Sunday, October 30, 2005

Advocating Conservative Values yet Libertarian Social Policies

One of the biggest barriers existing between today’s conservatives and liberals especially on campus is the issue of values. In the United States, the vast majority of conservatives prescribe in some way to Judeo-Christian values which include moral absolutes, personal responsibility, choosing life, rejecting materialism, putting man above nature and other animals, and many other values that stem from Biblical principles. The vast majority of liberals hold secular values that include moral relativism, equating female equality with sameness, equating humans with animals, worshipping nature, and placing feelings above doing “what is right”. These underlying values produce the greatest amount of friction and quarreling between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, and religious and nonreligious. For instance you rarely ever hear a liberal spout their hatred of conservative who are advocating smaller government or free trade but rather you hear them calling conservatives “religious right activists”, “heartless businessman”, or “intolerant racists”. On the other end conservatives accuse liberals of being “stupid hippies” or “godless self centered hedonists”. Values are probably the most important political contrast between Blue America and Red America and will continue to play a huge role in politics.

While I feel that biblical values are central to the future of our country and to the world, enacting them on the public through extensive laws and force is not the way to move people towards Christ or a Christian or Jewish faith-based society. Often the religious right takes positions that clearly restrict freedom and the ability of people to make choices. Examples of vices that many conservatives want restrictions on include doctor-assisted suicide, drugs (specifically marijuana), and other individual centered destructive behavior. So while liberals deride social conservatives for passing laws that promote morality and restrict sin the left promotes their own version of decency.

Laws are the Left's vehicles to earthly salvation. Virtually all human problems have a legal solution. Some men harass women? Pass laws banning virtually every flirtatious action a man might engage in vis a vis a woman. Flood legislatures with laws preventing the creation of a "hostile work environment." Whereas the religious world has always worked to teach men how to act toward women, the secular world, lacking these religious values, passes laws to control men.—Dennis Prager

Instead of taking a neutral stance in terms of morality and social constraint, liberals love to put into law rules that fit their moral stance. Two real examples come to mind from within Madison. First, the Madison City Smoking Ban was put into place in order to keep people safe from second hand in bars and taverns. This law restricts the choices students and adults make when they enter smoke filled bars and allow the government to put more restrictions on business and the health of its citizens. Second, SSFC passed condom line items for LBGTCC, Campus Woman’s Center, and Sex Out Loud giving students a “thumbs up” in terms of bedroom activity making ASM Student Government an advocate sexual behavior. Liberals on SSFC and ASM Student Council would be outraged if the school placed restrictions on particular sexual behaviors on campus but love it when the state advocates their own sexual beliefs.

So both conservatives and liberals want to move the government to support their ideals socially. Conservatives in the United States mostly are moved by Judeo-Christian values in determining policy focusing their effort to eradicate particular vices. Liberals are centered on secular policies which are often geared towards compassion, equity, fairness, and health. From both sides of the aisle, government is used to place restrictions on individuals and advocate morality. Why can’t government simply take a step back and let individuals be judged for their behavior by God?

"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:27

Christians must stand up for what is right and deride sinful behaviors. Yet, I feel that as mere humans we are not here to place direct restrictions on people’s actions if they are not hurting anyone but themselves. Behaviors such as stealing and murder obviously hurt others in society and therefore punishment is warranted but why would we regulate drugs or other self-centered actions? As a Christian, our role is to bring the light of Christ in our actions and our words. In a more restrictive environment, secularists simply see Christians as police agents and narrow-minded religious zealots. In an open environment, Christians lead by example in not engaging in sinful behavior (not doing drugs, not being selfish, being truthful and honest, etc) and speaking out against certain actions especially when the state is uninvolved. God loves freedom and he gives us the choice everyday to follow his commands and accept the gift of his son Jesus. If God gives us personal freedom in making these critical decisions, let him be the one who judges, not the state. I am an advocate of Judeo-Christian values but allow the government to restrain itself from personal morality decisions.


  • I find it very interesting that the two topics you site that conservatives want to restrict are the legalization of marijuana, and physician assisted suicide, calling them individual-centered or personal decisions.

    First, physician assisted suicide is not an individual or personal issue. It involves at least two people. The United States should never allow this act, not simply from a morality standpoint, that it is the taking of a life, but also because of the ethics involved. When one person has the power to legally take another’s life, that power will be taken advantage of. Many physicians may abuse this power, and, for example, many patients, perhaps someone suffering from dementia, will be “assisted in suicide” without fully understanding what is happening. If someone wants to commit suicide, there’s not much I can do about it; however, another person should not be brought into the matter.

