Do-Gooder News: 23 February 2011

“A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds” – Samuel Clemens

A couple of do-gooder news stories caught our attention. The first comes from senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who says “the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution” (story here). Now, I would gladly agree with Reid and quite a few other people in that prostitution is immoral. But immoral and illegal are not, and ought not be, the same thing.

The role of the government, according to Frederic Bastiat (with whom I agree), is the collective defense of individual rights. That is, we organize into governments so that the rights of the individual will be defended by the force of the whole. In a kingdom or dictatorship this may not be the case, but in a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people” it is the rational outcome – lest we submit to mob rule.

So, while I agree that prostitution – or simply fornication for that matter – is immoral, making it illegal begs the question of “whose rights have been violated?” If the participants in the matter enter into the contract willingly, and are capable of entering into such contracts of sound mind and body (e.g. they are adults), then whose rights have been violated? Is it immoral? YES. Should it be illegal? I think not.

I fully recognize that this puts me in a minority position amongst Christians. I also fully recognize that there are many places in the world (e.g. India) where legalized prostitution has gone hand-in-hand with sexual slavery. Having said that, I think the fault lies with the buying and selling of human beings – a violation of their rights as human beings – and not with the legality of prostitution.

The second story comes from San Francisco, where a move to ban infant circumcision is gaining momentum. It’s not law yet, but if passed the measure would make it illegal to circumcise babies. When pressed about religious traditions, particularly among Jews, the bill’s main backer indicated “adults would be free to opt-in to circumcision, but infants would not be allowed to have the procedure until they reach 18.” One suspects that few 18-year-olds will opt-in.

There is a national move afoot to ban circumcision, and this bill is only a part. The debate is often heated and rarely objective – the sides are entrenched. Obviously those with religious traditions of circumcision want the practice defended. They will point out that circumcision generally reduces the risk of a number of STDs. Opponents will counter that there are also risks to the children from the procedure – and there certainly are.

What seems par for the course amongst liberal-progressive do-gooders is the notion that  the parents cannot be trusted with such decisions, and a council of our betters must control our actions in the best interest of the children. They are inherently distrustful of freedom – because free people may well choose a different course of action than the all-knowing progressive elite. It is no different than right-wing opposition to freedom – because free people may well choose a different course of action than the all-knowing religious elite. On both sides, the do-gooders are more interested in living our lives for us than in living their own lives the best they can.

But we believe that life and liberty are endowed to us by our Creator – not to be subjugated to mobocracy or religious or progressive elites.

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2 Responses to Do-Gooder News: 23 February 2011

  1. The issue of circumcision is an interesting one. Whose rights are being subjugated? The parents’ right to make decisions, or the child’s right to his or her body? Assuming a role of government solely to protect an individual’s rights, I tend to think that circumcising a baby might be viewed as infringing on the child’s rights. An action has been taken which the child can never in the future choose to undo, based on a decision in which he or she had no say. (Having said that, I admit I don’t feel strongly about the choice one way or another, and in any case I am reasonably confident that we would have our son circumcised if we had one, particularly since that decision is not solely up to me.) 🙂

    To provide a similar experience from my own life for comparison: when I was born, my mother felt strongly that I should not be baptized as an infant. She wanted baptism to be an informed personal decision that I made when I was old enough to do so. That is one of the many reasons for which I love and respect both my parents immensely. (I suppose it sort of backfired, though, since my active, informed, personal decision was not to be baptized. Oh well.)

    • nomasir says:

      It is an as-yet unresolved question. When the individual cannot decide for themselves, who has authority to oversee their decisions and defend their rights? Surely there is some role for the state in all of this; but I generally defer to parents on such issues – they are far more likely to have the child’s best interests at heart, even if they screw up from time to time.

      As for baptism, I agree with your parents. I also doubt that it backfired at all – I hold that infant baptism is unlikely to affect religious views later in life.

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