Redefining Humanity


Gerard Vanderleun recently posted a thoughtful and moving essay on the topic of abortion, and his own personal reflections and experiences with it.

The crux of the abortion dispute is, as mentioned above, the question of when human life begins. At this point, we all know the opposing political and religious positions. At some point, human life begins and the fate of the fetus is either at the absolute will of the mother or it is not. Nevertheless, it is still hard to say exactly when humanness happens since: 1) We do not agree on the term “human,” and 2) as a result, all evidence on this issue remains anecdotal once you strip away the slant of the “research” that supports your preferred result.

When does the fetus become human?

This question, on one hand, seems all-important, yet at another level seems absurd beyond belief. It is a question which would never be asked were it not for the idea of ending a pregnancy by abortion. What reason would there be for such a question? A woman becomes pregnant, and is expecting a baby: this is the expectation of motherhood since man and woman first began procreating. In its natural course, barring unforeseen problems, a child is born — a unique instance of humanity, a living being like none other before or after. It is only in the context of deliberately interrupting this process — ending the pregnancy deliberately — that the question of of the humanity of the unborn fetus has been raised.

That such a question is raised with any seriousness is evidence of a profound denial — the denial required to end an unborn child’s life in the womb. To raise the issue of the humanity of those not yet born, to imply that the fetus is anything other than a human being, is to salve the deep discomfort of the soul inherent in the termination of a life. For we know, innately, that the unborn is alive, and human, and to justify its extinction we must engage in extraordinary contortions of conscience. Thus we say the fetus is an extension of the mother’s body, which it clearly is not; we refer to it as a blob of tissue or protoplasm, dehumanizing its unique and extraordinary human potential; we call it a “potential human”, as if at some magic point a switch is thrown to turn on its humanity — while never stopping to define what that humanity is, or why there is no humanity in the split second before our chosen transition time. We draw false and foolish analogies: the fetus is no different than a skin cell, or a “sacred sperm”, or a tumor — thus denying the extraordinary creation which occurs when the genetic map of two parents fuses into a new life, with an infinite capacity for uniqueness, change, experience, and creativity of its own. For we are created to create; we are engendered to engender; we are conceived to conceive again in an endless and infinite way: to conceive new ideas, new works, new accomplishments, new relationships, new failures and successes, and new life itself, in the generation which we ourselves engender.

From the moment of its conception, that which we so dismissively call a “fetus” begins a journey extraordinary beyond imagination. Using the inscrutable road map of its unique DNA, the developing human undergoes constant change and growth — a process which ends not at birth but some 25 years later when its full physical maturity is reached. Organs form; primitive cells differentiate into complex systems dedicated to tasks both present and future. Before its mother knows of the pregnancy, at 6 weeks, the heart and circulatory system is formed, and the heart is beating; the primitive cells forming the brain and spinal cord are in place and developing; facial features, including eyes, ears, mouth and nose are evident. By 8 weeks, fingers, toes and fingernails are present, as is the digestive system. By 12 weeks, virtually every organ system is formed and differentiated; the rest of the pregnancy is almost entirely about growth and the maturing of these intact systems. The information map for this extraordinary yet orderly complexity — and for far more, including intellect, personality, gifts and skills, — and yes, liabilities — is contained in the fertilized egg in its entirety. We are what we will be, from the the instant of our conception.

We deny what is self-evidently human for many reasons. Our secular and utilitarian culture has lost its sense of wonder at the miracle of that which is the creation of a new human life. Our children are no longer gifts but burdens, impeding our acquisitional materialism and imposing themselves on our pursuit of self-interest and self-gratification. We must dehumanize first, then destroy, the unborn child, that we may live out the delusional fantasy of unrestricted sexual license without consequences; that we may continue the self-deception that somehow we are masters of our own destiny; that we may perpetuate the fraudulent vision that our relationships are about self-fulfillment rather than sacrifice for the good of our progeny and the society and culture in which they will partake.

In introspective moments of regret we may mourn the potential loss, the wistful thought, that we have aborted a Beethoven or a Ben Franklin. Yet even this mild melancholy misses the point, showing the shallowness of our own humanity, as we find comfort in the rarity of such genius, while dismissing the loss of that far more tragic: the loss of the common, in all its richness and variety. It is not the loss of a Mozart we should mourn; it is the empty place where a merchant, a mechanic, a muse, a minstrel might have stood. It is the compassionate mother, the inspirational teacher, the clever repairman or comical co-worker who will never live to enrich the lives of others in ways trivial and transcendent. Our losses are incalculable, because we have destroyed them before we knew their worth. We sacrifice our hope and our future on the altar of calculated convenience and cold rationality.

It is not merely the loss of those who might have lived which we suffer; it is we who survive, who make these mortal choices, who are changed as well. For if the humanity of our children is fungible, redefined, discarded and spent on the expediency of convenience and self-interest, such expediency will not long remain in the dark chambers of the abortion suite. We will, in banal, measured, rational steps, soon judge the humanity of all with the same jaundiced eye. The disabled, the mentally ill, the elderly and frail will soon find our cold and rational eye cast upon them, as we find their lives ever more a burden, ever more useless and wasted, all too easily discarded as we pursue our utopian vision of perfection through self-worship.

Yet our Darwinian dream marches on, leaving the weakest to fall by the wayside in our evolution from compassionate humans to rational beasts. Survive we may — but at the ghastly price of wagered humanity lost.

Assisted Suicide: Coming to a State Near You

I hope to have more to say on the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the near future. In the meantime, I highly recommend this article by Herbert Hendin, M.D. Dr. Hendin’s book, Seduced by Death: Doctors, Patients, and Assisted Suicide, is an excellent resource on the topic, the result of extensive research and multiple interviews taken while studying euthanasia practices in the Netherlands. This article provides a nice summary of his research and experience, which builds a solid case against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

Washington has recently become the second state to pass an assisted suicide initiative, and, legislating from the bench, a Montana judge has ruled that man has right to assisted suicide.

This movement is on a roll, and you will want to be informed about why this is such a ghastly public policy trend.

A few highlights from the article:

Concern over charges of abuse led the Dutch government to undertake studies of the practice in 1990, 1995 and in 2001 in which physicians’ anonymity was protected and they were given immunity for anything they revealed. Violations of the guidelines then became evident. Half of Dutch doctors feel free to suggest euthanasia to their patients, which compromises the voluntariness of the process. Fifty percent of cases were not reported, which made regulation impossible. The most alarming concern has been the documentation of several thousand cases a year in which patients who have not given their consent have their lives ended by physicians. A quarter of physicians stated that they “terminated the lives of patients without an explicit request” from the patient. Another third of the physicians could conceive of doing so.

