Arena of Interests

Whilst catching up on tivoed Boston Legal, we watched an episode on abortion. Denny Crane comments that Democrats need Roe v. Wade to justify their position on abortion. This is an accurate observation, if a bit surprising given David E. Kelly‘s politics.

 
The Democrats deride the Republicans for their religiosity. Yet the Democrats demonstrate the same fervor, zeal, and blind faith in their positions (even if not derived from an organized religion) as do the Republicans. Letting one’s religion dictate one’s morality, rather that letting one’s morality determine one’s religion, seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Perhaps this is because it is easier to do what one is told rather than to think.

 
Just as one ought not have politics without principles, one ought not conflate politics with morality. While others view ethics and morals as synonymous, to me ethics are the subset of moral principles relating to agreements or contracts. In essence, ethics is following the rules that one agreed to follow. For example, if a vendor knowingly sells a defective product under the agreement that all sales are final, it is ethical but immoral for that vendor to refuse refund.

 
In my early teens, when I began thinking about these kinds of things, I made the statement that I would do what is right, not what is legal. (To my knowledge I had not yet read Mark Twain‘s “Laws control the lesser man… Right conduct controls the greater one.”) This caused my mother no end of consternation as her world view can not accommodate something being moral and illegal or vice versa. I found “because the rules said so” little consolation for wrong actions.

 
As Aneurin Bevan said, politics is the arena of interests, not morals. Morality can not be legislated and politics should not be used for that doomed endeavor. What I believe is politically right may not necessarily be what I believe is morally right. Many, including my mother, find it contradictory that I politically support others’ choice of whether to abort a pregnancy while I would personally avoid choosing to abort if possible.

 
Even in a best-case scenario, politicians merely advance the interests of their constituents. Laws are independent of, although occasionally coincident with, morality. We ought to do what is right, even when determining that requires us to think.

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