Should the state be allowed to dictate morality?

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Should the state be allowed to dictate morality? Should the state be allowed to tells its citizens which actions are legal (or disliked) and which are not?

Would this constitute totalitarianism? If so (or not), is totalitarianism advantageous—or otherwise—to its citizens?

 
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Legality is not entirely like morality. A government should set up rules in such a way that damage to society is minimised.

 
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Legality is not entirely like morality.

I’m not saying it is. However, what is true is that some states dictate their morality in such a way that it is in fact legal. For example, some Islamic sovereign states dictate what their religious morality is as what is and is not legal. Should the state be allowed to do this? And either way, is it ethical?

By the way, to clarify: by morality I am not solely referring to religious morality; by “state” I mean this one and not a subfederal state or a sovereign state.

 
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I would of course suggest absolutely not, in regards to legislating morality, Jaume, the history of censorship and control has forever been one of comical blunder or monstrous error. Legality, legality as efficiency and wisdom, must of course be dictated – and really any society will forever reform some ruling party and principles, power in numbers forever repeats itself. It is natural and I would suggest unavoidable regardless of any moralizing upon it, the real trick is in using it to enrich a society as opposed to stifle it.

I even take a little issue with DR’s suggestion that they should set up rules to minimize damage. Ultimately, in a perfect world of full knowledge and perfect execution, then yes I would have little trouble allowing the state to make rules in that regard. However, that not being the case I am a little leery of letting them use damage as a justification in all but the most select or rare of circumstances. Almost every action of the state is made under the principle of minimizing danger, it is the reality of that danger that is erroneous or deliberately mangled that is so frequently the problem. Prohibition? Preventing danger. Pogroms? Preventing danger. Wars, book burnings, and so on and so on. Self Defense, even as a societal body, is a sound justification; and therefor frequently used to make all sorts of things palatable.

 
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If that morality happens to increase how well a society is doing, doesn’t discriminate, minimises damage, and increases happiness, then that is not a problem. When it deviates from that, I’d suggest to stop it immediately.

I even take a little issue with DR’s suggestion that they should set up rules to minimize damage. Ultimately, in a perfect world of full knowledge and perfect execution, then yes I would have little trouble allowing the state to make rules in that regard. However, that not being the case I am a little leery of letting them use damage as a justification in all but the most select or rare of circumstances. Almost every action of the state is made under the principle of minimizing danger, it is the reality of that danger that is erroneous or deliberately mangled that is so frequently the problem. Prohibition? Preventing danger. Pogroms? Preventing danger. Wars, book burnings, and so on and so on. Self Defense, even as a societal body, is a sound justification; and therefor frequently used to make all sorts of things palatable.

Probably just semantics. I’m not a native English speaker, so sometimes my choice of words is a bit off. We don’t really disagree, I guess.

 
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If that morality happens to increase how well a society is doing, doesn’t discriminate, minimises damage, and increases happiness, then that is not a problem. When it deviates from that, I’d suggest to stop it immediately.

Well then we have to start weighing that against the individual itself. Old example, sacrificing one of the citizens will make the seasons bounty grow. Whom is decided randomly. Do we do it? The society prospers, one individual perishes. At one point does the good of the individual justify itself against the good of the many?

Probably just semantics. I’m not a native English speaker, so sometimes my choice of words is a bit off. We don’t really disagree, I guess.

Well… I am just saying that one must be very skeptical, and very critical of any claim to “prevent damage”. The conception of damage is a flexible one, what is damage to one is not always so to another. This conception of damage can be manipulated and exploited.

 
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Originally posted by Darkruler2005:

Legality is not entirely like morality. A government should set up rules in such a way that damage to society is minimised.

What is “damage”? If you run this all the way back to subjectivity, and what is “good” and “bad” for society, you end up in circular logic. Either there is a “good” or there isn’t. If you really believe that government should enforce subjectivity, explain to me which is “best”, which you won’t be able to, since there is no “best” in subjectivity. There comes a point in this line of thinking where government is pointless. It ends in nihilism.

I mean, say what you want about the tenants of national socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.

 
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I mean, say what you want about the tenants of national socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.

Well that was a little spooky. Are you terrified of not being told what to do? I mean did you really, really, endorse the nazi’s on the basis of their own presumption of authority?

Listen. Good will forever remain what I say it is. Any society which hasn’t lost its nerve is more then capable of coming to the same conclusion en masse. Nihilism is nothing to be afraid of, when all the masks are off everyone is still the same people they always were, pursuing the same agendas they always have – few have the desperate self loathing required to deny themselves along with everything, and even fewer societies.

 
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Originally posted by Ungeziefer:

I mean, say what you want about the tenants of national socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.