An illustration of a case presented to me as requiring euthanasia without consent involved a Dutch nun who was dying painfully of cancer. Her physician felt her religion prevented her from agreeing to euthanasia so he felt both justified and compassionate in ending her life without telling her he was doing so. Practicing assisted suicide and euthanasia appears to encourage physicians to think they know best who should live and who should die, an attitude that leads them to make such decisions without consulting patients–a practice that has no legal sanction in the Netherlands or anywhere else.

Assisted-suicide laws are always framed as being “compassionate” — appealing to the universal fear of dying a prolonged and painful death. Yet the unintended consequences of giving physicians the unrestricted power of life and death are often anything but:

Compassion is not always involved. In one documented case, a patient with disseminated breast cancer who had rejected the possibility of euthanasia had her life ended because, in the physician’s words: “It could have taken another week before she died. I just needed this bed.”

He also extensively studied Oregon’s experience with assisted suicide — the legislation which served as the model for Washington’s law — and found plenty of problems here as well:

Oregon physicians have been given authority without being in a position to exercise it responsibly. They are expected to inform patients that alternatives are possible without being required to be knowledgeable enough to present those alternatives in a meaningful way, or to consult with someone who is. They are expected to evaluate patient decision-making capacity and judgment without a requirement for psychiatric expertise or consultation. They are expected to make decisions about voluntariness without having to see those close to the patient who may be exerting a variety of pressures, from subtle to coercive. They are expected to do all of this without necessarily knowing the patient for longer than 15 days. Since physicians cannot be held responsible for wrongful deaths if they have acted in good faith, substandard medical practice is encouraged, physicians are protected from the con-sequences, and patients are left unprotected while believing they have acquired a new right.

The idea of assisted suicide has enormous allure in a culture of self-gratification and increasingly-shallow moral and ethical principles. Don’t be surprised when it comes your way — be prepared.

Revolution of the Soul

In the past several days, through the lens of my profession, I have been given a rather stark and disturbing vision of our current cultural revolution. It is, it seems, a revolution every bit as pervasive and transformational — and destructive — as China’s Cultural Revolution of the 60s — and indeed may be but a different manifestation of a global transformation which transpired in those very same decades in the West. Ideas have consequences, as they say, and we are watching them bear fruit before our very eyes in a slow-motion train wreck which seems now to be accelerating at a disturbing rate.

Exhibit 1: Phyllis Chesler’s recent piece, “Every hospital patient has a story“, at PajamasMedia. It is a piece to be read to completion, including its lengthy comment section. Therein she details a recent experience during a hospital stay for a hip replacement, with a rather remarkable litany of rudeness, neglect, indifference, and suffering sustained at the hands of her healers, at an upscale New York hospital. Her story is shocking enough, and revelatory; the comments provide even further insight, running the expected gamut of such a piece in the New Media. There are those simply shocked; those sharing similar horror stories; those relaying far better experiences in contrast; those defending doctors and nurses, those attacking them. There is the obligate wackjob who blames the AMA, and the usual finger-pointing: not enough nurses, too much paperwork, inadequate pay scales to draw quality; the evil insurance companies and the government. All mostly true, to greater or lesser degree — but all missing the core dysfunction by a wide mark. At the final period of her post, one comes away with a sense of hopeless, feeling out of control and angry, despairing that such a situation may be even a part of our reality (and not knowing how large a part it may be), yet at a loss to prevent its malignant progression through our remaining hospitals which may have been spared to date, the encroachment of such a toxic stew of callousness, indifference, and coldness. There seems, in the end, little cause for optimism.

Exhibit 2: It is late, nearly 9 P.M., seeing a final consult at the end of a punishing call day, in the ICU. The patient, chronologically young yet physiologically Methuselan, lies in his bed, oxygen mask affixed to his face by heavy straps, bleeding, as he has for months, from a tumor in his kidney. He would not survive surgery, nor even radiological intervention to stem the hemorrhage by strangling its arterial lifeline. He is, furthermore, in the parlance of modern medicine, “non-compliant”: refusing treatments and diagnostic studies; rude and abusive to nurses and physicians alike; demanding to go home though unlikely to survive there for any significant length of time.

The nurse — young, competent, smart, hard-working, the very best of the modern nursing profession — apprises me of his situation, closing with this knockout punch: “You know, we just passed that initiative — you know, the suicide one. He’d be an excellent candidate.”

She wasn’t joking.

Taken a bit off guard, I responded that it is most unwise to give physicians the power to kill you, for we will become very good at it, and impossible to stop once we are.

She continued: “No, I would love to work for a Dr. Kevorkian. Be an Angel of Death, you know?”

“I know”, I muttered under my breath, as she ran off to another bedside, competently and with great efficiency, to adjust some ventilator or fine-tune some dopamine drip. And hopefully do nothing more.

These vignettes in modern medicine are really not about medicine at all. They are in truth about a culture which has lost its compassion. Our calloused and cynical society has become a raging river fed by a thousand foul and fetid streams. We have, by turns, taught our children that ethics are situational and values neutral; taught our women that compassion and service are signs of weakness, that they must become hard and heartless like the men they hate; taught our men that success and the respect of others comes not through character and integrity but through callousness, cynicism, and greed; and taught ourselves that we are a law unto ourselves, the sole and final arbiter of what is right and what is good.

We have, in our post-modern and post-Christian culture, inexorably and irrevocably turned from our roots in Christian morality and worldview, which was the foundation and font of that which we now know — or used to know — as Western Civilization. Yes, we have preserved the tinsel and the trappings, the gilded and glittering exterior of a decaying sarcophagus, where we speak self-righteously of rights while denying their origin in the divine spark within the human spirit, made in the image of God; where we bray about liberty, but are enslaved to its bejeweled impostor, the damsel of decadence and libertinism; where compassion is naught but another government program to address the consequences of our own aberrant and irresponsible behavior, duly justified, rationalized, and denied. Others must pay so that I may play, you know.

