The attempt to impose moral values upon political decisions has reach its apogee, and nadir during the Bush administration. But it has long been the case that one group claims to have the high moral ground and is therefore justified in telling the rest of us how to live and love. It is time to stop.
Of course the classic morality legislation failure was Prohibition, but attempts to enforce religious, philosophical and lifestyle mores has found its way into nearly every aspect of legislation. Our tax code is heavily laden with â€œmoralâ€ decisions, from special tax benefits to married persons to the imposition of higher taxes on the wealthy than on the poor. The criminal code is essentially a â€œcode of moral conductâ€ by which those with power have decided for the rest of us what they will tolerate.
All of this, however, flies in the face of our nationâ€™s foundations â€“ among which are â€œlife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.â€
The imposition of â€œmoral valuesâ€ is most obvious in the efforts of the religious extremists amongst us but it is not at all limited to them. From the right we have governmental policies that prohibit reproductive planning and condom distribution as a way of stemming the spread of AIDS so that their favorite â€œabstinence onlyâ€ programs can be crammed down the throat of the world.
This campaign’s most obvious current expression is the right wing’s opposition to marriage between people of the same gender on the grounds that it would â€œoffend God.â€
The attempt to impose what one side sees as â€œmoral valuesâ€ always is divisive, counterproductive and unsuccessful. The behavior that is objected to may be suppressed, but usually finds expression in another way.
The â€œwar on drugsâ€ is a prime example of laws aimed at eradicating drug usage have instead given rise to one of the largest industries in the world, the criminal drug empire.
Way back in the 19th century our Supreme Court approved legislation that was founded upon one definition of â€œmoralityâ€ or another as being within the scope of our Constitution. That was one of the most unfortunate decisions ever made.
Legislation should never be based upon a â€œmoralâ€ basis. It should be based solely upon a need found in the welfare of the people that is within the powers granted by the Constitution. For example, laws against murder and other such crimes need no basis in morality for there is a far more practical basis â€“ the right of people to life.
If we removed any power of the government to legislate morality, we would see a drastic cutback in the power of a few to dictate the lives of the many. Almost all laws respecting sexual activity â€“ prostitution, pornography, sodomy, etc. would disappear. Those laws that remain would have to find a justification in some other factual basis, and most would fail the test.
The debate over gay marriage would simply disappear. The issue of reproductive rights and abortion would likewise recede from the high-pitched fervor they have received for several decades, fatefully tainting the political process along the way.
Politicians, of course, clearly have no ground upon which to stand as moral authorities. Over the years we have seen that the emperor has no clothes â€“ often quite literally â€“ as to moral high ground. Likewise, those who proclaim with greatest energy the need for â€œmoral valuesâ€ have found to be among the grossest violators of those same values.
So what is this really all about, this press for â€œmorality?â€ Power, guilt and hatred for the human condition. People who want to control the behavior of others simply need to quit. Work on yourself. Let me work on me. As a matter of fact, I think I am doing quite well and from what I can tell, better than many of those who preach the loudest.
Get the government out of morality altogether. All of it. No war on sex, or any of its attributes and consequences. No war on drugs. No more efforts to shape the world to fit your â€œmessage from Godâ€ or whatever you base your views upon. I am happy that you have been given a guideline for behavior, but since it was given to you
I conclude it was meant for you, not me.
I am quite content to live by â€œdo unto others as you would have them do unto youâ€ as a way to live life. I am not always able to live to that standard, but I try very hard. I recommend it to you, but would not think it appropriate to impose it upon you.
So keep your morality to yourself. Please. I am busy enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.