Monday, May 15, 2006

Sixth District: It is a matter of integrity

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:47 AM |  

The Powerliberal plays the guilt card to make me feel bad about supporting Michele Bachmann in the 6th District Congressional race.
The traditional definition as it stands is that marriage is one man and one woman. If you "read the Powerliberal live blog correctly" you would see that both candidates stated that they believe that the definition of marriage should stand, but that it should not be used to deny other people personal rights and protections guaranteed to them in the constitution, a position vaguely close to what you yourself told me you believe.

I knew you would do quite a few things to justify your support of a candidate that stands pretty firmly opposed to many of your beliefs, I just didn't think you'd give up your own integrity to do so.

I thought better of you than that.
While it is certainly true that I disagree with Michele on many “issues,” I don’t disagree with her on principle. Thus, we have basis for debate and guilt-free discussion. And while I arrive at the same conclusion on many issues as do liberals, I get there from entirely different principles.

Indeed, that is why many libertarians find themselves more at home in a Republican party with whom they disagree on social issues than a Democrat party with whom they might find more agreement on social issues. Contrary to the Powerliberal’s assertion, it is a matter of integrity, as in striving to be consistent with principle.

I believe one arrives at positions on social issues based on the moral principle of individual liberty and the political principle of limited government. An important consequence follows -- it is not necessary for an individual, nor is it required of an individual, to support any specific activities or political movements that a free society might allow. In fact, an individual may strongly disapprove of any or many. An individual’s misusing his or her freedom to do stupid or even immoral things is preferable to imposing government authority on the activities of everyone.

That said, I believe Michele Bachmann is wrong on some social issues, not necessarily morally, but politically. She confuses ensuring the individual morality definition of liberty “the freedom to do what one ought to do” with a political (government) obligation to “protect what is right.” Hers is the stance that immoral means (e.g. same-sex marriage) can never bring about moral ends (stronger families, stronger society).

I disagree: regardless of one’s stance on the morality of same-sex coupling, it makes little sense in a free society to marginalize individuals whose actions do not limit one’s own freedom to do what one ought to (morally) do. I think Michele is misinterpreting conservative principles she believes in, or more precisely, acting to prevent government from in the future taking away the freedom to do what one ought to morally do -- e.g. impose restrictions on pastors speaking out against the homosexual lifestyle as has happened in Canada and elsewhere in Europe.

Democrats, on the other hand, support issues for the sake of the issue itself. They do not distinguish between individuals and government obligations. If they regard an issue as morally right (same-sex marriage is a matter of “love” and “equality”), then it is an obligation for government to impose it. They have no problem with using the authority of government to enforce their world view -- which leads to the political ramifications of same-sex marriage that Bachmann fears.

Again, although I don’t share her view of homosexuality but do share her concern about government imposing restrictions on speech, I don’t support Michele’s position that it is okay for government to sacrifice individuals in the present to prevent possible corruption of freedom in the future. Conservatism must take that risk; it it doesn’t, we simply lose earlier in the game.

A clear example of the distinction between conservative and liberal approaches is this -- a pro-life conservative can ardently be opposed to abortion as an immoral activity and yet realize that women misusing their freedom to choose abortion as a form of birth control for is preferable to putting the government into the fetal protection business and potentially putting all pregnancies under government control. On the other hand, it drives Democrats positively batty that a pharmacist might on moral grounds refuse to dispense the “Morning After” pill, and government should step in and do something about it.

The above crystallizes the distinction between government protecting the freedom to do what one ought to do and ensuring that one does what he or she ought to do. Keeping government out of the fetal protection business does not prohibit a single woman from choosing to do what is right. Government requiring pharmacists to act contrary to their values as a condition of employment does.

The liberal response is to question the integrity of the pharmacist or the conservative that might support a pro-life candidate while disagreeing with her position on government intervention in abortion.

Republicans, and Bachmann is no exception, get it wrong when they stray from conservative principles, and use government to “protect what is right,” but they can be reasoned with; Democrats get it wrong when they stick to liberal the principle that requires government to “protect what is right.” They do not understand that conservatives can disagree and debate among themselves on issues because they share principles neither necessarily tied to issues nor based on the desire for political power -- that such debate is a sign of strength, not a weakness. Unanimity is seldom a virtue.