This toxic stew of self-centered callousness has percolated into every pore of our society. In health care, the effects are universal and pernicious. Patients demand perfection, trusting the wisdom of a web browser over the experience of a physician — then running to their attorney to redress every poor outcome which their disease or their destructive lifestyles have helped bring about. Physicians, hardened and cynical from countless battles with corrupt insurance companies, lawyers, and Stalinist government regulation, forget that they exist solely to serve the patient with compassion and self-sacrifice, and that financial recompense is secondary to healing and empathy. Nurses have in large measure become administrators, made ever more remote from their patients by mountains of paperwork and impossible nurse-to-patient ratios, their patient-critical tasks delegated to underlings poorly trained and ill-treated. Hospital administrators are MBAs, with no interest or clue about what constitutes good health care, and are indifferent so long as their departments are profitable and their marketing wizards successful as they trumpet “Care with Compassion” in TV ads, radio, and muzac on hold.

The list could go on far longer, but the theme is clear: we have as a culture become utterly self-focused, trusting no one, demanding our rights while neglecting our responsibilities, seeking to be profitable rather than professional. We have abandoned the responsibility to be patient and caring of others, forgiving of human shortcomings and humble about the limits of our abilities — a responsibility not merely of those in health care but of human beings in civil society. We have, through the dubious gift of extraordinary technological advances, industrialized our profession, and replaced a sacred covenant of commitment to the patient’s best — and its corollary of the patient’s trust in the integrity and motives of physicians and nurses — with the cold legality of contract medicine. Small wonder we are treated as fungible commodities in doctors’ offices and hospital beds. Small wonder we will be euthanized when we have exhausted our compassion quotient, dispatched by highly efficient providers delivering “Death with Dignity.”

This utter self-obsession and cynical callousness is by no means limited to health care. We long for “bipartisanship” in government (by which we hope for reasoned men of principle to come together for the good of those they represent), but get instead the blood-lust of modern politics, where power trumps principle, money is king, and votes are bought and sold like chattel. Lawyers sue everything that breathes — and much that doesn’t — raking in billions while their “victimized clients” get pocket change they can believe in. Airlines pack in passengers like cattle, lose your bags, and toss you a bag of peanuts for your trouble. Road rage is rampant, rudeness rules, rip-offs too common to count. The coarseness in culture is extraordinary — in language, art, media, fashion, and behavior. It is revealing how shocked we find ourselves when encounter someone — regardless of the venue — who is actually pleasant, helpful, courteous, and kind; we have come to expect and tolerate far worse as a matter of course.

The revolution which started in the 60s with the “me” generation is bearing its bitter fruit — though its aging proponents will never admit it. And sadly, there’s no going back: the changes which have infiltrated and infected the culture, inoculated through education, media, entertainment, scientific rationalism, and a relentless and highly successful assault on reason and tradition, are permanent, and their consequences will only grow in magnitude.

So it’s time for a counter-revolution.

There is an alternative to our current cultural narcissism with its corrosive, calloused, destructive bent. It is not a new government program, nor a political movement; no demonstrations in the street, no marches on Washington. Its core ideology is over 2000 years old, and the foot soldiers of the revolution are already widely dispersed throughout the culture.

This revolutionary force is called Christianity, and it’s long past time to raise the banner and spring into action.

The true antidote to the nihilism and corruption of the age will be found, as it has always been, in the church. It has since its inception been a revolutionary force, transforming the hopeless and purposeless anarchy of the pagan world of its infancy by bringing light, hope and joy where there was none before.

It can happen again.

The church, of course, has to no small degree been co-opted by the culture it should have transformed. From TV evangelists preaching God-ordained health and wealth to liberal denominations rejecting the core truths of their foundation and worshiping instead the god of government and humanistic socialism; from pederast priests to episcopal sodomy, Christianity in the West has whored itself to a prosperous but decadent culture. Its salt has lost its saltiness, and it has, not surprisingly, been trampled underfoot by men.

It is time to return to our First Love. It is time once again to become light to an dark and stygian world. It is time for a revolution of the soul.

We must, first and foremost, be about grace and truth. We must begin with the truth of our calling: to be holy, transformed by the power of Christ and the work of the Spirit. We are, by nature of our new birth in Christ, His ambassadors: we are to be the face, the hands, the heart, the words, the compassion of Him who saved us.

The task is enormous, yet for each of us, the steps are small, easily achievable yet enormously powerful.

It must begin with a renewed commitment to obedience and submission to Christ, a willingness to fully subject ourselves to His will, rather than trying to bend His will to ours. It means getting serious about church attendance — not merely as a consumer but as an active participant. We need to renew our devotion to prayer, to Scripture reading, study, and memorization, to fellowship with other Christians. These are simple steps which ground us in truth, and give us access to that power which can first of all transform us, then radiate out to all around us.

Then we must act like the counter-culturists we claim to be. Be patient with those who are difficult; be generous in time and money; express gratitude to those around us (when was the last time you wrote a thank you note to your doctor, your contractor, your attorney, to the manager of the store employee who helped you?). Lose the profanity; guard your tongue. Repair broken relationships, as best you can. Be joyful in difficult times, knowing that God is at work in your life despite your difficulties. Be compassionate rather than judgmental to those whose life choices are destructive or misguided. The tattoos and piercings we ridicule are cries of desperation from those hungering for purpose and meaning.

These things will not come easily to many of us who claim to be Christians, as we have become complacent in our self-gratification and comfortable compromises, fearful of being viewed as extremist or weird, rejected and ridiculed.

Get over it.

You may just find that such renewed passion for Christ and love for others might, just might, transform your life.

And you might just find that it will change the world.

Got a better idea? Good, I didn’t think so.

Let’s get started.

Absolute Fools

A recent post on the worldview of contemporary postmodern liberalism was kindly linked by Gerard Vanderleun over at American Digest. In his link post, a commenter left the following missive:

The essay would have value if there were absolutes. Never have been, never shall be. Our standards of behavior are devised by us, and used or misused by us. We decide which is good and which is evil, and in every case we are right and wrong at one and the same time.

Each of our rules and regulations is enforced through agreement, and through coercion. The wise among us agree to follow the laws because it makes for a calmer, safer life. The fools among us must be made to follow those same laws because they haven’t the wisdom to see the necessity. And this speaks of those ordinances that do make sense.

Those that do not have to be enforced through coercion more often than not because they really don’t make any sense. And there are times when our rules make more or less sense than other times because circumstances differ.

We are responsible for our laws, and for our adherence to them. Our legislation being wise is to our credit. Our legislation being cruel is to our shame. Nobody else can remove that charge from our shoulders.