    Second, the legalization of marijuana is not something that I disagree with based on morality. I disagree with it because of the issues involved with legalizing such a long illegal-act, the ramifications of doing so, and the effects on society. I fully agree that it is an individual’s choice to do what they want to do, regardless of my religious beliefs on the matter. However, to make marijuana illegal would be to ask our society to go into the slums and the projects and try to regulate the drug dealers, something which you must agree would be difficult. As well, once we’ve got reefers on the shelves at Wal-Mart, drug dealers will not simply give up their life of crime, but move on to pushing harder drugs on kids. Also, how would the government regulate the growing of marijuana? Most of it comes from questionable areas, whether it be in the basement of a ex-hippy or, as some believe, from the Middle East. Also, this is not exactly a product that the FDA can come up with acceptable standards for. The possibility for marijuana to be tainted, perhaps fatally so, is great. For the government to sanction the purchase of such a product would lead to ramifications I cannot fathom the extent of. As well, while many people believe that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs, which may be true, it is true that it does have quite detrimental effects. Would we have a legal limit for marijuana use? And how would we measure the amount at the time of a traffic stop, etc.? I really would rather not have a bunch of stoned people driving around, speeding through the red lights they never saw and mowing down pedestrians.

    Finally, if society disagreed so much with these laws, and “social conservatives” driven by Judeo-Christian beliefs are the only ones supporting them, then why are they still on the books? We happen to be a federal republic with democratic ideals. If a majority of society wanted marijuana to be legal, or physicians to be able to “assist” in suicide, then the political pressure would be great enough to change the existing laws. However, a majority of society does not think so. Thus, even if the laws support Judeo-Christian morality, the majority of U.S. citizens support the laws. Until, and at no time before, that changes, the laws will stay intact.

    By Blogger Jenna, at 12:48 AM  

  • My answer to the friction caused by the differences of personal value systems is to return to the days of strong states' rights.

    During America's infancy, the 13 colonies were very different from each other due to different religions, values, histories, and business environments. Each of the colonies feared that if they joined together to form a new nation, they would lose the ability to govern themselves the way the saw fit, thus losing their identity. That's why the colonies entered into the Articles of Confederation, with each state basically being its own nation.

    Nevertheless, the colonies saw the need to have a central government to fulfill certain duties, such as interstate commerce and the military, so the states ratified our current Constitution and formed the United States of America. Under this form of government, the federal government would have a limited number of powers--powers that were better if they were held by a single entity rather than numerous states--whereas the states basically had free reign over their own governance, as long as they followed the Constitution.

    In this way, the Puritan, Quaker, cotton farming, and urban states were able to coexist under the umbrella of the USA.

    Since before the Civil War, states' rights have been eroded. The climax of that erosion was Roe v. Wade. Before Roe v. Wade, a state could either permit or outlaw abortion. In either case, it was up to that state, since the Constitution didn't award that power to the federal government. This country's court systems have ignored the Constitution and its concept of states' rights.

    The current situation is not what the Founders intended. If we returned to the concept of states' rights, which is still preserved in the words of our Constitution, I feel the conflicts caused by differences in values could be avoided.

    If one state wanted to allow abortion, it could. If one state wanted to allow marijuana, it could. If one state wanted to allow gay marriage, it could, but the federal government and other states wouldn't have to recognize it. If a state wanted to outlaw all three of those, it could.

    If people didn't like laws of their own state, they could move. States' rights was a wonderful idea of the Founders. We should bring it back.