Well that was a little spooky. Are you terrified of not being told what to do? I mean did you really, really, endorse the nazi’s on the basis of their own presumption of authority?

It was a Big Lebowski quote. lol. You’re out of your element.

Originally posted by Ungeziefer:Good will forever remain what I say it is.

This is why I called subjective morality “prideful” earlier.

 
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Well then we have to start weighing that against the individual itself. Old example, sacrificing one of the citizens will make the seasons bounty grow. Whom is decided randomly. Do we do it? The society prospers, one individual perishes. At one point does the good of the individual justify itself against the good of the many?

That would be discrimination, so a no-no. This is what a constitution is for. Some decisions cannot be made, no matter how much some people want it. For example, you can never make the decision to stop redheads from getting the privilege to get a driver’s license (it’s a wink towards homosexual marriage, for those who don’t get it). That would be discrimination. Killing someone without that person’s will or without being in self-defense should not be allowed.

Well… I am just saying that one must be very skeptical, and very critical of any claim to “prevent damage”. The conception of damage is a flexible one, what is damage to one is not always so to another. This conception of damage can be manipulated and exploited.

This isn’t law school, which is why I’m relaxed with my reasoning and concepts until someone challenges it. I merely hope you understand the rough idea of what I mean, so that we don’t have to go into details. “Damage” is just a word. It doesn’t have several layers of meaningful philosophy behind it.

If you run this all the way back to subjectivity, and what is “good” and “bad” for society, you end up in circular logic. Either there is a “good” or there isn’t. If you really believe that government should enforce subjectivity, explain to me which is “best”, which you won’t be able to, since there is no “best” in subjectivity. There comes a point in this line of thinking where government is pointless. It ends in nihilism.

I get the feeling you’re trying to bring the discussion about objectivity/subjectivity into this thread, but I’m not entirely sure if the way you’re doing it is really relevant. Morality is exactly what shouldn’t be included in legality. This isn’t exactly about what is “good” for society, but about how to keep it running. If you allow businesses to automatically subscribe citizens to costly membership, then society will fall apart (as an example). If you allow stealing, then society will fall apart. Some of these rules are based on experience, others based on expectations. I don’t expect society to be better off allowing stealing than when you outlaw it. Every law you make should either improve society or keep it from being worse. I’m not going to explain every single law I want in a society, as that would take far too long, and I certainly am not going to be backing any one particular country, because you’ll always find laws that aren’t exactly like what I’m talking about (especially in non-democratic, non-constitutional countries). There’s some pretty objective standards on what can “damage” society (or whatever concept you want to use), it is not subjective to say disallowing any killing is better for society than allowing it.

 
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Here is my own take: no, allowing the state to dictate its own version of morality leads to disputes. I don’t believe particular sets of moralities should be encouraged or discouraged by the state since I believe in individual liberty. I heavily disagree with the Sharia law in Islamic states because of how the easily lead to oppression of minorities (including women) and suppression of minorities’ political viewpoints and political voices.

As long as “actions” are not criminal or infringing upon other people’s rights, they should be permitted in all circumstances regardless of how they’re societally viewed. Especially so if what the state regulates in terms of morality is sexuality and certains sex acts, for example.

This would indeed constitute totalitarianism since the state would be interfering with individuals’ lives in a direct and inadvertent manner. In a non-totalitarian state, everyone is free to perform anything they wish in their own privacy. Some states and entities discourage certain sex acts on oneself as well as the consumption of certain foods. Totalitarianism is not advantageous to citizens since it directly removes free will and liberty. Liberty is, since the French Revolution in 1789, one of the main factors for individuals in a democratic state.

the history of censorship and control has forever been one of comical blunder or monstrous error.

I concur. Censorship is a good point you make. Censoring certain videos or movies or media leads to a distorted view of reality.

I cannot recall an exact quotation, but I remember once hearing about how the best way to keep a society obedient and patriotic is to have different newspapers and media but with all the same political viewpoints. In Nazi Germany, for example, all newspapers would agree with the Führer while at the same time they (the newspapers) would pretend to have different ideologies of each other with ever so slightly different political views. However, this is not a thing of the past: this occurs in the present-day western world with the Occupy protest movement. Many times news of these events will be suppressed albeit events having occurred. By suppressing them the people forget about them and lose interest. This can be effectively seen in around February, January and March of this year where I don’t recall hearing much about the Occupy protests even though they were still fervent in some cities of the world. As the governments of several nations control their newspapers and media, they are the main ones controlling whether or not they report on such events. I don’t find it quite moral for them to dissect the news in such a manner that only lets the people of a state know one side of the reality.