Now, I take no issue with this gentleman personally; he is doubtless a bright fellow, well-educated in our institutions of higher learning, where professors emeritus emote their postmodern erudition in the lofty ephemeral ethers, far removed from the dross of desperately-ignorant humanity. He is more to be pitied than censured; he has, after all, been taught not to think. But he serves herein a useful purpose, insofar as his comment exemplifies the mindset of those who eschew the idea of absolutes — which assertion is the very metaphysical mortar of secular postmodernism.

I find it interesting that most every argument rejecting absolutes contains within its very language and structure, not to mention its premises, a framework of absolute assertions. And our subject does not disappoint: tossing around terms like “wise” and “fools” and “shame” and “credit”, qualitative words without meaning when there is no transcendent standard against which to measure them. What is shame if not the humiliation of rejecting an absolute good? Who is wise, and who a fool, if there is no standard of enduring and unchangeable wisdom by which to categorize one thusly? The lines of their straightedge are random and irregularly spaced — if there are measuring lines at all — yet they carefully measure and mark off “progress”, confident they have measured accurately. There is, of course, the inevitable rejoinder to all such foolishness which asks, “Are you absolutely sure there are no absolutes?” But beyond this childish rebuttal — childish, not in the sense of silliness or immaturity, but rather of unvarnished simplicity — there lies an even more evident and profound incoherence which can be discerned — from which a not-so-evident proposition emerges from the heart of anti-absolutism.

It is impossible to function as a human being in society without the concept of transcendent absolutes, even if this foundational principle is unrecognized or denied. We as humans do not simply move as pack animals, driven by instinct and primal drives, but are by our very nature creatures of judgment. We are constantly comparing, evaluating, appreciating or depreciating everyone and everything around us. The food is either tasty or awful; the woman is attractive or homely; the music is beautiful or grating; the weather is warm and pleasant or cold, wet, and miserable. Of course, some of these judgments are self-referential: the food tastes good to us, or bad to us; we prefer rock music to Rachmaninoff, while others may differ. Thus to some degree, we individually determine the standard against which we measure objects apart from ourselves. Yet even there it is possible to compare our preferences to a fixed standard: is slasher rock not discernibly different in quality from a Bach fugue?

But within the realm of human interactions, writ large as communities, societies, nations, and cultures, judgments about the outside world become collective, embodied in law and cultural and social strictures. Behavior which is objectionable to some is desirable to others; that which some find beneficial others find harmful. It is at this level of community and human interactions where some overarching determination or standard against which interpersonal behavior is measured becomes utterly necessary if we are to avoid a society capricious in its justice or cruel in its enforcement.

The anti-absolutist posits this standard in the consensus of the group, be it tribal, community, or society. The society at large, whatever its dimensions, determines that certain behavior is acceptable or unacceptable, and enforces the standard through collective coercion or force. While this seems plausible at first glance, it almost immediately runs into problems with the de facto use of absolutes. What standard will the collective mind of a society choose? Is it simply the standard of survival? Is it a collective self-gratification? Self-interest alone? And how can it be a standard at all without becoming, to greater or lesser degree, a transcendent absolute?

If, as our commenter suggests, we decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, are these standards not infinitely malleable by their very nature? Such a philosophy of law is nothing more than the tyranny of the masses, the rule of the mob. For a society may agree by consensus that certain members of the society are inferior by nature, or should be exterminated, or have their possessions confiscated, their daughters raped, their members sold into slavery. Such societies are not mere abstract entities, but stark historical realities, evident in gulags, ethnic cleansings, and rape rooms to which even our most recent decades testify. Such a philosophy in its purest form is the will to power; those who gain dominance, either in number or by force, determine the standard against which all will be judged.

The notion that such a standard is invariably beneficial to a society or culture is ludicrous in the light of history. One need look no further than the 20th century, where the social consensus arising out of pathologies such as Nazism, Marxism, and the emperor worship and militarism of Japan, wrought horrors upon not only the world, but especially on the societies which themselves embraced these pathologic standards. That German militarism and anti-Semitism was profoundly destructive to the very society which engendered these ideas and standards is self-evident; ask the citizens of Hiroshima how Japan’s imperialistic and fanatical militarism panned out.

Yet the world of the anti-absolutist one cannot form a judgment about any such self-evident evils. It cannot say that Nazism and the Holocaust were evil — they can only say that by their own standards, self-engendered and not universal, that such abominations are different. The inevitable moral indifference arising from such a philosophy runs counter to every fiber of the human spirit. We cannot say such things are evil if we cannot reference them against an absolute standard arising above, and transcending, any consensus formed only by a society.

Our very language is steeped in the vocabulary of absolutes — it is impossible to communicate without them. Good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, wisdom and foolishness: these concepts are universal, ubiquitous, and unresectable from language and thought, across all cultures and civilizations.

The consequences of the rejection of absolutes, fully embraced, are nothing short of anarchy — or in its stead, tyranny. There can be no true justice, for justice appeals to a standard above the law, and thus judges not only behavior contrary to law, but the law itself. Absent a transcendent moral absolute, there is no limit to the granularity at which arbitrary determinations of good and evil, right and wrong, may occur. it is a recipe for tribalism at best, as competing groups determine their own rules, rejecting those of other groups, large or small, which run contrary to their perceived needs or desires. The inevitable conflict between tribal standards can bring nothing but perpetual conflict or isolation.

Those who claim to reject absolutes do not in reality reject all absolutes. There is never a quibble about the law of gravity, or the laws of nature, or those of nuclear physics or astronomy. Were they consistent in their philosophy, they would reject the term “law” (which implies an underlying transcendent; there is, after all, no laws without law-givers), and instead describe what their metaphysics mandates: that seemingly predictable behavior is no more than random coincidence; the electron may fall into the nucleus at any time, ending this existence as dramatically and as randomly as it came into being. As Chesterton said, “They feel that because one incomprehensible thing constantly follows another incomprehensible thing the two together somehow make up a comprehensible thing.”

At the very heart of a philosophy of deterministic, self-engendered moral standards stands the individual. The rejection of moral absolutes is nothing more than radical individualism broadcast across society — the notion that we are the sole arbiters of our behavior and morality, the we alone determine what is right and what is wrong. As a corollary, there is another assumption underlying this one: that others should bear the consequences, especially adverse consequences of our actions. Those who reject moral absolutes gravitate to a nihilistic narcissism, where there are rights but no responsibilities, demanding freedom to act as they please without thought for anyone else, all the while demanding that others rescue them from wreckage their behavior has wrought.

