People Want A Gov’t That Does The Right Thing But There Are Conflicting Concepts Of Right & Wrong

A Government’s View Of Right & Wrong Can’t Be Based On A Set Of Rules From Some True-Believer’s Catechism

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By David Grace (Amazon PageDavid Grace Website)

Any fair, efficient, useful and effective government must be founded on the fundamental idea of promoting what is “right” and prohibiting that which is “wrong.”

The problems arise because there are three different concepts of “right and wrong,” each of which means different things to different people.

The Three Types Of Right & Wrong

Subjective:

  • What I approve of is right and what I don’t approve of is wrong. I’ve written down the rules defining right and wrong here in my little catechism and I demand that the government enforce my rules on everybody.

Objective

  • Based on a careful cost/benefit analysis, that which benefits people far out of proportion to any damage it may cause is “right” and that which injures people without benefiting others far out of proportion to the damage it causes is “wrong.”
  • What works, is true, or is accurate is “right” and what doesn’t work, isn’t true, or isn’t accurate is “wrong.”

Personal Moral Codes Are Subjective & Only Apply To Those Who Believe Them

The first kind of right and wrong — subjective, personal ideas of right and wrong, what I approve of is right and what I don’t approve of is wrong — is less than worthless as the foundation for any government.

In the minds of a devout Baptist or Muslim, an unmarried, unrelated man and woman dancing is wrong. Members of most other religions think it’s perfectly fine.

For a devout Muslim or Jew, eating a plate of baby back ribs is wrong.

For your average Baptist, baby back ribs are almost one of the four basic food groups.

You Can’t Have A Successful Government Based On Personal Moral Codes

Because a personal-moral-code concept of right and wrong is, like beauty, solely in the eye of the beholder, trying to impose it on everybody will be a disaster — everybody won’t agree that what you think is right is actually right and what you think is wrong is actually wrong.

The non-Muslim and non-baptists are going to violently oppose laws forbidding unmarried people from dancing and the non-Muslim, non-orthodox Jews are going to violently oppose laws prohibiting the consumption of pork.

A government based on one or another group’s subjective ideas of right and wrong has the capacity to end up with an ISIS-like government executing women who have sex outside of marriage or who drink alcohol.

Any government built on anyone’s subjective, personal ideas of right and wrong can only devolve into conflict and dispute.

Liberal & Conservative Principles Are Nothing More Than Personal Moral Codes

Liberal and conservative principles are dogmatic rules contained in a political catechism of what actions and ideas their believers think are morally right — government-enacted principles of generosity and altruism are “right” for the liberals on the one hand and the government’s protection of unregulated and unlimited corporate freedom is “right” for the conservatives on the other.

The fundamental problem with having a government that’s run according to liberal or conservative principles is that those principles are subjective, personal, moral rules held by their true believers and neither are rules that are effective or efficient for governing large number of diverse human beings with differing opinions.

Neither liberal or conservative principles accurately and truthfully reflect the motivations, proclivities, needs and desires of most human beings in the real world where real people are neither (1) predominantly altruists nor (2) people who want to live in a country where their freedom and property can be forced from them by wealthy or powerful private individuals or organizations through their control of societal choke points.

A Successful Government Must Be Based On The Second & Third Objective Kinds Of Right & Wrong

The Second Kind Of Right & Wrong

Most criminal laws are based on the second concept of right and wrong, i.e. robbery, murder, rape, burglary etc. are “wrong” (and therefore prohibited) because those actions injure innocent people and society as a whole without creating benefits for the perpetrators that far outweigh those damages.

Prohibiting the average citizen from owning anthrax spores or plutonium is “right” because whatever injury is suffered by prohibiting people from owning anthrax or plutonium is far outweighed by the damage that would flow from allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry to own them.

Prohibiting the creation and possession of child pornography is right because whatever injury is suffered by prohibiting people from creating or owning child pornography is far outweighed by the damage that would flow to children from allowing them to do so.

Prohibiting people from shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater is right because whatever injury is suffered by prohibiting people from shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater is far outweighed by the damage that would be done to the innocent members of the audience from allowing them to do so.

A Society Where “Right” Is Whatever The Powerful Can Get Away With No Matter How Great The Damage Their Conduct Causes, Doesn’t Work

If you create a governmental based on the conservatives’ idea that in the name of “freedom” it’s right to allow people to engage in conduct that damages innocent people far out of proportion to the benefits it delivers to those who engage in that conduct then you’ve created a government that allows the powerful to damage the weak through their control of societal choke points, a society where corporations can cut down the forests, pollute the air, poison the water, and set up toll booths on societal choke points and hold the citizenry hostage to their demands just because they have accumulated the power to do so.

Without right and wrong being judged according to the damages those actions cause versus the benefits they bestow on the actors your society will end up as a plutocracy, an oligarchy, a monarchy, or a dictatorship, where whatever the more powerful can get away with is considered “right” and whatever the more powerful don’t want is considered “wrong.”

The Third Kind Of Right & Wrong — What Is True Vs. What Is False

The third type of right and wrong defines “right” as that which works or is an accurate or true reflection of how the world actually works and defines “wrong” as that which doesn’t work or is an inaccurate or false idea of how the world actually works.

Laws based on the idea that 2 + 2 equals 4 are “right” because the idea that 2 + 2 = 4 is objectively true and accurate for everyone and laws based on the idea that 2 + 2 = 5 are “wrong” because 2 + 2 = 5 is objectively false and inaccurate for everyone.

A Society Where Right & Wrong Are Unrelated To True & False

Systems, mechanisms, creations, philosophies, societies, economies or governments founded on beliefs that don’t match reality are “wrong” because anything founded upon principles that don’t match reality cannot work.

A bridge designed by a structural engineer who relies on the “wrong” principle of 2 + 2 equaling 5 will inevitably fail.

An economic, social, political or governmental system built on the communists’ false idea that the overwhelming majority of human beings are altruists who will happily work hard only to give away what they have earned because that’s the right thing to do is “wrong” because it is founded on a false idea about how humans think and act.

An economic, social, political or governmental system built on the conservatives’ false idea that the overwhelming majority of human beings are willing to lose their property and freedom to vastly more powerful people and organizations in order to protect the theoretical principle of unrestricted freedom for wealthy families and corporations, that people will happily work for slave-labor wages under abusive conditions so that wealthy families and monopolist corporations can become hugely wealthier is founded on a false idea about how humans think and act.

Building a society, an economy, or a government based on ideas that do not match the real world is like building a skyscraper on swampland. Such a society cannot do anything other than fail because anything resting on a fundamentally flawed foundation is doomed.

An enduring, useful, efficient government must be founded on an accurate understanding of how real human beings act, on what real human beings expect their government to do, and on the implementation and enforcement of objectively determined ideas of right and wrong.

— David Grace (Amazon PageDavid Grace Website)

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David Grace

David Grace

Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 16 novels and over 400 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.