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L. Neil Smith's
Number 511, March 22, 2009

"The Mother Of All Demos"

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Morals and Morality
by Ron Beatty
bearfreeliberty -+at+-

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Whew! This is going to be a tough one. I know that many people are going to vehemently disagree with me on this one, but it's time to speak out.

Many years ago, in a college psychology course, my cousin and I teamed up to do a report on the writings of Robert A. Heinlein. It was supposed to be a three page report, with a five minute class presentation. What we turned in was the required three pages, plus four pages of quotes and citations. The five minute class presentation turned into three class days of questions and answers.

What started all this chaos (and it was) was the section on marriage and morality. By the end of the week, we had people coming up to us and either applauding us for our "courage" in stating unpopular opinions, or castigating us for our "shameless lack of morality." This is precisely the reaction we wanted, and I'll admit that we took shameless advantage of our standing in the school to get away with it. We wanted people to take us to task, just so we could come back and say, "Why?"

The reason we wanted this is simple. We wanted people to realize that there is no one all-encompassing morality that fits every situation and scenario.

First off, what are morals? According to, there are two answers to this.

Principles of behavior based on the concepts of right and wrong is the first one.

The second is personal principles, standards.

As shall soon be quite obvious, I lean toward the second definition, but let's deal with the first one to begin with.

Principles of behavior based on the concepts of right and wrong.

First off, who decides what is right and wrong? Is it some arbitrary definition based on something that was written in a 'holy book' more than a thousand years ago, and that has been continuously edited and interpreted to mean whatever those in power wish it to mean?

Right now, there are three major moral issues that are consistently brought up in our society. These are homosexuality, abortion, and capital punishment. Let's take these in order.

Homosexuality: The radical Christian right bases their objection to homosexuality on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the bible. This is somewhat disputed by both Judaism and Islam, which contend that the 'sin' of Sodom and Gomorrah was lack of hospitality and arrogance. As for me, well, I have a hard time taking seriously a story which considers a righteous man one who offers his virgin daughters to a mob to be raped, then later has an incestuous relationship with them while in a drunken stupor, fathering a child on each of them. Since the three major religions 'of the Book' can't agree on exactly what the 'sin' of Sodom and Gomorrah was, I think we might be able to discount that one. This is an issue where each person has to decide for themselves, while not forcing their view on others who do not share it.

Abortion: The sticking point here is the disagreement over exactly when life begins. Many religious persons say that life begins at conception, while both the state and other major religions hold that life begins at birth. This is one of those questions that will probably never be answered satisfactorily.

I don't know the answer to this one, folks. I know that I don't personally approve of abortion, but neither do I have the right to tell someone else what to believe or how to act, based on my own moral compass. I think that each person has to answer this one for themselves, while not forcing their view on others who do not share it.

Capital Punishment: This is another one that the conflict comes directly from the bible, specifically the 6th commandment, which most versions relate as "Thou shalt not kill," even though the literal translation of that verse is "Thou shalt not murder." This is one of those issues where the bible seems to be schizophrenic, with long lists of when it is not only acceptable, but a duty to kill.

On the issue of capital punishment, I am somewhat torn. While I have absolutely no problem with killing a criminal in self-defense, or while he or she is in the process of committing a crime, there is something fundamentally wrong with our present system. For one, we have seen that in many cases the corruption, bigotry or sheer inefficiency of the system has led to wrongful convictions. For another, a person who is sentenced to capital punishment is often held in prison for decades before the sentence is carried out, while appeals are carried out and the legalities are observed. While this is a good thing, in that it seems to limit those wrongfully put to death, it is bad in that those who are guilty often get a longer life than if they had continued their ways on the outside. I think that this one is an issue where each person has to decide for themselves, while not forcing their view on others who do not share it.

HMMMMM! Are we seeing a common thread here? Each and every person has their own moral code that they will follow. Yes, even a serial killer will follow his own moral code, in many cases, in that they will use it for justification for their crimes.

For many people, their moral code is religious in origin, as being 'handed down by God.' For others, it will be a philosophy, such as the Zero Aggression Principal. It doesn't matter what it is, no one has the right to force others to follow their own personal moral code.

There are very few people who are totally amoral, even though it may seem that way to an outside observer. Even Mafiosi, drug lords and other types of people who are considered criminal have a very strong moral code, which they follow 'religiously.' Even many of those considered totally vile quite often had or have a moral code. For example, not many would consider Hitler as being a moral man, but within the concept of his own twisted ideals, he was.

A moral code is not a guarantee of good behavior, people. For one thing, once a person, state or religion attempts to force a moral code on others, they have stepped over a line. Morals and moral codes are a personal choice, not something imposed by others. For another, a moral code which denigrates and despises others based on sex, skin color, national origin, religion, etc., can often lead to genocide and murder.

Morality and moral codes are only 'good' insofar as they require those who follow them to treat others honestly and to act in a manner that an objective observer or the society which the follower lives in would consider 'good.' It is entirely possible to be a killer or assassin, and to be considered a 'good' man. Don't believe me? Look up Carlos Hathcock, Chuck Mawhinney and Adelbert Waldron. Look up John Unertl, who was not only a celebrated sniper with over 200 'kills', but also made scopes for the Marine snipers, among others, after immigrating to this country. Despite having killed well over five hundred men, these four men are all considered 'good' men, in that their kills were done within a context that society could accept, i.e., war.

What is my moral code? It's simple, really. I don't lie to or cheat others for personal gain or advantage. I don't harm others, unless they have attempted to harm me. I do my best to treat others fairly and consistently, based on their conduct towards me! I don't really give a damn if a person has a past that others might consider 'dodgy.' What matters is how they act towards me and mine.

What is your moral code?


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