Why ‘Small Government’ Isn’t Enough

 

shutterstock_269057810About a year ago, I generated some controversy around here with a series of threads on something I called “virtue conservatism.” Originally, I was merely looking for a new name for what we now call “social conservatism.” Over the course of the discussion, it became clear that this was about more than just branding. The central idea, however, is that conservatism needs to be about more than just beating back the administrative state. Small government principles are important, particularly in the realm of policy, but our vision needs to be more substantive that. And that broader vision should be evident in our rhetoric and our culture.

After that rather interesting conversation, I distilled some of my thoughts in a longish essay. It got sidetracked several times, and finally made it into print just today! But since the piece was very much inspired by conversations here at Ricochet, I thought I would post it with my thanks, and also invite commentary (or criticism!) from anyone who is interested. The title is: Slaying the Hydra: Can Virtue Heal the American Right?

Here’s the central metaphor, which is entirely Ricochet-inspired:

In Greek mythology, the hydra is a large reptilian beast with multiple serpentine heads. If one head is severed, two more grow in its place. A warrior intent on slaying the hydra would understandably tend to fixate on whichever head was actively threatening to devour him, but ultimately this was not a recipe for victory. In order to destroy the beast, it is necessary to deal with the monster in its totality.

The modern administrative state and our militant secular culture are like two heads of a single hydra. The modern state is a kind of secular church, wherein secular progressives pursue the only kind of fulfillment they think possible for humankind. The size and intrusiveness of the modern state mirror the strength and aggression of our secular culture. But the state also helps to create optimal conditions for the further entrenchment of secular ideals, by undermining natural community and fostering vice. It saps the strength and natural resources of its citizens, until they are finally unable to resist its incursions on their liberty.

In short, the state and its supportive culture are part of a single whole. Neither can be killed while the other lives, and by fixating too wholly on one, we risk leaving the other to build in strength, ultimately paving the way for a resurgence of both.

 

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  1. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    I really don’t find much to take issue with here. I don’t think there’s any question that a smaller, more circumscribed state requires a bigger, more robust culture and that religion can — indeed, should — be a big part of that.

    What I’m left a little mystified by is what precisely you think we should be doing. I don’t disagree greatly with this:

    This does not mean that we should eliminate all distinction between positive law and natural law, criminalizing all vices and mandating virtue. On the contrary, virtue-interested conservatives have a high respect for personal integrity, freedom of conscience, and the natural community (especially the family). Unlike progressives, we have no expectation that good government can draw the human race toward a shining horizon of politically achieved human perfection. We emphatically do not wish for it to try.

    We should, however, try to ground our political institutions in a substantial and realistic view of human good. Our aim should be to construct a society that bolsters the natural benefits of virtue instead of tearing them down. We should cherish our liberty, but always with a sober understanding of what liberty is for, and of the many ways in which vice and corruption can undermine the conditions that make true freedom possible.

    …but I also don’t quite know what to do with it. I would assume that marriage is a central part of this — as well it should be — but does simply mean opposing SSM? If that’s not my thing, what else can VirtuCons and I work together on, or what policies should I support with them?

    Those aren’t rhetorical questions. I’m quite serious.

    • #1
  2. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Put another way — and I realize this isn’t what you were doing, but I don’t know how to respond without it — what is the VirtuCon platform?

    • #2
  3. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    While I agree that conservatives should stress virtue, there is endless debate about what that might mean. We live at a time when “choice” seems to be the sole end of human beings. Choice is the supreme good for man and even many conservatives fall into this trap. We’ve taken the original liberalism of Locke and concluded that so long as we are free from government restrictions, we have reached the pinochle of human blessedness. What’s missing is an idea of the telos: Rational animals should strive to perfect themselves as rational animals. Without a philosophical psychology, as Elizabeth Anscombe argued, talk of virtue is a dead end.But few of us are prepared to submit our choices to such analysis.

