What is the moral authority for law? Try this exercise when you sit down with a progressive friend at work, school or elsewhere.
Ask them this. ‘Do you believe in objective truth?’
They’ll probably say, ‘of course not, my truth and your truth may be different.’
Next ask this: ‘Do you believe it’s alright to legislate morality?’
Here they’ll be offended. ‘Absolutely not. We can’t legislate morality. It’s, it’s so wrong! What I do is my business and no religion or anything else should determine what I’m allowed to do or believe!’ They’ll be frothing here, so offer them some green tea to calm them.
Then, ask them how we determine what laws to pass. Ask ‘who has the moral authority to pass law?’
‘The Constitution gives that right to the people and their elected representatives,’ they’ll respond with surprising if disingenuous patriotism. Pat them and tell them what a good job they did. They at least acknowledged some form of authority, even if it’s a ‘living, changing’ authority.
Next, ask this: ‘if the people are the ultimate source of the law, why can’t the people choose to have whatever firearms they want, or not to allow same-sex marriage?’ Expect to be accused of being a troglodyte; a fundamentalist nut-case. Tell them you’re just picking their brain. Look sad and tell them you’re confused yourself.
They’ll say that some things are too important for the people to decide. They may inform you that freedom, safety, wealth redistribution, environmental protection and other such hot-button topics are also too complex, too nuanced for the average person, or even a bunch of average persons.
‘So, when California passed Proposition 8, the people didn’t have the authority (or intelligence) to make that law a reality, right? And when millions of people own so-called assault-rifles, they’re a little too simple to understand that they shouldn’t. The people, that is. Right?’
Your friends will look at you here, wondering if there’s a trap. But he or she won’t be able to resist. ‘Exactly! People shouldn’t be allowed to decide things like that. Some things are just right and some things are wrong.’
‘But when millions and millions of people urged their representatives to vote for Obamacare, that was good, yes?’ They’ll probably hug you.
Ask them next, for fun, ‘what if Roe versus Wade were overturned by a national vote and the vote were then affirmed by the Supreme Court. Would that be alright?’ Prepare for some gesticulations about reproductive choice and more about fundamentalism, etc. Liberal males may get ‘the vapors’ at this point.
Then drive the point home. Tell them it appears they believe in objective truth. ‘You mean, when a majority of the people want a thing, someone else is smarter and can decide (based on their own absolute truth), what is or isn’t right? Isn’t that kind of, you know, paternalistic? Isn’t that kind of authoritative, like when a church has a set of rules for people to follow based on the Bible?’
(At this point they may remind you that the Bible doesn’t count, as it was written by men. Ask them, ‘who wrote the Constitution?’)
Now remind your friend that whenever someone says that a law is for the common good, or that it’s ‘the right thing,’ or ‘on the right side of history’ (whatever the heck that means), they’re saying that the law is a moral good. A just thing. An ‘ought to.’ And that sounds a lot like invoking a higher authority on truth.
Much to the dismay of the progressive left, this can mean only one thing. When a liberal wants to control guns, share wealth, tax carbon emissions, punish industry or provide universal health care, it means they believe some things are naturally, in themselves, right or wrong. Things not subject to the vagaries of votes or polls by unwashed Red-staters.
They also believe, along the same lines, that the whole ‘the people are the source of the law’ argument is only valid if the people are thinking ‘correctly.’ When a majority, or even a minority, wants prayer in schools, tries to dismantle affirmative action, wants to build oil pipelines or desires ‘high capacity magazines,’ they’re ‘objectively’ wrong and bad, no matter how lawful and Constitutional their use of referendum and law.
Actually, you probably won’t get far doing this. But it’s an important thought experiment for the thinking conservative.
Conservatives generally recognize that truth is objective; set by God or natural law. And so, we call on a higher authority for law and we recognize that votes sometimes are appropriate but that votes, and laws, can be wrong. And we also accept our individual accountability before that same value-system of right and wrong. It is irrevocable.
This discussion matters because the left is busily rearranging and destroying culture, tradition, faith and family. As we see them trampling long-standing constitutional interpretations on everything from privacy to firearms, finance to assassination, we must remind them of their consistent inconsistency. That is, while they reject truth, they simultaneously call on it.
Leftists do believe in moral authority. It’s just they have replaced God, or natural law, with their own agendas, with a nauseating worship of feelings and and insatiable hunger for power.
Universal truth and moral authority do exist to a liberal. But he, or she, is the universe, determines all morality and covets all authority.