Before I begin this article, I feel the need to digress from my main point for a bit. Over the weekend, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) paired up undefeated LSU and unworthy Alabama to play in their “national championship” game, while excluding one-loss No. 7 Boise State from a BCS bowl in favor of No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 13 Michigan, both two-loss teams. Had I not written about the evils of the BCS in an article last year, this article would address the subject. Since I don’t like repeating myself, I’m simply going to take the opportunity to say that the BCS has destroyed college football for everyone not from the states of Florida, Georgia or Alabama. Their SEC favoritism is painfully obvious, and their bias against schools not from a traditional power conference is horrendous. The idea that a “championship” could involve a single conference — including a team that already lost to the other and couldn’t even play in its conference’s championship game — is ridiculous. I’m nearly sorry, as an Iowa State fan, that my team upset the then (and should be now) No. 2 Oklahoma State Cowboys, but at least this way the evils of the BCS are clearly exposed. I encourage all true football fans to join with me in refusing to watch the BCS’s pathetic excuse for a championship game and continue to demand a playoff.
On another side note, I like a good joke about myself, but some things step across the line. Mr. Gad’s promotional posters often mock any traditionally conservative group or ideology; I’m not a fan, but I deal with it. However, their recent posters advertising a Monday night Bible study stepped over the line. As a Christian, I don’t appreciate an open mockery of my campus fellowship or my faith, especially one as tasteless and humorless as that poster. Gad’s, let me give you a piece of advice: if you wouldn’t do it to the Black Students’ Union or the Pride Alliance, don’t do it to other groups.
Now, to the central point, which is the idea that will be behind most of my articles going forward and the idea that allows me to condemn certain actions as right or wrong: the government must be a moral entity.
This idea stands in contrast to popular sentiment. The convention of the day is to clamor for an amoral government, as many libertarians do. The bulk of the populace, including myself, have been susceptible to that insidious suggestion that “you can’t legislate morality.” There are a number of problems, however, with moving around in a government that doesn’t take morals into account.
First of all, it’s quite problematic to legislate without making a moral judgment. Upon what grounds do we prosecute murder, unless we make a moral judgment that it’s wrong for one person to unjustly deprive another of his life? Without morality, there is no way to argue that murder is more than just a grave inconvenience for the victim. Even with a relativistic morality, you can’t categorically condemn murder as wrong, because someone might claim to think that it was right to, say, kill a political opponent. And then we have to use morality to look at the reasons why it’s permissible to take life in some situations, such as a punishment for murder or treason, but not in others. I use murder as a broad example, but the principle is applicable to anything the state wants to consider to be a crime.
Furthermore, even though most judges deny it, the judiciary would be lost without moral judgments. Mere constitutionalism isn’t sufficient to determine which laws run against the spirit of our nation’s founding documents; this is the whole source of the problem which afflicts some of the greatest Supreme Court cases — which clause is capable of dealing with a given issue? Of course, with a moral argument, you can use the moral logic to do the work and then pick and choose clauses to finish the job at your leisure. Otherwise, you’re left mincing legislative history and looking for original intent or diving into the abyss of modern interpretations, such as the expansion of the commerce clause in Wickard v. Filburn, which allowed the federal government to regulate the wheat grown on a private farm, even if it doesn’t actually enter interstate commerce.
If we wanted to talk original intent, though, it was the clear intent of the Founding Fathers for our government to be a moral entity. There are provisions for the states to have the ability to exercise police powers, and one of the goals of such powers is to preserve the moral welfare of the citizens of a given state. If they didn’t want the government to have to make calls about morality, they wouldn’t have specifically authorized it. As it is, they granted the states the ability to make judgments about anything from drinking ages to prostitution without requiring some legislative precedent.
The problems of an amoral government are many. How do you tell me, for example, that euthanasia is right, or that genocide is wrong, without making a moral judgment, even if it’s an incorrect moral judgment? The government won’t always get it right, and it’s dangerous to entrust the state with something as powerful as the morals of a people, but we can take this risk because of the checks and balances of the people on this government. This is by no means a comprehensive account of the issue, but it should help to illustrate some reasons for the necessity of a moral government, which in turn lays the groundwork for the discussion of any other political issue.