorship of the press, for instance? The establishment of religion? Interference with the free exercise of religion?

-- The fact is that the government IS free to pass some of the laws you mention (restrictions on food [I assume you saw Volokh's mention of California's "secular" ban on horse meat], restrictions regarding public dress, etc.), and the moral/religious or secular/non-religious motivations of those who pass such laws make no difference as to whether legislatures are free to pass them.

All this is sort of tangential to my main point, though, Alex. Is the social contract the best form of government? If so, why? Is it better than a fascist dictatorship? Why? If a majority of people want to break the original contract and institute a repressive totalitarian regime, on what basis do you argue that the contract should be honored? How do new members of the society agree to the social contract, by the way? Is there an age before which they are too young to assent to the contract? If so, are they bound by the contract? Are others bound to deal with them as participants in the social contract? What about a society that agrees to a non-constitutional hereditary monarchy? Would there be something wrong, in such a society, with a King who had citizens executed for watching "Gilligan's Island"?

If you want to claim that it doesn't matter what other societies do, that THIS society is bound by the social contract, you're going to have to explain the Bill of Rights. As you said, rights and the social contract are not mutually exclusive, but when push comes to shove, the history of constitutional jurisprudence is based essentially on determining rights, NOT on deciding whether certain actions/legislation conform to the "social contract." And why are "public goods" exempt from the libertarian orientation of the social contract, while legislation agreed to by a majority of citizens (whatever its motivation) is not?

Since you don't believe in rights "as such," why don't you flesh out your idea of how the social contract works. What is the basis for your apparent belief that, once the contract has been agreed upon, it is wrong for the majority to decide to break the contract? Why or upon what basis should the contract be honored?

 
At 3:16 PM, Blogger alex said...

"-- ANY conceivable totalitarian action? State censorship of the press, for instance? "

You take me too literally. Clearly not ANY conceivable action. The constitution does provide SOME protections. More like almost any conceivable action.

The protections the constitution provides are generally not adequate to provide against totalitarianism. We could have a government that interferes in every aspect in your personal life - tells you from acceptable manners of dress (which would include veiling of women), acceptable tv shows to watch, and so on.

One way to say this isn't within the purview of the government is to say that its generally wrong for a majority to impose a moral opinion on the minority. Another approach, taken by most liberals, is to read protections on the above into the constitution.

The second approach, as I'm sure you are aware, is fraught with contradictions. You could tell me that picking a dress can be an act of self-expression and thus is constitutionally protected even though its immoral (but presumably having an abortion cannot be an act of self-expression, or the immorality of it is far too grave). If you are, for all practical purposes, free to read anything into the constitution , then "reading" the constitution becomes little more than an act of majoritarianism, a political struggle over who makes the most appointments to the supreme court. And that is ultimately the same as a denial of rights in the first place - if rights only exist so long as those who believe in them have the power to make (or block) supreme court appointments, its not much different than if the rights had not existed at all.

If Volokh's views are not to be construed as a possible defense of government interference in every aspect of our lives, he must subscribe to one of the two above approaches.

As for the social contract stuff - I do not believe it is the best form of government, I believe it is the only way to conceive of government by consent of the governed (where does this consent come from?).

"If a majority of people want to break the original contract and institute a repressive totalitarian regime...."

A contract cannot be broken merely because the majority of the participants want it. Every participant must consent.

As for the rest of the stuff (age requirements, for example), I'm not sure I should answer. I mean discussions of such questions are there in Locke or Rousseau, which you are free to consult if you feel they are important.

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"A contract cannot be broken merely because the majority of the participants want it. Every participant must consent."

-- Why, exactly? Is there some transcendental idea that makes a contract inviolable, or some transcendental being that enforces a contract, even if the majority wants to violate it? This is the crux of my point, Alex, and Volokh's, too. You want to advance the idea of the social contract, but you're unwilling to admit that even the notion of a social contract rests on unprovable moral claims (for instance, that the majority can't violate a contract they've already agreed to).

"As for the social contract stuff - I do not believe it is the best form of government, I believe it is the only way to conceive of government by consent of the governed "

-- If it's not the best form of government, what is the basis for your objection to totalitarianism? What is the basis for your objection to the tyranny of the majority? "Because everyone agreed to the contact" doesn't cut it for me, and the assertion that the majority can't violate the contract simply because it wants to seems a way of having your cake and eating it, too. You seem to want to be able to define the social contract as inviolable without having to admit that what it comes down to is your belief that the majority SHOULDN'T violate the contract, not that it CAN'T violate it (of course it can).