    Judeo-Christianity offered such a telos: We are made for heavne and our lives should be lead according to that final end. We’ve abandoned that understanding in favor of the belief that our choices alone are the telos. How do we effectively critique any choice if that is the prevailing view? The abortion debate is the clearest example. The decision to abort is a matter of the summum bonum of the choice trumping the very life of a fellow human being. Even among self-identifying conservatives responses to abortion are squishy. Because we have no sense of telos, the fundamental right to life can be challenged. There are many “conservatives” who wish so-cons would abandon the battlefield.

    What is a conservative? Thomas Storck asks the question at Ethika Politika, and suggests that because there are so many versions of conservatives–economic, social, traditional, etc., conservatism is often incoherent. Do von Mises and Burke fit together? It’s a serious and troubling question.

    Given the lack of a coherent philosophy of the human person to guide the debate, I despair, alongside Aladair McIntyre, at the question of whether moral and political questions can ever be resolved.

    • #3
  4. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    It is a typical lovely article. However, the ‘facts’ about the tea party are incorrect.

    The contemporary use of the term was inaugurated by Rick Santelli on CNBC in February 2009. I have read articles that pre-date the movement to the G.W. Bush administration, but that is anecdotal. Rick Santelli’s rant is generally accepted as branding the movement.

    The ACA was introduced in December 2009 well after Mr. Santelli’s rant. The tea party opposed the ACA, but predated it by months.

    As for the viability of the movement today I think it is a stretch to read the last rights over the movement considering in the past 5 years they are partially credited with helping elect several conservative senators and motivating a small caucus in the house with several affiliated candidates for POTUS.

    • #4
  5. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: what is the VirtuCon platform?

    We’re strongly in favor of volatile chemicals.

    images

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I denounce myself.

    • #5
  6. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I can think of many VirtuCon policy ideas.  I don’t necessarily support every one of these, but here’s a start for discussion purposes:

    Strengthen the traditional family:

    • Repeal or reform “no-fault” divorce laws
    • Eliminate the “marriage tax”
    • Make marriage the only institution through which fathers have any rights with respect to their children
    • Reform welfare programs so that marriage is less likely to result in ineligibility
    • Bring back the right to sue for alienation of affection (i.e. a spouse can sue a third party who has an affair with his/her spouse)
    • Increase the tax incentives (credits or deductions) for dependent children, but only for married couples
    • Reverse the recognition of same-sex marriage

    Discourage illegitimacy:

    • Eliminate tax benefits for never-married parents
    • Reform welfare so as not to reward women for having illegitimate children
    • Make marriage the only institution through which mothers may hold fathers financially liable for supporting their children
    • Change the law of intestate succession so that illegitimate children receive no inheritance (this would apply only to those who die without a will; with a will, a person can distribute his estate as he likes)

    Seriously restrict abortion:

    • Ban virtually all abortions after 12 weeks (with a strict health-of-the-mother exception)
    • Require waiting periods and education, including ultrasounds
    • Restore parental rights over abortion decisions regarding their children
    • Defund Planned Parenthood
    • Exclude abortion coverage from government-related health insurance plans and programs
    • Forbid spending any public funds on abortion or promotion of abortion

    Promote religious liberty — I have several ideas but am out of space.

    • #6
  7. Underwood Inactive
    Underwood
    @Underwood

    Austin Murrey:

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I denounce myself.

    Denunciation accepted :)

    • #7
  8. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith
    @MerinaSmith

    Mike is correct–we do need a strong idea of the good.  I suppose we could start with life–that’s a good–which makes abortion and euthanasia bad.  Then we could start to look at the needs of children once they have life–also a very important basic good.  It seems to me that if we go from the basics up we’re going to have a much better grasp of the good than the current regime that says adult choice is the most important thing.  Life, children, the impaired, the elderly, all just have to fit their needs into the choices of adults in the prime of life.  One thing we can be pretty sure of–this is not a recipe for virtue, self-sacrifice, the well-being of children or good in general.