Well then we have to start weighing that against the individual itself. Old example, sacrificing one of the citizens will make the seasons bounty grow. Whom is decided randomly. Do we do it? The society prospers, one individual perishes. At one point does the good of the individual justify itself against the good of the many?

In such an occurrence I’d side with the quantity, with the group. I believe in utilitarianism and as such believe the benefit of many is essentially more important than the benefit of oneself.

However, if this were a regular occurrence I’d start to question this event. In the Mayan civilization they sacrificed individuals for greater harvest. And if the weather improved and consequently their harvests improved, they would not sacrifice anyone else. On the other hand, on asperous years and eras their harvests would be of little to no worth; then they would keep sacrificing. If a state were to sacrifice their people relentlessly, whilst claiming it were for the benefit of everyone, issues such as the justifiability and reliance would arise. Would the sacrifices become merely an ambition or an utter necessity to society?

 
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Originally posted by Darkruler2005:I get the feeling you’re trying to bring the discussion about objectivity/subjectivity into this thread, but I’m not entirely sure if the way you’re doing it is really relevant. Morality is exactly what shouldn’t be included in legality. This isn’t exactly about what is “good” for society, but about how to keep it running. If you allow businesses to automatically subscribe citizens to costly membership, then society will fall apart (as an example). If you allow stealing, then society will fall apart. Some of these rules are based on experience, others based on expectations. I don’t expect society to be better off allowing stealing than when you outlaw it. Every law you make should either improve society or keep it from being worse. I’m not going to explain every single law I want in a society, as that would take far too long, and I certainly am not going to be backing any one particular country, because you’ll always find laws that aren’t exactly like what I’m talking about (especially in non-democratic, non-constitutional countries). There’s some pretty objective standards on what can “damage” society (or whatever concept you want to use), it is not subjective to say disallowing any killing is better for society than allowing it.

When you say that society will “fall apart”, then what are you talking about? And what “damage” to society? And what objective measure are you using for the “goodness” of disallowing killing?

I mean, society will still exist in an entire anarchy. You may find it more unpleasant, but it would still be a “society”. Therefore, government isn’t necessary at all for society to exist. My question is, what is your measure, that you can demonstrate, that we can tell a society under a certain form of government is “better” than one without any government at all? Why is anarchy “more damaging” to society than government? Why is allowing murder bad, objectively. Here’s my point: You argue that society can dictate what is “better” without being subjective, and that is flawed reasoning because “better” is based on your perception of morality, which you think is subjective. Each rule, such as “murder” you will point to as a damaging thing, but who are you to say that it damages anything, and damages what in particular?

 
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My question is, what is your measure, that you can demonstrate, that we can tell a society under a certain form of government is “better” than one without any government at all?

When the quality of life, the quality of healthcare, the quality of education and the strength of the economy climb, and continue to climb, these are all factors that indicate society is ‘better’ under one form of administration than another.

Average length of lifespan is another indicator, derived from those above.

 
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When you say that society will “fall apart”, then what are you talking about?

Safety first. Very few rational human beings would go out and happily have a job when their throat can legally be sliced once they’re not looking. Without many humans performing a necessary job for society, that society is no longer able to properly function.

And what objective measure are you using for the “goodness” of disallowing killing?

Why is allowing murder bad, objectively

It’s pretty easy, as I said above. We can measure how many jobs currently are taken and we can poll how many would not go to work if killing would be legalised. Of course, that’s a rather drastic measure, and I’m not sure if many people are able to see the impact of such a right or take the poll seriously.

My question is, what is your measure, that you can demonstrate, that we can tell a society under a certain form of government is “better” than one without any government at all? Why is anarchy “more damaging” to society than government?

They are not necessarily worse, but abuse is easier in a country without a constitution or without the ability to vote for whom you want to be in charge of making the country’s laws.

Here’s my point: You argue that society can dictate what is “better” without being subjective, and that is flawed reasoning because “better” is based on your perception of morality, which you think is subjective.

Really? I think you’re confused on the terms. It is up to each individual to choose to still have a job with the threat of legally being decapitated, but it is objective to measure how many choose to do so. A society without many people fulfilling necessary jobs will quickly detoriate into individual municipalities saving whatever there is left to save.

Each rule, such as “murder” you will point to as a damaging thing, but who are you to say that it damages anything, and damages what in particular?

So, let’s bounce back the ball: would you think allowing anyone to legally kill one another promotes more people to have jobs, less, or would it stay neutral? I’ve logically explained to you why there would be less, and obviously without a real poll (hard to do, but still) we can’t say much for now, but it would be silly if you think allowing legal killing would cause a more orderly society, or advances progress in science more quickly, or makes people in general feel more safe.

