What’s Wrong with Moral Clarity


I’m sure the Representative is a very nice lady who loves dogs and wants the best for America.

But “restoring moral clarity to Congress” is, frankly, frightening.

Take it as a given that congresscritters are immoral, that they legislate immorally and that that’s bad. But there’s a lot of ground between “immorality” and “moral clarity.” And consensus on moral clarity is quite narrow. Take care of your children. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. … and already we are on the ragged edge of moral clarity, as there are are tribes that make broad exceptions for people from other tribes: It’s okay to steal from gadjo, or Igbo, or rich people.

What is morally clear to one person is often less than clear, or even clearly wrong, to another. To me it’s clearly immoral for a person to delegate to government what it would be immoral for the person to do. Most people, including, I venture to guess, Representative Omar, disagree.

Every grownup should have some scars, and should have some resulting enduring moral clarity about some things. As a cooler Omar said, A man gotta have a code.

But moral clarity imposed on others (as through theocracy) is a dangerous thing. When non-consensus moral clarity is imposed on others, consensus moral clarity may fall by the wayside. For example, the Taliban has moral clarity, with which many people would not agree, and which it imposes on others. When its moral clarity (for example, homosexuality is immoral) meets murder is wrong the latter yields, and people die.

So when Representative Omar proposes “restoring moral clarity” to Congress, I have to wonder whose moral clarity she means. Congress follows consensus morality pretty already (given that there is no consensus that it is immoral for the state to do what a person could not morally do himself).

Omar may mean her own moral clarity. If so, even if she and I agreed on all moral issues (see “delegated immorality,” above) I wouldn’t want her imposing that moral clarity on the nation. We should all mistrust anyone who wishes to impose their moral clarity on others.

Omar believes in “democracy,” so she may mean not consensus moral clarity or her own moral clarity but instead the moral clarity of the majority.

I trust that no more. Most of us are mostly wrong, and we are easily led to be even more wrong. Gathering facts and applying reason is hard work, and most are too busy watching TV to do it. So I trust myself to be more right about the things that I’ve given some thought to than the majority could ever be.

People who think the majority subscribes to their morality should be no more willing to let Congress act on the moral clarity of the majority—those people are probably wrong about majority moral clarity, and even if they aren’t, they are wrong about what majority moral clarity twenty years from now. Imagine the Left’s reaction if a right-wing politician had, twenty years ago, talked about “restoring moral clarity” to Congress.

Ultimately, in a contest of moral clarities, the most certain or the most violent will prevail. The most certain is probably not the most correct, and the most violent is certainly not. So if we’re going to look for moral clarity from Congress, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Well … bumpier than we were in for already.


2 responses to “What’s Wrong with Moral Clarity”

  1. Having read thru some of your posts and not to take the blog off target, and considering your dislike for tyranny, how do the provisions of the Patriot Act and the NDAA concerning the unlimited detention of American citizens without due process and the elimination of at least their 4th, 5th & 6th amendment rights (and maybe others), play into the life of Mark Bennett? The suspension of Constitutional guarantees of American citizens by legislation that has not been reviewed by SCOTUS.

  2. And my research results suggest there is a pretty good likelihood that there is a terror watch list of American citizens maintained by elements of the Federal gov’t, who have no due process recourse for those on the list. What is your stance on that? Thanks.

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