    • #8
  9. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    I’m with Tom, I don’t know what Virtue Cons stand for other than a more virtuous society. Its fair to point out that almost all people who engage in politics are in favor of a more virtuous society.

    • #9
  10. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Arizona Patriot:I can think of many VirtuCon policy ideas. I don’t necessarily support every one of these, but here’s a start for discussion purposes:

    Very comprehensive list, but given all the machinations of existing big government programs, distorted tax policies, and additional legislation is it consistent with smaller government?

    I think the cornerstone of small government virtue conservatism is the minimalist state where individual liberty affords us the opportunity to make virtuous choices rather than coercion to do so via the agency state.

    Comment submitted with all due respect to your point about not agreeing with everything on your list.

    • #10
  11. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    BrentB67: The contemporary use of the term was inaugurated by Rick Santelli on CNBC in February 2009. I have read articles that pre-date the movement to the G.W. Bush administration, but that is anecdotal. Rick Santelli’s rant is generally accepted as branding the movement.

    I’m pretty sure I watched him make that rant on live TV.

    • #11
  12. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: This does not mean that we should eliminate all distinction between positive law and natural law, criminalizing all vices and mandating virtue. On the contrary, virtue-interested conservatives have a high respect for personal integrity, freedom of conscience, and the natural community (especially the family). Unlike progressives, we have no expectation that good government can draw the human race toward a shining horizon of politically achieved human perfection. We emphatically do not wish for it to try.

    We should, however, try to ground our political institutions in a substantial and realistic view of human good. Our aim should be to construct a society that bolsters the natural benefits of virtue instead of tearing them down. We should cherish our liberty, but always with a sober understanding of what liberty is for, and of the many ways in which vice and corruption can undermine the conditions that make true freedom possible

    I find these two paragraphs to be pulling in two different directions. On the one hand you say that it is not the VirtueCon position to have government legislate “goodness” and yet you say that our political institutions should be designed to do exactly that.

    The problem with liberty is that neither you or I get to define what that liberty is for. Liberty is messy and each person gets to define what liberty is important to him.

    • #12
  13. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    In the end I arrive at this question:

    If the government is small enough that it is incapable of infringing upon the virtuous life as you define it, what does it matter what another man chooses to do with his liberty?

    • #13
  14. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    BrentB67: I think the cornerstone of small government virtue conservatism is the minimalist state where individual liberty affords us the opportunity to make virtuous choices rather than coercion to do so via the agency state.

    Incentivizing one behavior (via the tax code, etc.) does not mean punishing another.

    • #14
  15. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    The King Prawn:

    BrentB67: I think the cornerstone of small government virtue conservatism is the minimalist state where individual liberty affords us the opportunity to make virtuous choices rather than coercion to do so via the agency state.

    Incentivizing one behavior (via the tax code, etc.) does not mean punishing another.

    Correct as usual, but it installs the idea that the proper role of the federal government is incentivizing behavior by relative confiscation of private property.

    That goes back to JL’s question in #13.

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Arizona Patriot:I can think of many VirtuCon policy ideas. I don’t necessarily support every one of these, but here’s a start for discussion purposes:

    This I can work with! Here’s a few responses.

    Repeal or reform “no-fault” divorce laws

    I’m certainly not opposed to such a thing. I haven’t studied this in any detail, but it seems that the reforms of the 1970s over-corrected a problem. I’d be very happy to consider specifics informed people have to offer.

    Make marriage the only institution through which fathers have any rights with respect to their children … Make marriage the only institution through which mothers may hold fathers financially liable for supporting their children

    I’ve long thought these might be good reforms, if only they could be implemented. I think a lot of careful ground work would need to be done to get there, but I’m very open to this.

    Bring back the right to sue for alienation of affection (i.e. a spouse can sue a third party who has an affair with his/her spouse)

    That seems reasonable.

    Increase the tax incentives (credits or deductions) for dependent children, but only for married couples

    What about divorced couples? That seems… fraught.

    Reverse the recognition of same-sex marriage

    Well, good luck with that.

