Moral vs. Practical

Posted on Posted in Ethics And Morality

As election season in the US is well under way, social and traditional media alike are a buzz with the constant laying out of, clarifying, explaining, defending, mocking, tearing apart, etc. of the different candidates’ plans and goals. I do not support any candidate and do not plan on voting (although I am pulling for a general election of Trump vs. Sanders because of the sheer amount of entertainment that would result) but I just wanted to explain why people are looking at these economic “plans” entirely the wrong way.

The effectiveness of policies like minimum wages, the forced funding of health care, discriminatory tax schemes, increased regulation of certain industries, and many others is of secondary importance at best, if it is to matter at all. These policies and, indeed, all law and state mandates are merely the insertion of force or the threat thereof into the market. A minimum wage is government using force to prevent an employer and employee from agreeing on a wage beneath a certain amount, universal healthcare is government using force to make you have healthcare, to dictate the type or quality of healthcare that you will have, and to dictate the price that doctors and hospitals can charge for their services, and so on and so forth.

Force is violent and coercive. And the law is force. Now, the use of force to defend against aggression and to protect your person and property is totally warranted and morally acceptable, so laws protecting against and punishing theft, fraud, murder, rape, etc. are just fine. But is it acceptable to use force to dictate the conditions of an employment contract? And if you are skeptical of the idea of regulations, wage laws, mandated healthcare, and taxes only existing due to brute, violent force, I invite you to imagine a situation in which you don’t pay your taxes, in which your business ignores health department codes, or in which you violate any government mandate. The first result is likely being charged fees and penalties, the second maybe threatening letters and unpleasant visits, but the third or fourth or fifth result is that of armed men (or women) coming to your home or place of business and seizing you or your property. I’ll leave it to you to imagine what would happen if you were to defend yourself and your property and resist these armed men (or women).

So when discussing different policies or plans, the fundamental question should not be whether or not it works, or produces the best outcomes for the most amount of people, but rather, it should be whether or not the application of violent and coercive force is justified in order to produce your desired outcome. The question then becomes one of morality and not practicality. In other words, not whether something works but whether something is right. Is it morally acceptable and reasonable to use the force of a gun to get paid 15 dollars an hour? Would you be morally vindicated in using violence to get the healthcare you need?

If it is justifiable, and you would be vindicated, why use the middle man of government? Why not buy a gun yourself, put it to your boss’s head, and demand 15 or hell, 50 dollars an hour? Or do the same to force your wealthy neighbor to pay for your medical treatment? Or force consumers and businesses to hire licensed professionals only or risk you coming to their home, kidnapping them, and throwing them in a cage? I hope I am correct in assuming that most people would abhor these actions done on a private level. But what is different on a governmental level? What about numbers and majorities changes the very nature of morality? Surely if a majority votes to murder the minority that would still be unacceptable, or would it?

Objective moral implications deduced a priori or determined through the observation of the objective reality of our world are of greater importance than, or at least must precede, empirical calculations or qualitative observations of the value or quality of the outcome of a policy. The reason being that value is wholly subjective with policies almost certainly always benefiting some at the expense of others. For example, even if a minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour was great for nearly all of society, fulfilled all its stated goals, and only resulted in less profit for the already filthy rich (of course, this result is economically impossible), it must still be denied on the grounds of not being in line with a priori deduced, objective morality.

Yes, there is an objective base morality that determines natural right and wrong. You can speak of morality above and beyond this based on your personal philosophy or viewpoint but then you enter the realm of the subjective. This is absolutely fine and you can live your life to whatever code you wish provided it doesn’t violate the base, objective morality that is true for every human. This base morality arises from the realities and necessities of our world and man’s place within it.

Natural rights (i.e. property rights) exist by virtue of being human and of needing to use your mind and faculties to manipulate the world around you in order to survive. And while property (i.e. natural) rights are necessary for the survival of individuals, so morality arises from the need to respect the natural rights of others for the survival of society. In other words, what is objectively moral is the respecting of the natural rights of others, and what is immoral is the violating of the natural rights of others. This is objective because if you follow the violation of rights (i.e. acting immorally) to its logical conclusion, and everyone was violating the natural rights of everyone else, society would not survive and most likely humanity could not survive.

So given this definition of morality let’s go back to the issue of policies. The question becomes where does the right come from for the government to dictate wages or regulations or taxes? Let’s take wages. Someone is seeking work and another person is seeking to hire someone. The job seeker is willing to give up some of his time and effort in return for 10 dollars an hour. The potential employer is willing to part with 10 dollars an hour worth of his property in return for the value that the job seeker will bring in. This is a wholly moral situation. Both parties are giving up something for a perceived greater gain in something else. They are both acting within their own property rights and not violating those of any other person.

In this situation there was no violation of rights and so there is no cause for the force of law to get involved. Indeed, if the law does get involved in the way of mandating a wage, it is in fact violating the property (natural) rights of both parties. It is preventing the employee from working at a given amount, and forcing the employer to part with more property than he feels is required for the amount of value received. This makes the law immoral and unacceptable.

When looking at policies and plans this election season try not to only think in terms of effectiveness or practical implications. Since the law is force, try to determine whether or not you think the given situation warrants or justifies the use of violence to produce the desired end. In other words, try to logically and reasonably deduce whether or not the policy or action is moral or immoral.

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