This battle of worldviews lies at the very heart of our culture wars, of the endless societal conflicts engendered over abortion, or religion in the public square, or the status of heterosexual marriage, or unrestricted sexual license, or any one a host of other seemingly irreconcilable culture clashes which saturate and sour our daily lives. It is a take-no-prisoners battle, for there is no middle ground, no comfortable compromise which will bring peace and harmony. It is a battle to the death, a battle not only of the mind but of the heart.

It is, above all, about bending the knee, a battle for the soul: we will submit to the absolute, or destroy ourselves in dark delusion denying it.

It’s long past time we choose which it will be.

Welcoming the Hypocrites

fishDonald Sensing has a good post about the all-too-common accusation against Christians, that they are hypocrites:

The hypocrisy excuse for staying away from church has got to be the oldest there is. Which only proves what Mark Twain observed, “When you don’t want to do something, any excuse will do.” And to borrow one of Yogi Berra’s malapropisms, If people don’t want to come to church, nobody’s going to stop them.
 
But I say, “Hooray for hypocrites!” If you’re a hypocrite, you’re just my guy or gal.

Yes, the accusation of hypocrisy is freely administered by those who, in their righteous indignation, would never darken the door of their nearest church. To be sure, there is no shortage of hypocrisy in Christianity; in fact, there seems to be a rather large supply well-distributed across the human race, religious or not. I’ve had a few thoughts of my own on the subject, contained in a long-winded riff on refrigerator magnets, here.

Sensing nails the issue beautifully:

Because hypocrisy requires the hypocrite to believe in something or someone outside himself. Hypocrisy requires an aspiration to something higher or better than oneself. That is the meaning of the folk saying, “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” Hypocrisy is an imperfect, deficient attempt to be better…

It is deceit that makes hypocrisy what it is. The true hypocrite wants others to think better of him/her than is actually justified. Absent this deceit, there is no hypocrisy, just error or human frailty. That’s what the hypocrisy-excuse people don’t understand – or pretend not to understand – about church people. What may appear to be church people’s hypocrisy is almost always just simple failure to meet the standards of our faith rather than deceit. Why? Because the standard is so high:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt. 5:28).

But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual transgression, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt. 5:32).

There are many such examples. So I say that if our churches are filled with such “hypocrites,” then let’s have many more. Vice is easy, virtue is hard. It’s no hypocrisy to fall short of a very high standard and such an excellent goal. And I would suggest that the hypocrisy-excuse people have largely chosen the easy way over the hard way, and choose to call that virtue. So who are the hypocrites? Well, we always have room for one more.

The irony in this situation is that the accusation of hypocrisy often comes from someone incapable of hypocrisy — for the simple reason that you cannot fall short of a standard which you do not have:

Thankfully I have known very few non-hypocritical people. They were insufferable. They were entirely self centered, self directed, self oriented, self focused and just plain purely selfish. They recognized no cause, entity or belief higher than themselves, their own desires, wants or needs. You can see, I’m sure, that it is impossible for such people to act hypocritically because they are always looking out for No. 1 in every situation. They never pretend they are acting in someone else’s interests. They don’t seek others’ approval because they don’t fundamentally care about others or what they think.

So don’t be a hypocrite — Check it out.

Crossing That Dark River

Often in the sturm und drang of a world gone mad, there comes, through the chaos and insanity, some brief moment of clarity. Such times pass by quickly, and are quickly forgotten — as this brief instance might have been, courtesy of my neighboring bellweather state of Oregon: (HT: Hot Air)

Last month her lung cancer, in remission for about two years, was back. After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that could slow the cancer growth and extend her life, [Barbara] Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn \'t cover it.
 
It would cover comfort and care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide.
 
… Treatment of advanced cancer meant to prolong life, or change the course of this disease, is not covered by the Oregon Health Plan, said the unsigned letter Wagner received from LIPA, the Eugene company that administers the plan in Lane County.

Officials of LIPA and the state policy-making Health Services Commission say they \'ve not changed how they cover treatment of recurrent cancer.

But local oncologists say they \'ve seen a change and that their Oregon Health Plan patients with advanced cancer no longer get coverage for chemotherapy if it is considered comfort care.

It doesn \'t adhere to the standards of care set out in the oncology community, said Dr. John Caton, an oncologist at Willamette Valley Cancer Center.

Studies have found that chemotherapy can decrease pain and time spent in the hospital and increases quality of life, Caton said.

The Oregon Health Plan started out rationing health care in 1994.

We have, at last, arrived. The destination was never much in doubt — once the threshold of medical manslaughter had been breached, wrapped as always in comforting words of compassion and dignity, it was only a matter of time before our pragmatism trumped our principles. Once the absolute that physicians should be healers not hangmen was heaved overboard, it was inevitable that the relentless march of relativism would reach its logical port of call.

Death, after all, is expensive — the most expensive thing in life. It was not always so. In remote pasts, it was the very currency of life, short and brutal, with man’s primitive intellect sufficient solely to deal out death, not to defer it. There followed upon this time some glimmer of light and hope, wherein death’s timetable remained unfettered, but its stranglehold and certainty were tempered by a new hope and vision of humanity. We became in that time something more than mortal creatures, something extraordinary, an unspeakable treasure entombed within a fragile and decomposing frame. We became, something more than our mortal bodies; we became, something greater than our pain; we became, something whose beauty shown through even the ghastly horrors of the hour of our demise. Our prophets — then heeded — triumphantly thrust their swords through the dark heart of death: “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” We became, in that moment, something more than the physical, something greater than our short and brutish mortality. We became, indeed, truly human, for the very first time.

That humanity transcended and transformed all that we were and were to become, making us unique among creation not only in the foreknowledge of our death, but our transcendence of death itself. Life had meaning beyond the grave — and therefore had far more weight at the threshold of the tomb. Suffering became more than mere fate, but rather sacrifice and purification, preparation and salvation. The wholeness of the soul trumped the health of the body; death was transformed from hopeless certainty to triumphant transition.

But we knew better. We pursued the good, only to destroy the best. We set our minds to conquer death, to destroy disease, to end all pain, to become pure and perfect and permanent. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The diseases which slaughtered us were themselves slayed; the illnesses which tortured and tormented us fell before us. Our lives grew long, and healthier, more comfortable, and more productive. Our newfound longevity and greater health gave rise to ever more miracles, allowing us to pour out our intemperate and precipitous riches with drunken abandon upon dreams of death defeated.

Yet on the flanks of our salient there lay waiting the forces which would strangle and surround our triumphant advance. Our supply lines grew thin; the very lifeblood of our armies of science and medicine, that which made our soldiers not machines but men, grew emaciated and hoary, flaccid and frail. We neglected the soul which sustained our science; the spirit which brought healing to medicine grew cachectic and cold.