    Change the law of intestate succession so that illegitimate children receive no inheritance (this would apply only to those who die without a will; with a will, a person can distribute his estate as he likes)

    I don’t see how this would be worth the effort.

    • #16
  17. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Jamie Lockett:In the end I arrive at this question:

    If the government is small enough that it is incapable of infringing upon the virtuous life as you define it, what does it matter what another man chooses to do with his liberty?

    It only matters when his use of liberty infringes on mine, such as sewing his seed like a dandelion and leaving society to deal with the results or spends his life in a drunken or drugged stupor, incapable of caring for his own needs. One  of our virtues (and rightly, I think) is that we don’t just leave him or his offspring to die in the street. Of course, saying that is not the same thing as saying government is how we take care of it. Government can, however, be a greater disincentive for him behaving in such a way.

    • #17
  18. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Arizona Patriot: Seriously restrict abortion:

    Ban virtually all abortions after 12 weeks (with a strict health-of-the-mother exception)

    Sign me up.

    Require waiting periods and education, including ultrasounds

    I’m not deeply opposed to these, but there’s a point that it comes across as patronizing and counter-productive. It also strikes as as of limited value in early abortions.

    Restore parental rights over abortion decisions regarding their children

    Totally on board.

    Defund Planned Parenthood

    Exclude abortion coverage from government-related health insurance plans and programs

    Forbid spending any public funds on abortion or promotion of abortion

    This is a quibble, but I still don’t think “defund” isn’t quite the right language, as we’re talking about medicaid reimbursement for (non-abortion) services.

    If the rule were “No medicaid reimbursement for any medical provider who does abortions…” I wouldn’t be opposed.

    • #18
  19. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    The administrative state is so large that putting out “administrative state fires” (e.g. Obamacare) often becomes our all-consuming concern, and that’s understandable. At the same time, I think once you get into the line items, my suggested orientation might matter quite a lot. Some of you know that I’m currently doing some work on justice reform (especially incarceration and other forms of correctional control), and knowing my interest in virtue, you might see how that topic came to be of interest to me. Of course I’m also very interested in marriage, and there too the difference between facilitating “whatever arrangements people happen to prefer” and “the arrangement that best promotes virtue” can matter quite a lot when you get into the line items.

    But I’m more immediately concerned about the conversations conservatives have among themselves. We all know that there are quite a lot of people who see social conservatives’ central concerns (abortion, marriage) as so much preachy-pious-person baggage, which needs to be shed in our glorious modern era. They think that libertarians are the philosophical ones, while social conservatives are a mess of religious prejudices, grounded in a slavish deference to tradition, and in holy writ. That’s sometimes a little bit true “on the ground”, which is mainly just a commentary on the state of the academy and the elite professions more generally… but in terms of the positions themselves, it’s total hogwash. The relevant “tradition” is just Western Civilization, and social conservatives are, in the main, the people who are most convinced that that still matters.

    In part, then, I’m trying to reframe the debate to make clear what motivates the intense concern with issues like abortion and marriage. But if you want to talk about how this might spill over into policy discussions, I would mention the sorts of conversations we sometimes have about reform conservatism. I always say when that subject comes up that I (and most of the people identified with that movement) am very open to discussing the pros and cons of any particular policy suggestion. As conservatives, we don’t want to make the liberal mistake of blithely assuming that a policy will actually achieve X end just because that’s what we intended it to do. But the rhetoric you hear in the context of those discussions tends to come back again and again to the same complaints: How is this making government smaller? Why should we be discussing optimal family make-up in the political sphere? Isn’t that the concern of churches? Is this social engineering or what? How is this making government smaller?

    In other words, there is a strong tendency to assume that political discussion must be relentlessly focused on governmental *size*; more detailed considerations of *what enables people to thrive* are illegitimate on-face in the political realm, and even very indirect, non-invasive means of encouraging virtuous living (e.g. through the tailoring of family law to incentivize marriage and discourage divorce) are dismissed as “social engineering”.

