The Constitution and Good and Evil

matthew's picture

I got into a discussion on another board today in a discussion regarding if polygamy should be legalized, and wanted to archive this comment permanently here on my site. I have such a fundamental disagreement with this person that I needed to capture his myopic mindset to remind myself of the kind of opposition that rational people face trying to come to acceptable compromises with irrational zealots.

Our God-inspired Constitution has never really been tried...

God had nothing to do with the Constitution. I don't see His signature anywhere.

I submit the Constitution was inspired by men trying to achieve a Republic free from the tyranny of religious leaders pulling the puppet-strings of petty dictators, free from the tyranny of kings and genetic rulership, and free from the tyranny of the majority who would grind the minority under their heels if they could. Our implementation of those ideals is flawed, to be sure, as has been every human endeavor, but it's been one of the best runs so far.

To say that we have not "tried" our Constitution, with hundreds of years of case law indicating the opposite, is the height of black-and-white thinking. The Constitution is tried every day. Our culture is diverse, our opinions many, and our arguments heated. Yet we accomplish a peaceful revolution every four to eight years successfully, and have done so for generations.

"Never really been tried" indeed!

I am a constitutionalist.

Then you recognize the Constitution allows amendments. This includes the Sixteenth Amendment, empowering the Federal Government to again levy income tax after its suspension due to the controversial 1895 Pollock decision. We The People granted this right to the government, and these taxes may be used as we legislate, including policies to encourage public health, education, and beneficial policies like encouragement of monogamous relationships.

And, unfortunately, occupy a foreign country here and there. But that's a different argument.

Freedom is the ultimate political good. Anything that curtails freedom is evil. There is no much vaunted "balance". That's a pipe dream.

I fight for that "pipe dream" in my local politics, in letters to my Representatives and Senators, in voicing my opinion in Letters to the Editor of my local paper, in my online blog, in my conversations with others, in City Council meetings, and ultimately in who I choose to represent me via the ballot box. I agree, we will never reach the ideal state of a perfect balance of interests. That's just life. I am happy to pay my taxes because I recognize the tangible benefits they have brought and continue to bring me and my family. Should taxes grow excessive, I will oppose them to bring them back to reasonable levels.

You and I appear to have different definitions of evil. I believe that which maximizes human happiness, quality of life, quality of relationships, and human knowledge, is good. That which acts in opposition to those things is evil. Freedom is generally a good thing, but if taken to extremes, it can work against those values... I refer to such absolute freedom as "self-sufficient poverty". The balancing act to try to maximize good is not a pipe dream, but a worthy goal that, while probably never fully achievable, can be achieved in part.

Lethal force is the ultimate power of government. It asserts a monopoly on its use, and defends that monopoly rigorously. Any law ultimately rests on that (threat of) lethal force.

While I agree that "ultimately" any law -- including tax incentives -- rests on the use of lethal force, it's a real stretch to say that if you support tax incentives to encourage monogamy you're holding a gun to the head of polygamists.

Any time someone says, "There ought to be a law," he is saying that people who disagree with his position, should they disagree strongly enough, must die. That's the nature of government.

Poppycock! Pure poppycock! If I favor tax incentives for a large business to move to my neighborhood, I'm not offering to kill those who disagree. You're proposing that people who disagree on public policy issues are willing to execute those who oppose them. We The People agreed to tax ourselves to promote the welfare of our citizens and provide national defense. If you disagree with how those funds are allocated, you're not threatening violence, you're pleading cases and providing supportable arguments.

Extremist, black-and-white positions and unwillingness to compromise are the greatest wellspring of evil and violence in the world today. Do you really want to drink from that particular fountain?


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Timpane's picture

I have to know..

Are you generalizing his comments or actually quoting..

If you are offering a summary, worded in such a way to make your position stronger, then I will call Straw man on you..

If, on the other hand, you are quoting.. then wow.. this guy's hardcore..

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matthew's picture


Quoting verbatim from this thread:

"Should Polygamy Be Illegal?"

Admittedly, I did not include the entire context of his post, in large part because quoting the whole thing verbatim is usually considered rude.

Matthew P. Barnson

Matthew P. Barnson

daniel's picture

I agree that you have some

I agree that you have some strongly held opinions, Matt, but I wouldn't go so far as to call yourself an "irrational zealot." Cut yourself some slack there.

matthew's picture


Matthew P. Barnson

Matthew P. Barnson