1) Moral law deals with interpersonal behavior, providing the prohibitions against acts of violence and the protection of one’s life, liberty, and property. It never compels relationships, it only works to prevent and punish those who abuse the absolute and natural rights of others. Laws against murder, theft, assault, and fraud are clear examples of these prohibitions and are obviously based on morality.
2) Moral law should not be used to legislate a moral code of personal behavior with the intent of making someone a “better” person. Legislation cannot alter habits and personal preferences if these preferences are not violating someone else’s life, liberty, or property. Personal conduct should not be controlled by law if this conduct affects no one else. This is not to say that personal habits and conduct are not moral or immoral, just that moral law is neutral in regulating this activity, even if it is self-destructive; i.e., drinking, smoking, or eating oneself to death. Moral philosophers and theologians can preach, dictate, and discuss proper personal moral actions, but moral law cannot. If legislation does, it violates the fundamental principle of moral law – the absolute right of the individual to life, liberty, and property. Legislation should not be used to improve personal moral behavior, nor can it be used to improve social and economic conditions. Using force, no matter how well-intended, is never justified in a free society. Yes, this means an individual has the right to be selfish, the right to self-indulgence, and the right to freely choose all associations. Government, through legislation, cannot protect the person from himself or herself and should limit its activities to preventing injuries to others and punishing those who violate the rights of others.
3) Violence, or the threat of violence by compelling certain actions, cannot be used to improve interpersonal relationships or social conditions. The use of the political process to redistribute wealth or “improve” social conditions, as perceived by a government planner, must of necessity make use of government threats – taxation and imprisonment – and this cannot be done without violating the moral right of another to his life – the fundamental principle of moral law. All improvement and a higher standard of living must result from the incentive system and profit motive. The victims of tragedies beyond anyone’s control must be cared for by voluntary means.
The important point to remember is that, in a free society, productivity is maximized, and the increased wealth available for voluntary distribution assures the least amount of suffering. Under an immoral legal system where force is used for redistribution, even if for well-intended goals, production drops and charity flounders. Clinging to a subsistence level of existence then occupies the time of the majority of people. Where the liberal uses government force in trying to improve social conditions, the conservative uses government force to improve personal conduct. Both are based on the same principle, but neither can be successful, because both sincerely motivated attempts backfire and produce opposite results -- leading to hunger and the other to censorship. Massive numbers of citizens eventually get involved in “criminal” activity by being forced into the underground economy and the secret practice of non-sanctioned activities, such as gambling and drug usage.
Using force, no matter how well-intended is never justified in a free society.
4) When personal habits – construed as immoral, but permitted under a legal moral system, such as drinking, gambling, and prostitution disturb the peace, they can, under these circumstances, be curtailed and should be curtailed by the law. Not because the law judges the personal actions as immoral in the religious sense or makes the acts themselves illegal, but the acts become immoral when they violate another’s rights or another’s privacy. Under these conditions drinking is legal, drunk driving is not; prostitution is legal, but disrupting a neighborhood is not; pornography in private is legal, but public display of the same is not.
5) Intimidating children and forcing adult decisions on them cannot be an accepted practice. Free choice can hardly be construed to permit an adult to subject a 12-year-old to a high-pressure sales pitch for alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. It happens that this is more likely to occur with illegal items, such as drugs, than with legal ones. Pushers are more likely to push illegal marijuana than they are to push legal alcohol, due to the artificial profits which accompany dealing with illegal drugs. The use of children in pornography obviously violates the right of the innocent child, with his immaturity in making an adult choice, and deserves protection of the state by prohibiting such acts.
6) If poverty or social suffering come from fraud, coerced labor, or acts of force of any sort, the state’s role is to punish and remove the obstacles to free associations. If poverty arises from laziness or tragedy, the state cannot “correct” the problem by becoming a problem, i.e., a participant in the use of force.
7) The government’s role in general should be to restrain those committing violent acts and not to compel citizens to act in any prescribed way. Using government tax-collecting powers to “promote the family,” as some conservatives desire, makes no more sense than the redistributive process of the welfare system promoted by the liberals. The error in understanding moral law is the same; the results are different, only because the subjective personal preference of the groups are different. Both liberals and conservatives violate the strict definition of moral law when they attempt to “legislate morality” as they see it.
8) Frequently social problems are made worse than they need to be. Liberals who honestly want to help make the problems worse by using the law perversely; i.e., committing government to violent acts of compulsion and redistribution. Efforts should be made to repeal laws that force on us acts of bigotry. Free-market solutions, such as the voluntary boycott, deserve absolute protection of the law since this is a nonviolent, voluntary act available to effect constructive change. Usually the need for government intervention arises from the previous overuse or misuse of government power.
Prohibition of alcohol did little to improve individual character and reduce drinking, but did promote criminality by encouraging the growth of the mob that controlled the illegal alcoholic beverages.
9) “Legislating morality” in social, economic, and personal affairs is completely different from making law conform to moral principles. “Liberals and conservatives are both right when they say the other should not “legislate morality.” Both are wrong when each ignores the fact that law should be based on an overriding moral principle.
Some who agree with this moral principle of law claim it’s unimportant to be concerned about individual morality and social problems. This is not so. What is important is that the moral principle on which the law rests should not be violated in effecting change. If force is used in an attempt to make people in society moral, it destroys the law. Restraining those who initiate force makes the law moral. Making people moral or society better can only come about by persuasion, and not compulsion, and should be a concern of all decent people. Any attempt by liberals and conservatives to make people and society moral through coercion destroys moral law.
10) It might be asked why a limited use of government to improve the individual and society might not be acceptable; i.e., prohibit gambling and drinking and use government force to feed and care for only the truly needy? Many Americans assume that it is possible to regulate gambling and drinking but not eating habits, feed the poor, but not the lazy. In theory, if human nature is ignored, it could occur. When we allow the seeds of government intervention to be sown, they grow and spread as bad weeds do in an unattended garden, destroying the useful crop. Once this authority is granted, even if intended to be of limited scope, it eats away at the roots of natural rights and at the principle of sovereignty of the people. Even a small concession leads to in ultimate attack on all individual rights, for there is no logical or consistent argument to oppose the expansion of government power. The process may proceed slowly at first, but eventually the entire system will crumble due to the inevitable “root-rot” that will develop. That is what we are seeing today.