    • #19
  20. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    And Tom, I’m happy to welcome you to the VirtuCon family, if you think you’re on board with all the relevant principles! I am not at all committed to tailoring the parameters to crowd you out (or to ensure that you must repent in some way before joining the virtue party).

    • #20
  21. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Rachel Lu: And Tom, I’m happy to welcome you to the VirtuCon family, if you think you’re on board with all the relevant principles!

    Can I be on board with some of them?

    • #21
  22. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Rachel Lu: And Tom, I’m happy to welcome you to the VirtuCon family, if you think you’re on board with all the relevant principles!

    Can I be on board with some of them?

    You can, but that may or may not get you an invitation to the party…

    • #22
  23. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Okay, for the sake of clarity were Arizona Patriot’s items a good example the kinds of things you had in mind.

    Because — while I have a quibbles and disagreements with some of them — many struck me as sensible reforms to existing legal institutions.

    If that’s where SoCons want to go — and so long as there’s a sensible plan for implementation — I’d be much more interested in that the stereotypical “gays, drugs, and porn” thing.

    • #23
  24. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Rachel Lu: more detailed considerations of *what enables people to thrive* are illegitimate on-face in the political realm

    The answer to this is: small government.

    • #24
  25. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    BrentB67:

    Very comprehensive list, but given all the machinations of existing big government programs, distorted tax policies, and additional legislation is it consistent with smaller government?

    I think the cornerstone of small government virtue conservatism is the minimalist state where individual liberty affords us the opportunity to make virtuous choices rather than coercion to do so via the agency state.

    Comment submitted with all due respect to your point about not agreeing with everything on your list.

    Many of these issues will remain even in something close to a libertarian “night-wachman-state” world, which has much to commend it, but which I don’t see on the horizon in any event.  For example, there are those pesky kids.  Somebody has to have responsibility for, and authority over, the kids.  This cannot be handled by contract.  Ditto for abortion.  We need law in the background.

    Also, while I’m provisionally in agreement with some pretty substantial conservatarian reforms, I think that implementation needs to be gradual.  If we have learned anything from the careless Leftist social and economic experimentation of the past century, it is that policy changes can have unexpected results.  Let’s not pretend that we know it all.  Let’s make modest changes in what appears to be the right direction, and see how it works out.

    • #25
  26. Dan Hanson Thatcher
    Dan Hanson
    @DanHanson

    The King Prawn:

    BrentB67: I think the cornerstone of small government virtue conservatism is the minimalist state where individual liberty affords us the opportunity to make virtuous choices rather than coercion to do so via the agency state.

    Incentivizing one behavior (via the tax code, etc.) does not mean punishing another.

    Of course it does.  Consider this thought experiment:

    1) We create a tax system where everyone pays 15%,  but we ‘incentivize’ virtuous choices of our choosing by giving the people who engage in them a 5% tax break.  Your claim is that such an incentive does not punish people who choose not to engage in the behavior.

    2)  We create a tax system where everyone pays 10%,  but the people who do not engage in the ‘virtuous’ behavior are fined an extra 5% in tax.  NOW would you say you are punishing that behaviour?

    The thing is,  in practical terms 1) and 2) are identical.  In either case,  the ‘virtuous’ person pays 10% in tax, and the non-virtuous pays 15%.

    Or look at it another way:  If we really need only 13% tax rates to pay for government,  but I have to pay 15% to cover the tax breaks of the ‘virtuous’,  then I am being forced to transfer 2% of my income from my family to a ‘virtuous’ family.   You’re going to tell me that I’m not being punished for my choices?  If so,  that’s an awfully fine hair you are splitting.

    • #26
  27. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Jamie Lockett:

    Rachel Lu: more detailed considerations of *what enables people to thrive* are illegitimate on-face in the political realm

    The answer to this is: small government.

    I’m reminded of the saying that “complicated problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.”

    I like the idea of smaller government.  But I think it is unrealistic to think that it will solve all problems.