"A contract cannot be broken merely because the majority of the participants want it. Every participant must consent."

-- I can violate/break the terms of a contract any time I want. Society may try to enforce the terms of the contract by taking legal action against me, but what I'm asking you is why, the grand scheme of things, contracts should be enforced at all? Do you base your notion of the inviolability of the social contract on some provable claim? If so, what is it?

 
At 8:35 PM, Blogger alex said...

1. "You seem to want to be able to define the social contract as inviolable without having to admit that what it comes down to is your belief that the majority SHOULDN'T violate the contract, not that it CAN'T violate it (of course it can)."

This suggest to me that you've misunderstood my position. Indeed, I readily admit it: in practice, even a vast minority which can gather the support of the military CAN do whatever it wants.

2. Every argument must begin somewhere. That is, every argument is a proposition of the form "A implies B which implies C" and so on; it must assume A in order to force its listener to conclude C.

3. The argument that I have made begins with the assumption of government with consent of the governed. For example, I've suggested no answer to, say, a fascist who would say that power comes out of the barel of the gun, and consequently everything I say is irrelevant.

4. Among all the various starting places, it seems to me this one is arguably the best. And if you want something more fundamental, you can try to derive this from "the state of nature" and so on like Locke and Rousseau try to do.

5. Two people can only agree if they share some fundamental premise from which to argue (since every argument begins from an assumption and ends at a conclusion, two people with mutually exclusive assumptions will end up with opposite views). When speaking to citizens of a democracy, especially this democracy, government by consent of the governed is arguably the best premise to begin with.

6. What follows from this premise is that people (and majorities) shouldn't break the social contract, as that would be a violation of a belief in government by consent of the governed.

7. Which is, essentially, what I said in the post: imposition of moral views of the majority on the minority contradicts the idea of a free country, which implies that every citizen is free to work out moral matters for himself.

8. What doesn't cut it is your argument - and Volokh's - that because one begins with government by consent of the governed (and what if someone doesn't like that idea?), one is therefore justified in practically any imposition in the here and now.

9. You still have not addressed my arguments on totalitarianism. Do you

-believe it is within the purview of government to veil all women?

-if you are inclined to be a judicial activist and object to this by reading a ban on this into the constitution, what if it were coupled with a similar law for men (say, no shorts). Not even if the equal protection clause would save you in that case.

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

"6. What follows from this premise is that people (and majorities) shouldn't break the social contract, as that would be a violation of a belief in government by consent of the governed.

7. Which is, essentially, what I said in the post: imposition of moral views of the majority on the minority contradicts the idea of a free country, which implies that every citizen is free to work out moral matters for himself.

8. What doesn't cut it is your argument - and Volokh's - that because one begins with government by consent of the governed (and what if someone doesn't like that idea?), one is therefore justified in practically any imposition in the here and now."

-- If I've misunderstood your argument, then you've consistently misunderstood mine (and Volokh's). As I've already argued, Volokh isn't arguing about what kinds of legal impositions would be "justified" but about whether religious/moral motivations for support of/opposition to certain laws are any less valid than secular/non-religious motivations.

Volokh, who says he tends to prefer secular motivations/arguments, would argue that while the people MAY enact certain kinds of "restrictive" legislation (based on either religious or secular reasoning -- see the horsemeat example), it's an entirely different matter whether they SHOULD do so.

What it comes down to is that it's illogical to attack the motivations behind someone's support for/opposition to certain kinds of legislation as somehow necessarily inferior or less valid when 1) that's not true, and 2) it tends to be a way of evading discussion of the proposed legislation on its merits. [This is, just as Volokh says, especially true in the case of abortion. You don't win the argument by saying to a pro-lifer "You're motivated by religious concerns."]

Here, once again, is the quote you include from Volokh's post:

"But all judgments about when human beings acquire certain rights rest on unproven and unprovable moral calls"

-- That statement is true. You haven't refuted it. And, as I've argued, even if you eschew the notion of "rights," you will ultimately have to fall back on unprovable claims if you want to argue the merits of particular laws. Given those conditions, it is no more or less valid for someone to base their ideas on unprovable religious claims than for someone to base their ideas on unprovable secular ones. THAT'S Volokh's point.