So here we stand. We have squandered great wealth to defeat death — only to find ourselves impoverished, and turning to death itself for our answers. The succubus we sought to defeat now dominates us, for she is a lusty and insatiable whore. We have sacrificed our humanity, our compassion, our empathy, our humility in the face of a force far greater than ourselves, while forgetting the power and grace and the vision which first led us and empowered us on this grand crusade. Our weapons are now turned upon us; let the slaughter begin.

We will, no doubt, congratulate ourselves on the wealth we save. We will no doubt develop ever more ingenious and efficient means to facilitate our self-immolation while comforting ourselves with our vast knowledge and perceived compassion. Those who treasure life at its end, who find in and through its suffering and debilitation the joy of relationships, and meaning, and mercy, and grace, will become our enemies, for they will siphon off mammon much needed to mitigate the consequences of our madness.

It has been said, once, that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. We have poured our treasure in untold measure into conquering death — finding succor in our victories, while forgetting how to die. The boatman now awaits us to carry us across that dark river — and we have insufficient moral currency to ignore his call.

Law and Restraint


In yesterday’s post, I took to task a comment made by Jon Henke, from the always-excellent QandO blog, regarding his support for legalization of prostitution, which came up because of the Eliot Spitzer imbroglio. His comment was in essence a springboard for what I believe to be a flawed position held by many libertarians.

Jon was gracious enough to leave a comment on the post — which of course, has elicited a few more thoughts on my part. Jon stated:

I think you \'ve completely misapprehended me. At no point did I suggest there should be no social rejection or approbation for his conduct. In fact, I think that \'s precisely what should occur. The libertarian position is not that private behavior is beyond reproach, but that private behavior that does not hurt others (as in, “violate the rights of others”, not “make them feel bad”) should not be illegal.

I \'m quite sure his adultery hurt his family emotionally, but we don \'t imprison people for adultery. The fact that he paid for it, however, was not harmful. But that is what we have criminalized.

This idea that, because we don \'t want something criminalized, we must not think it is bad is a frustrating misperception of libertarians. It \'s doubly frustrating, because it \'s not a difficult distinction to make.

Well, it is certainly easy to misunderstand a writer’s beliefs based on a brief reference to one of its tenets. And libertarianism itself would appear to be rather a loose and nebulous confederation of beliefs and policies, embodied in individuals ranging from solid centrists like Glenn Reynolds, to bright conservatives such as Jon, to fringe elements waiting for black UN helicopters gazing skyward in their camo fatigues. I have the utmost respect for Jon, and his blog is a daily visit for me because of its depth and breadth. Nevertheless, I do not believe I have misapprehended the libertarian position, as he stated it, on the subject of legalization versus mere social rejection or approbation. I’m well aware that many libertarians believe that certain behaviors which are in fact socially objectionable, perhaps even dangerous, but nevertheless should be legal, based on the principle of individual rights and minimalization of government intrusion.

Having said that, I believe Jon is also misapprehended my point — which is not that prostitution should be illegal because individuals were hurt rather than rights violated, but that the nature of prostitution is such that society is entirely justified in outlawing its practice as a defensive measure to protect the well-being of its citizens and its core foundational institutions such as marriage.

Society has many means, and many degrees of granularity, in determining what behavior is acceptable or dangerous to its collective well-being. Obviously, the force of law is a major component of this, carrying the weight of enforcement and even violence if required. But much regulation of social behavior starts at a far finer granularity: at the level of individuals, families, communities, and consequently is powerfully embodied when such conviction is widespread in a wider social consensus.

To encourage and enforce moral behavior — by which I mean both that dictated by transcendent moral absolutes, as well as that collectively determined to be undesirable for the good of society — restraint starts at the level of the individual, whose inner conscience and moral standards serve to constrain behavior which is judged to be wrong or harmful. This moral compass — as is understood by Judaism and Christianity — is an innate component of the nature of man. Those more secular might instead infer that, if such a code exists, it would be genetic or inherited, or inculcated from the experience and social mores of the parents during childhood for the benefit of the species. Morality at this individual level is a powerful determinant of human behavior — and no amount of civil law can substitute for such inner conscience or direction.

At a somewhat broader level, family and local community may collectively determine which behavior is desirable or to be censured, another powerful constraint working primarily through ostracization and exclusion from the community of those who fail to meet its standards. Once again, this may well occur outside of the framework of law, although it is often reflected in local community standards and regulation. The next level, encoded in community, state, and federal law, expands this restraint with the addition of ever more onerous penalties for aberrant behavior, throwing the full force of government behind its restraining intent.

My point in this somewhat extended musing is that constraint of behavior destructive to individuals and society is not purely limited to law, but occurs at many levels, and begins, and is rooted in, the individual moral conscience and the family and local community. And this, I infer, is what Jon and other libertarians hope to rely on when removing the admittedly heavy-handed arm to illegality.

When there is a widespread consensus in the larger community that certain behavior is unacceptable, and when a substantial majority of citizens concur with that consensus, then onerous or restrictive laws become far less important, as individual and community restraint function to inhibit socially and morally destructive behavior. In a perfect moral world, law would be unnecessary: it is required due to the inevitable human failure to meet even their own high standards, not to mention for those who will violate them regardless of, or due to lack of any such standards.
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The problem arises when a culture, such as ours, begins to erode and corrode the foundational moral and ethical principles of the individual, the family, and local community, increasingly relying on larger institutions such as government to mitigate the inevitable adverse consequences of such abrogation. Hence a culture which no longer has a moral consensus that extramarital sexual activity is harmful, for example, but instead views it as benign, tolerable, or even desirable behavior, will inevitably reap certain consequences (not the least of which is more of the undesirable behavior) — which will in turn bring about efforts to seek to control the resulting consequences through law and punishment. As we cease respecting rules at the individual level, we invariably multiply rules at the civic and governmental levels: the Law of Rules. As William Penn once said, “Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.”

In the case of prostitution, there is a growing segment of our society which, consistent with their general outlook on sexual activity, no longer views such activity outside of marriage as inherently wrong, and in fact considers it quite normal, perhaps even highly desirable. Such a viewpoint often rationalizes or minimizes any adverse consequences such behavior might incur, while simultaneously looking to society or government to mitigate the inevitable side effects thereof. Hence we tolerate and glorify sexual permissiveness while agitating ever more loudly for greater federal spending on AIDS research and STD prevention.

