Saturday, July 02, 2005

Government and Morality

The Government, to survive, must at the very least provide for the welfare of the citizen. When the Government fails in this basic duty, it will fall. The Government is not a moral authority in as much as some of its actions are, at best, amoral. For instance, the death penalty is at its very core an imoral act, because it involves the deliberate taking of a life. But the state shall not hesitate to impose such a penalty if it is in the best interests of the citizen. Hence, morality has nothing to do with, rather, the selfish interests of trhe state are to be served.

In this, I will come into conflict with the members of the religious right, libertarians and sundry members of the moral majority. They shall condemn me for not insisting on a moral duty of the state and its government. But I would argue that the things we expect from the state shall be moral in their outcome but not moral in their creation.

It is the duty of the state to provide at least three things: security of the individual, the capacity to create private wealth, and the ability to keep and enjoy such private wealth. It is not the duty of the state to promote any religious agenda or moral programme. It is in providing for the former that the state acts at its most moral; when it seeks to interfere in trhe latter, it will eventually be deemed as immoral. Witness the theocracies of the Middle East; it is no coincidence that in their desire to fulfilla religio-moral duty thet they have failed to provide good government or even guarantee a standadised moral line to be adhered to by their citizenry. Indeed for a majority of them, the desire to break free from the shackles of imposed orthodoxy reveal the desire for government and not state-directed morality.

If you accept my hypothesis that good government is more important than moral government, then it folllows that morality shall be relegated to the private domain, with the guidance of the individual, religion and civil society. In this case, the government shall only be responsible for providing and safeguarding the tools for craetin and retention of wealth, and the citizen shall be responsible for his own happiness, which to a large extent is based upon his moral values.

To this end, the state cannot have a religion. It may, however, have a code of conduct. thsi code shall determine the behavior of the government but not its values. So, if the conduct of the government reduces the ability of the citizen to make, keep and enjoy his wealth, then the government shall have failed in its duty and shall deserve to be overthrown. On the other hand, if the behavior of the government does fulfil the beforementioned duty, the government shall have succeeded, regardless of whether such behavior is moral or not.

And it is in evaluating the impact of government behavior on the creation of wealth that the argument for or against a moral standard shall lie. The morality or otherwise of a government act shall be determined only after evealuation of whether in the end the citizens gained or lost. Therefore, it is in our own interests to obey a government that, to put it crudely, makes us money than a goverment that preaches on the evils of money.

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