Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Should and Must

Morality tells us what we should do (or not do) and what kind of behavior works in certain situations.

Laws tell us what we must do (or not do) if we are to avert violence to ourselves. Legitimate violence, violence against which there is no recourse.

Morality has no effect on individual liberty.

Laws restrain individual liberty.

For Christians, the Gospels tell what you should do (and what is necessary to gain the Kingdom of Heaven) but not what “musts” to impose on other people by your own power or by invoking the power of the state. Christianity is about individual “shoulds”, not collective “musts”.

Although all laws, in a sense, limit individual liberty, paradoxically, individual liberty – in the sense of having sovereignty within one’s private domain – depends on certain kinds of laws that limit one person’s liberty to trespass on another person’s liberty.

Government and its laws are necessary for liberty to exist. But, beyond a minimum, laws restrict liberty. Like many substances, a light dose of government is beneficial, but more than a little is poisonous.

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