Jon’s conflation of prostitution and adultery tends to confuse two quite different entities. While certainly all sex with prostitutes for a married man constitutes adultery, most certainly not all cases of adultery involve prostitution. It is almost certainly true (without being able to cite specifics) that adultery, in fact, has been, or may still be outlawed in parts of the country. Nevertheless, few would maintain that such a law is a good idea — although they likely are instituted because of the perceived threat of adultery to the socially-important institution of marriage. Such a law, while well-intentioned, is clearly unenforceable — and unenforceable laws breed contempt for authority, as they are honored only in the breach. Much adultery is, by nature, between two consenting adults. This is not to minimize its potentially devastating impact on marriage — but simply to point out that both the man and the woman presumably enter into it volitionally and freely — there is no business contract involved. Such a relationship may well be devastating to the immediate relationships of each partner, and destructive to one or more marriages, but its effects, relatively speaking, are finite.

Prostitution, on the other hand is industrialized adultery. It is, pure and simple, a business transaction, whose sole purpose is the sexual gratification of the male. The relationship of the john and his whore — if you can call it a relationship — is inherently and essentially demeaning to the woman: she is nothing more than an attractive repository for the man’s (often aberrant) sexual desires. She is dehumanized, victimized, often brutalized, or murdered, as the nature of the act is not mutually respectful but inherently about dominance/submission: you pay your money, she does what you want — or else.

It is interesting to note that those in favor of legalized prostitution are invariably men — in what must surely be a vast and inherent conflict of interest. Women do not enter prostitution because they love sleeping with thousands of men; they do so out of extreme duress, due to severe financial hardship or drug addiction. Through legalization we are exploiting, at the societal level, those most vulnerable, saying their welfare matters nothing, their lives are expendable, their humanity is irrelevant to our “rights” and “freedom” to fulfill our basest desires. Where are the legions of women demonstrating and demanding the legalization of prostitution? Their absence — in our rights-obsessed culture — speaks volumes.

Say what you will about disdaining the action while embracing its legality in the name of “freedom” — legalizing prostitution effectively endorses slavery not freedom, and makes a powerful statement as a society, sacrificing the value, dignity, and well-being of the women entrapped in this hell of hedonism on the altar of our individual rights — of the individual rights of men and men alone. Prostitution serves as well an enormous pool of public health risk, transmitting countless instances of diseases which in many cases are incurable, which may have devastating effects on innocent third parties, such as AIDS, or HPV-related cervical cancer. There are abundant reasons to make prostitution illegal — but only one for its legalization: glorifying men’s right to exploit, abuse and often destroy women for their own selfish and destructive amusement.

Legalization of prostitution would do nothing to change the fundamentally abusive nature of its core transaction. By legalization, we are not simply saying that it is permitted because “no one’s rights are violated” — a highly disputable stance — but we are instead encoding in law the normalization of an exploitive, and socially harmful business transaction. This is not at all about outlawing something which “makes people feel bad” — but rather about throwing the weight of law and its enforcement behind protecting and enabling a profession which is highly destructive both to the women involved, the families of their patrons, public health, and perception of women on a cultural and social scale.

The stance of using the “violate the rights of others” justification for legalization of prostitution (or any like behavior) seems to me to rely on quite a fungible standard. Are the rights of a wife violated when her husband visits a prostitute? Even if the civil level, the marriage contract implies, if not explicitly states, that the marriage is intended for mutual love, manifested tangibly through the restriction and commitment of man’s natural libidinous tendency toward promiscuity into a monogamous sexual relationship for the welfare of his wife, their children, and implicitly society as a whole. This core value is reflected in the law, making adultery is a slam-dunk legal basis for divorce — an aspect encoded into its statutes long before our current insane permissiveness which allows any and all justifications for divorce.

Furthermore –as is abundantly evident in our contemporary society — the idea of “rights” is eminently malleable — as we see in the ever-expanding victimhood mindset, where the homeless have a “right” to a home; the jobless have the “right” to a job; a student has a “right” to admission to a school or a potential employee a right to being hired based purely on his ethnicity rather than any skill, talent, or preparation for a particular position. Furthermore, many human rights are not clearly spelled out in civil law: the right of a wife to expect her husband to be faithful; the right of children to have parents who care and nurture for them; right of employers to have their employees work honestly and productively for their pay; the right of all men and women to be treated with dignity. These rights arise not from civil law, but from moral law, from the inherent value placed on humans by their very nature and being. This is, it should be noted, predominantly a Western cultural notion, derived and its core from Judeo-Christian understandings of the nature of man and his value and worth as a creation of God. One need only look at cultures which do not cherish this understanding to see its invariable consequences: suicide bombers are glorified; gays are beheaded; entire classes are relegated to extraordinary poverty and deprivation because of their inferior birth status; people slaughtered simply because of the tribe of their birth or some thousand-year-old offense. Such cultures arise in large part because of their core view of human nature and their core understanding of God, which results in degrading the value of human life and the individual.

I guess this is a rather long winded way of saying that it is entirely within the society’s rights, in my opinion, to restrict private behavior on the basis greater than personal freedom and personal rights alone. I remain to be convinced that libertarianism’s passion for removing such legal restraints would not, in fact, be far more destructive to individuals and society than could be offset by any small advantage in individual liberty. We should be careful what we wish for, lest our pursuit of freedom devoid of respect for the exalted nature of the individual lead us to a place where there is no freedom to be found.

Hold Harmless

Today’s big viral buzz whipping around the web is, of course, the white-hot story about Elliott Spitzer. This story’s got it all: power, politics, arrogance, big money, sex. Now, Spitzer is not one of those fellows much on my radar screen — just another power-hungry prosecutor who hacked his way through people’s lives in his climb to the top: think Mike Nifong, only luckier — at least up until now. Can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, now, can you? Perhaps there is truly Karma in this life…

But this post is not about Elliott Spitzer and his political boner at all; it is rather about a comment made regarding his transgression by Jon Henke over at QandO blog, to wit:

Perhaps this would be a good time for people in both parties to reevaluate the counter-productive, anti-freedom laws surrounding prostitution. I’m not sure what Gov. Spitzer was doing, but I would bet he wasn’t hurting anybody else. The question of legality should be distinct from the question of propriety.

Now, this little editorial by Jon put a bee under my bonnet.

