Scarcely in my time at Georgetown have I come across such deplorable and horrific absurdities as those I read in Tom Johnson’s viewpoint, “Good Government Leaves Room for orality” (Jan. 26, p.3). Not only is Johnson’s position diametrically at odds with nearly all rational and worthwhile political philosophy, it not-so-subtly mocks the very definition of American freedom. I would go so far as to suggest that the freedoms upon which the founders built this nation were enumerated for the precise purpose of dispensing with the views that Johnson would have us believe. It is indeed a rarity for me to invoke the founders to demonstrate a point (I happen to be one of those crazy people who thinks that Americans today could write a better Constitution than the founders did), but in this case the Constitution as it stands is something of a watershed.

Before I pick apart Johnson’s argument based on political philosophy, I don’t think I’d be at all out of place to briefly discuss what the Constitution clearly implies about matters such as this. I am the last person to make the common misstep that morality applies to people exactly like religion does; this would seem to suggest that a Christian ought to live under Christian morals, a Jew under Jewish morals and an atheist under whatever morals he chooses. Clearly this is not the case. While religion exists because of faith and cannot be proven (thus no one can expect everyone else to follow the “right” religion), morality is objectively discerned and applies to all, regardless of creed.

Much like religion, morality is not something everyone believes in, and there are thousands of different schools of thought on the subject. Just as religion cannot define this nation, a home of all creeds, this nation cannot endorse a system of ethics prescribed by the majority telling all others how they should act (in matters having no relevance to society). This is especially true considering that discernment of objective moral truths is a matter of intense disagreement.

Laws are not made because of some fantasy that we always vote for things based on moral considerations, but because society as a whole must be protected from itself. Things are made illegal not to restrict freedom, as moral legislation does, but to eliminate the lawful ability of people to infringe on the liberty of others. As a member of society, I give up my rights to do those things that directly harm the liberty of others in exchange for everyone else giving up their rights to do such things to harm my own liberty, and everybody’s happy. Murder is not illegal because it is morally wrong. It is illegal because it is an unjust infringement on the rights of another. It also happens to be immoral, but that has no (or ought to have no) impact on the law. I happen to be one of those old sticks-in-the-mud who thinks prostitution is a terrible moral fault (and believe me, I do have much to say on objective morality), but do I think a prostitute has the right to do what he or she does in the context of civil law? Absolutely! What kind of church hierarchy does the state think it is? If the state has the unspeakable audacity to think it has both the right to be the legislative interpreter of objective morality and the enforcer, I expect more of an excuse than the horribly petty, “all laws are morality” line.

And even if, by some miracle, we could flawlessly interpret objective morality in legislation, and alleviate the all too common mistake of making moral legislation against actions that are not actually morally wrong, it would remain an asinine idea.

One of the cornerstones of moral thought is that all morally significant decisions are chosen freely. A person is still guilty of a moral transgression if he really wants to commit the offense but resists because it is against the law. This is basically saying to oneself, “if the circumstances were different, I would commit this moral wrong.” Obviously Johnson would agree that such a will is akin to an immoral action, or else he would be a situational ethicist with a meaningless arguement. It is, after all, ridiculous to suggest that people suddenly will become more pure if we simply prevent them from doing what it is they want to do when it really has no effect on society.

As much as moral legislation would hope to limit the amount of immorality in society, it will do nothing whatsoever to this, admittedly noble, end. This is, of course, unless those with opposing opinions are convinced that kids will never learn to do bad things if people don’t do them because they are against the law. Not that this argument would bear any weight on the question at hand in the first place, but even if it did, this “argument” descends so far into the pits of foolishness that I am insulted that I even have to respond to it. It is as if a kid is a pure little angel until he is corrupted by seeing other people doing bad things. People have no impulses to do what is wrong within themselves, right? Indeed, I’d say it is more likely kids will do more things that happen to me morally wrong just because the state puts them off limits.

And all this, of course, assumes that there will be any sizeable reduction in the amount of immorality in society just because it is made illegal, which is, to say the very least, an unfounded assumption.

David Brodsky is a sophomore in the College.

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