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger alex said...

"If I've misunderstood your argument, then you've consistently misunderstood mine (and Volokh's). As I've already argued, Volokh isn't arguing about what kinds of legal impositions would be "justified" but about whether religious/moral motivations for support of/opposition to certain laws are any less valid than secular/non-religious motivations. "

I don't think so - I haven't misunderstood. If I can quote what I wrote in an earlier comment on this thread,


"As long as you believe that a religious/moral basis is sufficient, as Volokh clearly does, you end up believing the kind of laws I described are within the legitemate purview of the government."


And Volokh does believe the religious/moral basis is sufficient. In the post I linked to he writes,

"...there's nothing at all illegitimate about people making up their own minds about which laws to enact based on their own unprovable religious moral beliefs."

I really couldn't care less about Volokh's opinion about whether a religious basis is more or less legitemate than a secular basis. What I am attacking is the notion that either of these two bases is sufficient. I would be just as leery of a law that mandated the veiling of women if it were based on "secular" grounds.

Now what you've done in response is say that "Volokh's point" is that a religious/moral basis is just as good as a secular one, and I haven't refuted that. Of course, the posts in question make more than one point and what you label as "Volokh's point" (the equivalence between religious/moral and secular bases for law) is something in the posts that is irrelevant to the question that I am addressing.

---------------------------

"But all judgments about when human beings acquire certain rights rest on unproven and unprovable moral calls"

That statement is true. You haven't refuted it. "

Sure I have - I've given a general argument that applies to this statement as well. We can ask at what age human being ought to be protected by law - not as a moral call, but from the point of view of ensuring the functioning in our society - something we are justified in doing because every "signatory" of the social contract presumably wants a government precisely because of the need for this sort of thing. Therefore, no moral impositions are involved here. I don't know what the answer is - haven't thought about it for long enough - but I doubt it would be at birth. The logical consequence (in my opinion) would be the legalization of infanticide.

----------------

But you haven't answered the question I keep asking you. Do you believe that the mandatory veiling of women is "illegitmate" ? That is, not just something you personally find to be a bad idea, but something outside the purview of government?

If you like, you can assume it is accompanied by dress restrictions for men as well to prevent any "equal protection" arguments from being used.

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger alex said...

"Volokh, who says he tends to prefer secular motivations/arguments, would argue that while the people MAY enact certain kinds of "restrictive" legislation (based on either religious or secular reasoning -- see the horsemeat example), it's an entirely different matter whether they SHOULD do so."

I understand. My position is that any time people enact certain kinds of "restrictive" legislation, based on either religious or secular reasoning, they are engaging in an unacceptable action that conflicts with the idea of government by consent of the governed, the idea of a free society, etc.

As I said before, I make exceptions for the things I assume the signers of the social contract want, like laws against murder and public goods (public goods because I assume that the government exists not only to make murder illegal but also to create a police force - financed by taxation - that actually fights it in practice).

Incidentally, it may amuse you to know that my position is, on principle, virtually identical to that taken by Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom. I always thought that Friedman would be a hardcore lefty if he only followed his arguments to their natural conclusions.

 
At 6:53 PM, Blogger alex said...

Some other thoughts not really related to our discussion.

i. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men...are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I've always found it difficult to understand how so many people can believe this statement. For one thing, I wonder how evangelical protestants (who make up a sizeable chunk of the US population, though no longer a majority I believe), who believe that the only source of God's revelation is the bible, believe in this. What chapter and verse do they think it comes from?

ii. I find Volokh's claim that the "you can't legislate morality" position avoids doing what should be done - "confronting the pro-life position on the controversial and difficult to debate merits" - to be downright strange.

If I tell you that I believe in deity X, and I support abortion because deity X told me thats the right thing to do, how exactly would you confront my position?

Discussion of beliefs between two people who base their beliefs on different religions is impossible.

Every argument, secular or religious, begins with something unprovable. Which is why its so important, in a democracy, to establish something that everyone has in common - maybe human rights, maybe government by consent of the governed, maybe something else - something that can be used as a basis for legislation and political debate.

 
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