    By Anonymous Ryan S, at 1:20 PM  

  • Addressing Jenna's comments first: While physician suicide does involve 2 people, the legality of the decision is ultimately in the hands of the person who chooses to die. If a person signs their life away and specificies a method, a doctor should be allowed to provide this procedure. While doctors obviously could choose not to perform specific procedures for moral and ethical reasons, it is not the state's right to intervene if this is the patient's wish. I feel I should not take my own life early because it is in God's hands. But while I may choose to suffer and put my trust in God, others will wish to die and it is that individual's choice.
    I want to really challenge a number of your arguments against the legalization of drugs. First, if the government decided to legalize marijuana it would not have to necessarily regulate the substance. Why doesn't the government simply place a decree that a person is liable for their own health and safety if they choose to smoke or consume marijuana? A barter or underground system of sorts could exist but sellers and users would not be deemed criminal.
    Addressing the issues of children, the same laws that ban alcohol use for minors (under 21) could be taken for marijuana. Children would see that it is a drug for adults and its usage would probably remain at similar levels.
    You speak of the detrimental effects of marijuana but provide no evidence that it is any worse than cigarettes or heavy drinking. Cigarettes provide a much greater danger because of their addictive nature. Heavy drinking is arguably no better for you body than smoking weed. Heavy drinking messes with your brain and neurotransmitter like marijuana. Obviously driving under the influence of marijuana would probably illegal if the drug was legalized. It intoxicates drivers in a different yet negative way like alcohol. I'm not vouching for smoking weed but I am saying that it is not that big a deal especially when alcoholism presents even a greater threat to the decline of individuals and our society.
    I can give you a couple reasons why these laws are still on the books. For one, Judeo-Christian values are still present in much of America even with church attendance decline in many areas. Eventhough many people are not real religious, they still believe in God and hold to at least some biblical values. Second, people in the United States are not very accepting of change. For instance, the majority of the US public is against the Hispanic immigration influx (for few good reasons) and gay marriage. Also the US public was against even the partial privatization of social security. I think one of the biggest reasons why the US is conservative is because they are not very accepting of change. Therefore, the social policies that have been on the books for years many feel should stick even if there is no set of principles they are based on.
    I guess my main challenge then for you is to decide why you support specific conservative social policies that constrain individuals? Is this the best way to protect society and individuals from themselves? Should we keep these laws on the books simply because of precedent? I would say "no" to both these questions but you can make up your own mind.

    Addressing Ryan's thoughts, I too agree with the concept of federalism and believe that states and localities do have the rights to make their own laws. For instance, with civil unions I feel it is the state's rights to decide whether they want to have domestic partnerships or not. I also feel that many of these other social issues (abortion, drugs, euthanasia, etc) should be left up to the states. As a voting member within these geographical jurisdictions, I would vote for freedom in terms of drugs, euthanasia, civil partnership rights because I feel the government should be neutral on these primarily individual matters. I find it problematic that specific places would enforce their morality on others but I think the Constitution gives ground for local and state government to do this.

    By Blogger Tim, at 4:00 PM  

  • Tim,
    I'm glad we agree about federalism, because I would probably vote differently than you on some of the issues you listed.

    By Anonymous Ryan S, at 7:34 PM  

  • First of all, let me just say I find it kind of hard to debate with a guy that can quote scripture in his blog...very impressive. :)

    However, following from your reasoning, why do we have laws that restrict anything at all? Just as you believe, and it may be true, that marijuana does not have a great detrimental effect, some people believe that cocaine, in very small amounts, does not have a great detrimental effect-should it be legal too?

    There is, even though it continually recedes, a line of morality in U.S. society (which, I must disagree, is NOT conservative). Currently, marijuana, cocaine, gay marriage, and assisted suicide are behind it. Whether it is because U.S. citizens abhor change, or simply because that is what the majority of society believes, it does not matter.

    I believe that it is the state's right to tell an individual that they cannot ask another person to murder them. I do not even understand the need for assisted suicide-what prevents these people from simply committing suicide themselves-why must they involve a doctor?

    Also, I'm quite sure, Tim, that you know the government cannot simply decree a person is responsible for his or her own health. The bureaucracy must dip its finger into every aspect of legislation. Because of this, the substance issues that I brought up must be addressed. Unfortunately, it cannot be avoided.

    It would be much more feasible to allow marijuana use if it were simply a personal choice. However, the decision to use marijuana doesn't only affect the user-it affects society. Just as we ban alcohol consumption above .08 BAC because of the possible effects on society, we do not allow marijuana use because of the effects on society.

    So to your question, is this the best way to protect society and individuals, I must say yes, it is the best way to protect society. Of course, I am all for individual rights-in no way should any constitutional right be infringed upon in this country. However, these are not individual rights, and the right to ask someone to kill you, or the right to smoke something that has been deemed a harmful drug are not found in any stretch of the constitution or its amendments, just as the right to kill your unborn child is not found in the constitution.

    By Blogger Jenna, at 8:43 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger BadgerZach, at 3:37 AM  

  • As far as the smoking ban, this is one of the stupidest policies I've ever seen, and harms several people. It's not about the choices that smokers choose to make about their own health. It's about the free market, and about the clear inequalities of the benefits and downsides to bars with different geographical locations and target crowds.

    The smoking ban is a huge detrimetn to the free market. In fact, the people it harms the most are innovative bar owners. Before this ban was passed, a downtown bar could have made a killing by going non-smoking. Because many bar patrons don't like smoke, there was clearly a market for a non-smoking bar. Even a bar with a mediocre layout, mediocre drinks and prices, a less-than-ideal location and an okay atmosphere could have done very well tailoring specifically to a smoke free crowd. After other bars saw the success of this bar, several other downtown bars would probably have also gone non-smoking. This would have made smokiness of a bar another consideration, along with friendliness of staff, atmosphere, location and drink specials, for people chosing a bar.

