Thoughts on economics and liberty

What is morality? #2

I'm continuing from Part 1 here. A debate has occurred re: Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments on that post, to which I will revert later. In the meanwhile, I came across a few interesting videos on Youtube re: morality.


This one (below) is thoughtful and provocative. It comes from the libertarian perspective. Libby (here's her blog) prefers to take the 'moral high ground' and chooses to see certain legal actions as immoral, and vice versa. She has not elaborated, but presumably she would like to do away with a state altogether, and individually bargain EACH matter with the rest of society.

Doing so, however, is impractical, and so, as a classical liberal I do not hold a 'moral high ground' like her but commit, instead, to working with others to agree to a MINIMAL legal framework that is consistent with morality broadly as all of us see it. Fortunately, there is a 'moral consensus' for the most part (see Richard Dawkins's video below), so it is possible to debate and arrive at a broadly consistent legal framework.

I also had a quick look at this (second) video, below, as well. It is more consistent with my views, although this presenter seems to be intent on refuting the role of the Church in the design of a moral legal system.

His points lead almost directly to Dawkins's video next.

And now, Richard Dawkins's video (below) – which provides an evolutionary psychology explanation for our moral sense and 'moral consensus', and how the definitions of morality change over time. 

Finally, I don't recall mentioning James Q. Wilson's book, The Moral Sense earlier (although that book is referenced in DOF). I consider it mandatory reading, one of the most important books on the subject since Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments

Final thoughts for now

Once again, let me add that to me morality (to us, as adults) should be seen basically a matter of being accountable for our actions. I don't care if you are  'moral' or not. I only care that you are accountable to the laws that we have mutually created as a society. Since it is very hard to debate morality, we should work through our elected representatives  to agree to the principles of accountability. 

I know that the framework I advocate (classical liberal) leads to 'problems' of the sort that Libby has pointed out above. However, should such dissonance arise, we should revise our laws to minimise such dissonance.

I believe that if liberty and life are taken as key principles, then it should not be too hard to debate and agree to a reasonable legal framework of accountability that meets our individual benchmarks of morality.

The real problem, I notice, arises when particular religious principles wish to impose on our laws (and morality). Someone wants to prohibit alcohol, another wants to prohibit beef. Someone wants women to wear the burqua. If that happens then all bets are off. Then we can never possibly agree to anything as a society.

The simplest thing, I believe, is for the state to NOT have any laws unless doing so is ABSOLUTELY necessary. Let people be free to do whatever they please so long as they meet minimum standards of accountability.

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