The folks over at QandO — an excellent blog, written by bright, well-informed folks — are strongly libertarian. I find the libertarian position appealing in many regards, as I have seen first-hand how destructive the meddling hand of government has been in health care, and how increasingly intrusive it has become in so many other areas of our lives. Nor am I here to pontificate about the evils of prostitution or the wages of sin. I know full well that we all make horrible mistakes in life — myself included — and thus hiring a hooker, while less than noble, strikes me as a common enough failing of men, whether great or small. And visiting a prostitute is certainly not without risks — but that is a story for another time.

No, here’s what really bugs me about the above statement: “I would bet he wasn’t hurting anybody else.”

Really?

The notion — so common in libertarian circles — that our private behavior should be beyond the reach of social and legal constraint, because “it doesn’t hurt anyone” — betrays an extraordinarily narrow and parochial view of the impact of individual human behavior on other people and society as a whole.

So Elliott Spitzer visits a hooker — what’s the big deal? Aside from himself, has anyone been hurt? If it were legalized, none of this would be happening, you know. Because no one got hurt.

Well, let’s see:

I wonder if his wife, who presumably trusted her husband, and believed his vows of faithfulness to her, has been hurt by this “private behavior”? I wonder if her reputation has been damaged in any way? She will, no doubt, be forced to grovel and speak platitudes about her love and commitment to her husband, just to save his political hide and sullied reputation. Her integrity and dignity, of course, will not be besmirched in any way by whoring herself for his political career.

I wonder if his wife, who could easily have contracted an incurable venereal disease — such as HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, or AIDS, because of her husband’s indiscretion, might be hurt in any way by his “private behavior”? The herpes she might pass on to her next child, were she still of child-bearing age, might leave their baby blind — but, hey, no big deal. Nobody gets hurt, remember?

I wonder if his children, now exposed to a highly public and humiliating disgrace of their father, will understand that “nobody gets hurt by his private behavior.” Doubtless they will sail through life completely unfazed when their parents’ marriage shatters on the rocks because of this little dalliance. I’m sure they will not have learned anything about having a trustworthy and honest father, nor about a marriage committed to sexual faithfulness and lifelong commitment, and one can be quite confident that none of this will have any impact whatsoever on their success and happiness in life. `cause it wasn’t about them, remember? Private matter.

The prostitute, of course, got paid handsomely for a few hours of work. The money she made no doubt will help feed her drug habit which she likely supports through her prostitution. Of course, for the libertarian, drugs are another harmless personal pursuit, so the personal destruction they inevitably bring about in her life is of course none of society’s business. Prostitution is far and away the most dangerous profession a women may engage in, with an extraordinarily high rate of violence, murder, drug overdose, and HIV. Odd — since “no one gets hurt” in this “victimless” crime. Consenting adults and all that, don’t ya know.

She funneled a good chunk of that money to her pimps in the prostitution ring, who will no doubt use it for social good, by entrapping more desperate women in the white slave trade, paying bribes to police and public officials to keep their business thriving, and perhaps reinvesting their substantial profits into other criminal activities, drug running, tax evasion, and many of those other harmless private activities they no doubt pursue. I’m sure if prostitution were legalized they would donate the cash to a local charity, and hang out at the Rotary club.

This sort of tunnel vision permeates much of libertarian thought. What harm is done by smoking a little weed in the privacy of your home, or snorting a little coke at home before work? The fact that many drugs remain in your system for prolonged periods — even weeks in the case of THC — with the potential of impairing reflex times, attention span, and the decision-making process, makes your private recreational activity completely harmless when you climb into the driver’s seat of a school bus the next morning, doesn’t it?

It is well within society’s purview and government’s responsibility to place restraints, legal and otherwise, on private behavior which adversely affects others. The notion that removal of all such restraints will increase freedom and reduce vice is illusory. It would surely increase license, as those currently inhibited by the adverse legal and societal consequences of such behavior would be far more prone to indulge in it. The libertarian’s assumption is that the bulk of adverse consequences arises from the enforcement and prosecution of such crimes — far more than by the actual crime itself. This is a highly arguable proposition, and vastly underestimates the subtle but highly destructive nature such behavior permeates through a culture.

There can be little doubt, for example, that an intact, heterosexual marriage provides the best environment for raising emotionally healthy, responsible, and productive children in society. Kids from such environments do better in school; have far lower incidence of criminal and disciplinary problems; are more likely to avoid early-onset sexual activity, teen pregnancy, promiscuity, and unwed motherhood; are more likely to do well economically; and more likely to enter stable, enduring marriages themselves. All such advantages are highly beneficial to society as a whole. Would legalized prostitution, with resulting increased utilization, risk endangering the marriages which provide such substantial societal benefits? Perhaps not for many, but most certainly for some — and the ripple effect over several generations is incalculably large, evident daily in the extant cultural erosion of marriage already long underway in Western society, through liberalized divorce laws, normalization of unwed motherhood, and tolerance and promotion of sexual license and promiscuity. The sins of the fathers truly are carried down to the third and fourth generation — and beyond.

Likewise with legalizing drugs: there is no doubt that the illegality of street drugs creates and sustains a vast, violent, multi-billion dollar international crime network, and our current war on drugs, though enormously expensive, has little to show for these billions spent in restraining the abuse or the crime network which feeds it. It is tempting to put an end to this waste through legalization of street drugs — but again the perceived benefits — financially starving the drug cartels and dealers — seems illusory at best. Will a black market in drugs simply disappear when they are legalized? What will the societal impact of increased use of newly-legalized street drugs have on the behavior of individuals, employment history, domestic violence, marriage stability, child neglect and abuse? The downward spiral so characteristic of addiction will not simply go away because the substances they abuse are now legal — nor will the social and behavioral destruction their use so often engenders.

What we are witnessing here — that which the libertarian finds (somewhat justifiably) so onerous — is an excellent example of the Law of Rules: as inner moral restraint deteriorates (through erosion of religious influences; fewer stable marriages and families to teach children moral standards; the perpetual onslaught against social and moral restraint by an aggressively secular, materialistic and hedonistic society; etc. etc.), there must be a multiplication of rules, laws and enforcement to mitigate the destructive consequences of increasingly narcissistic individualism. The outcome must ultimately be either anarchy or tyranny, for without inner self-control, the only alternatives for continued societal stability and function are the forces of external control — the nanny state, slouching ever forward toward totalitarianism and the police state. The alternative is bleaker still: chaos and societal collapse.

When we do away with laws — even those increasingly encroaching on our freedom — without reestablishing, sustaining, and nurturing our inner moral compasses, the results will invariably be not more freedom, but far less.