    Other big losers here are the bars on the periphery of Madison. Working adults who live outside of the downtown area more than likely drive or take cabs to their preferred watering holes anyway. For the extra dollar, smokers or friends of smokers are likely to go to Middleton, Verona, Fitchburg or Sun Prairie to visit an establishment where they can make their own life decisions (good or bad).

    Moreover, bars which target working class patrons are likely to lose a lot of business over this. Many working class residents of Madison live in exactly the areas just described, within a few miles of Madison city limits. Many of them also smoke. On a recent visit to a "townie" bar, a sign in the window spoke volumes. "Where are all you non-smokers now?" it implored. I'll tell you where. At bars in Verona, or at their smoker friends' homes, where they can socialize with friends who after a 8-10 hour day want to sit down, relax and have a beer and a smoke. This bar punishes the "townie" bars, and provides an economic benefit only to the downtown bars. In a "city" with a full range of neighborhoods and residents, from the somewhat urbanized, and very college-townish downtown to the more suburban West Side to the downright rural-ish frignes. If PACE, the ALRC or other downtown and campus-based responsible drinking initiatives knew what they were doing, they would come out against the smoking ban. This ban mostly benefits the very establishments which present the challenges of underaged drinking and overconsumption these organizations seek to combat. By providing an economic advantage to establishments frequented by students and recent graduates, who together consist of large numbers of both minors and individuals just looking to get fucked up, this smoking ban sends the wrong message. Unless something is done, there's a very good chance that college bars will be the only ones left in this city. If bars are supposed to be a place for responsible adults of legal drinking age to relax and socialize over a reasonable number of drinks, why is the City passing legislation which punishes bars that actually provide this atmosphere, while simultaneously benefiting bars which are notorious for their underaged and rowdy crowds?

    It doesn't make sense. In a city like New York, a lot of these issues are irrelevant. New York residents don't really have the option of going to the burbs to have a few drinks. Furthermore, New York has more metro bars and night clubs, which can't be replicated outside of the urban atmosphere. In a city with abundant bars throughout the city, the idea of encouraging the opening of a lucrative new non-smoking bar doesn't make sense. People will go to the bars they're used to going to. Also, because of the nature of urban settings, the geographical distribution of bars that would benefit from or be harmed by a smoking ban doesn't present as strong of a contrast. All bars saw a decrease in business. None received an unfair burden, and few, if any, received huge boosts in business.

    Moreover, unemployment in Wisconsin is a constant problem. While this ban can be seen as benefiting employees, I would provide two counterarguments. First, every job must have some advantages and some drawbacks. Bartending has traditionally had the advantages of being a fun, fairly easy to learn trade, but still allowing for a huge income, in the form of both a steady paycheck large enough to pay the bills (bartending wages are normal wages, not server wages by State Law), and cash to spend at the end of the night. There are two things which could be advantages or disadvantages, the hours and the interaction with poeple. The hours make the job unappealing to some, who may have children, or be used to a nightly sleeping schedule. They could also be an advantage to some, who may be students, or who may like to sleep in. Similarly, a people person would like the personal interaction. Less social people might have a hard time dealing with cranky, demanding drunk people. The only real disadvantage was the smokey environment. Now that advantage has been taken away. Who, aside from people with social anxiety disorder or children, would not want this job, where you make at least $6 an hour, soon to be $8 in this city, as well as a hundo or two a night in tips?

    Moreover, as mentioned above, some of the townie bars outside of the downtown area will most definitely suffer economically from this ban, and be forced to either lay people off or close entirely. This has already happened to some bars in Madison, and many bartenders have been left jobless. What's worse is because these have not for the most part been downtown bars, many of the bartenders relied on that job for their sole source of income, and may not have the education or experience to go into a new line of work. Over the next few years, this ban will have added dozens, if not hundreds, of unemployed to Wisconsin's already high numbers. Meanwhile, the State complains about the Dells and summer camps getting J-1 students for seasonal employment, and taking jobs from Wisconsin residents. Explain to me how the capitol city of a State that applied huge pressure to change the ratio of year-round and seasonal J-1 visas the federal government gave out, with the justification of keeping foreign employees out of Wisconsin's seasonal jobs, justifies leaving a significant number of its residents unemployed.

    By Blogger BadgerZach, at 2:25 AM  

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