Thursday, April 2, 2015

When Does the Fight for Justice Become In-Justice?

If you are a liberal you have the comfortable knowledge that you are the good guy and you know that you are opposed in your fight for justice by the racists, sexists, and homophobes of the world. To say nothing of the classists.

Conservatives not so much, because we know that we can get into trouble for being conservative. Just read what it was like for SF writer Sarah Hoyt tiptoeing through the liberal tulips and editors at SF conventions.

Let's say that the liberals, the angels of light, get the political power they need to implement their program to fight injustice and punish the oppressors on all fronts. Then what? At what point does the fight against injustice become frank oppression as the new rulers hunt out and punish anyone that disagrees with their rage for justice?

We can agree, I suppose, that the last, final form of justice is still waiting to be found.

The problem is that in any society there are likely to be dueling agendas, competing conceptions of justice. There certainly are competing ideas of justice in the United States. So which conception do we choose? Does it come down to who has a majority in the Congress on in the Supreme Court?

But then it's not a matter of justice, it's a matter of political or judicial power.

There is, of course, an answer to this problem. It is the idea of limited government, and the separation of church and state.

The point of limited government is that not all questions of justice should be dealt with by legislation and judges. Some things, we may be pardoned for suggesting, are merely indignities, and should not be dealt with by legislatures. In other words, some things, objectionable as they may be, do not need to be settled by force. And let us be clear: when you resort to the legal system, you are invoking force and compulsion; you are saying that if the judge agrees with you and renders a verdict at trial, you want the judge to force the government's will on your legal opponent.

The separation of church and state is a bit different. Here we are saying that the formulation of rights and norms, of transcendental truths and meanings of life, should be separate from the government, which is the agent of force. Bluntly put, when we get the government into rights and norms and meanings of life, we are legislating somebody's morality. In most cases, that would be the ruling class's morality.

That's easy to say. In practice, of course, everything the government does that deviates from its core function of rewarding its supporters amounts to the legislation of morality.

And whenever the government legislates a morality that you disagree with, you experience that legislation as injustice directed against you.

In our present society we have the additional problem that our liberal friends don't think they are legislating morality when they legislate their social agenda. They can't be legislating morality because morality comes with religion and liberals are secularists and don't have a religion and don't have a morality. What they have, according to atheist Sam Harris, is "rational ethics." And of course when you implement rational ethics in legislation you aren't legislating morality but reason. Fred Bauer calls this attitude "sectarian secularism."

So now we come to the question of what to do about Christian bakers that don't want to bake for a gay wedding, at least not when they are required to put gay catchphrases on the cake. And what about Muslim bakers?

In the end, the law usually figures out what to do in cases like this. It would probably say that to deny service to a gay couple that just wanted to buy a cake off the shelf is illegal, just as it would be illegal to refuse service to a gay couple at a restaurant. But a Christian baker would have the right to refuse to decorate a cake with slogans that went against her religion.

The real answer to this is live and let live. Some things -- most things -- should not be brought to law. Only egregious, monstrous things should be resolved by government force.

And this is something that we should all practice. Not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it is the practical thing to do. When you use government power to enforce your will on other people, the other people get really pissed off. If they get pissed off enough they may form a head of rebellion to remove your cruel and unjust rule.

Oh, I know. "Cruel and unjust" doesn't apply to you and me; it just applies to that fellow behind the tree.

It is the beginning of wisdom to know that in every breast beats the heart of a would-be tyrant.

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