    • #27
  28. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Okay, for the sake of clarity were Arizona Patriot’s items a good example the kinds of things you had in mind.

    Because — while I have a quibbles and disagreements with some of them — many struck me as sensible reforms to existing legal institutions.

    If that’s where SoCons want to go — and so long as there’s a sensible plan for implementation — I’d be much more interested in that the stereotypical “gays, drugs, and porn” thing.

    Well, I care about all of those things, for reasons that I think should follow pretty naturally from my principles. As far as what we should do about them, those are prudential questions, and rather difficult ones, and local action is always better. Porn cannot really be regulated all that effectively, given the internet, but if townships want to ban dirty bookstores on the main drag and that sort of thing, that seems fine to me. Drugs are a hard, hard problem. I think they’re extremely bad for society, and I also think our efforts to regulate them away have gone very badly and had some unfortunate side effects. I don’t know what the answer is, though I do think the “legalize and watch the culture fix itself” people are living in a dream world. As far as “gays”… you already know my views on that.

    In broad picture, though… it isn’t wrong as such for government to regulate these things. It’s better when it can happen locally, and we shouldn’t be naive about the real ramifications of banning things. But there’s no reason in principle why we shouldn’t admit in the political sphere that drugs and porn are bad for people (and society as a whole), and that marriage is by nature a man-and-woman institution. And there’s no reason in principle why those premises should not factor into arguments about policy.

    • #28
  29. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    On the matter of incentives, I think the objective should be to ensure that the law doesn’t push so much as codify.

    I’m not really interested in subsidizing virtue quite so much as I am insuring that we’re formalizing some rules of behavior and contract while not incentivizing objectively bad behavior.

    For example, it’s generally in the interests of a women to be discriminating in their sexual choices, but the incentives we’ve put in place — largely out of compassion — have taken much of the sting out of poor choices and leave us with the costs. I’m all in favor of attempting (carefully) to set that sort of thing back to right.

    • #29
  30. Dan Hanson Thatcher
    Dan Hanson
    @DanHanson

    For those who advocate giving the government the power and a mandate to reward ‘virtuous’ behaviour,  how are you going to feel when a President is elected who doesn’t share the same notion of virtue that you do?  What if 51% of the population becomes atheist and sincerely believes that religion is a dangerous delusion that should not be tolerated in a virtuous society?

    There’s an old saying, “A government that has the power to give you everything you want is a government powerful enough to take away everything you have.”   The ‘virtue’ equivalent might be, “A government powerful enough to strengthen the institutions that you believe are virtuous is a government powerful enough to destroy those institutions if enough people disagree with you.”

    Virtue is a great thing.  It’s also something that only exists if you are free to choose it.  Virtue cannot come at the point of a gun.   For you who are religious,  don’t forget that God gave people the freedom to choose to be moral or not,  because enforced ‘morality’ is meaningless.

    I come from a religious tradition (Mennonite) which stayed out of politics and as far from government as possible for precisely this reason.   Virtue has to come from the individual, and from the community.   Government has no business in the mix.

    Note that I’m drawing a distinction between a civil society and a virtuous society.  Civil society is a fundamental requirement for democracy to work, so government definitely has a role in maintaining laws required for civil society.

    But when you go beyond that and start trying to control what kind of civil society government should be fostering,  you lose me for two reasons:  One,  I don’t believe in central planning, and that includes central planning of social direction as much as economic direction.  Trust government to screw it up and probably create results opposite of what it intended.  And second,  because I don’t want government to have that kind of power over the moral choices of people.  I don’t trust it to wield that power responsibly over time.

    If I were religious,  I would add a third reason:  because morality and virtue are a matter between the individual and God,  and bringing the government and the power of coercion into it is, in my opinion,  misguided and an intrusion into that relationship. It’s meddling where it does not belong.

    As my Grandfather used to say, quoting the synoptic gospels: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. This has been interpreted many ways,  but my tradition of faith basically used it to say that the state had no business whatsoever interfering in the relationship between God and his flock.

    • #30
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