As I suspected, we quickly fell into a deep, thorough, law-school discussion on every single scenario and expecting everything to be clearly defined. It is true that in the real world, such things should be completely outlined, but I’m merely here to propose the general idea. If you truly have no clue what it’s all about, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but currently I’m thinking this is too much about objectivity and subjectivity, a topic that isn’t to be discussed in this thread.

 
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Originally posted by vikaTae:
My question is, what is your measure, that you can demonstrate, that we can tell a society under a certain form of government is “better” than one without any government at all?

When the quality of life, the quality of healthcare, the quality of education and the strength of the economy climb, and continue to climb, these are all factors that indicate society is ‘better’ under one form of administration than another.

Average length of lifespan is another indicator, derived from those above.

Ok, so it would be “better” if society outlawed all alcohol, drugs, because they shorten lifespan. Also, government could make all extra marital sex illegal, as that would decrease transmission of STDs, which would lengthen lifespan. Further, government could outlaw homosexual sex, because that transmits diseases, which shortens lifespan, without being necessary. Further, to strengthen the economic climb, we could kill all terminally ill patients, to save on healthcare, which would also improve quality of healthcare for others. To further improve quality of life, we could tie all felons, by chain, to a huge anvil, and drop them into the Pacific Ocean. This would all make a “better” society by your standards.

lol

In before subjective views on “better”.

@dark – Why is how many people have “jobs” a measure of how much “better” a society is? To answer your question, I subscribe to objective morality, so I don’t have the same cognitive dissonance you are experiencing here.

 
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I’m sorry that you think whatever I’ve said falls under cognitive dissonance, or that you’re forced to use that concept in order to try and come out more superior with your point.

Why is how many people have “jobs” a measure of how much “better” a society is?

That’s so easy, I’m not sure if you’re trolling by asking. Less people having jobs will generally mean less scientists, less doctors, less restaurant workers, less farmers, less policemen, less firemen, less lawyers, less teachers, and more. This would mean slower progress in science, lesser health care for everyone, longer waiting lines, less food, less protection, lower chance to escape from a burning house, more abuse in the justice system, and lower education. I can’t think of a single, rational soul that would rather live in such a society than in the current one. And the problem is that you’re still confusing on what objectivity and subjectivity mean in this discussion. It is subjective for each person what he thinks of a society, but it is objective to measure how many people feel better in one society over another and therefore, with the goal of having a better society, the choice to not allow legal killing.

Your reply to VikaTae is silly, as it seems you merely want to discuss things and go into the multilayered philosophical discussion before admitting you’ve known about it all along. There are a lot of issues that make society better, in combination, and VikaTae has mentioned far from all of them. Minimising of discrimination is another. To kill all criminals would be discrimination in the sense that a person who missed a street light is thought of as equally bad as a serial killer. Furthermore, every person can decide for themselves what they want. You can drink yourself to death, if you want, or smoke all day long, but VikaTae was more talking about health care for everyone without their choices affecting their health.

 
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how could it not? how could it justify itself not prescribing morality for us, without appealing to morality anyway?

 
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@dark
The number of how many people think positively about society is an objective way of measuring how many people think positively about a society, but that still isn’t an objective measure of how good the society is, independent of opinions. Just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it is objectively good. Come on man. Even you know better.

To keep you on track, I’m going to refer you to the second post in this thread:

Originally posted by Darkruler2005:

Legality is not entirely like morality. A government should set up rules in such a way that damage to society is minimised.


Why is damage to society “bad”? What I feel your post is doing, is trying to differentiate between society dictating morality, and society dictating what is “good” for everyone. In the end, how do you measure the good? Against what? How do you do that absent of morals, and absent of subjectivity? I think your answer is pretty much a “yes”, but bills itself as a separate thing from morality, but in the end you go on about burning houses, and serial killers. You’re answer to this thread’s question is “yes”. You do believe that morality should be dictated by government, and you believe that that measure of morality should be determined by popularity. A dangerous model for morality indeed.

 
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Hm, my previous post disappeared, that is annoying.

You’re answer to this thread’s question is “yes”. You do believe that morality should be dictated by government, and you believe that that measure of morality should be determined by popularity. A dangerous model for morality indeed.

Really a valid consideration into governments legal system. I would suggest that in most societies it is tempered a little by tradition and authority; which can stem from many sources. As an off hand I would reference the Constitution in the US, or even the broader inheritance of British law which in turn stemmed from the Roman.

But there are zones of morality. There are precepts, virtues, concepts and notions which has followed man and his civilization since the dawn of our recorded time. There are things of such clear utilitarian functionality both in idea and application. Everything of course will have to be vetted by the populace, or in turn enslave them, but I would suggest that as soon as we are no longer taking into consideration the moral fabric of the society itself but external bodies we may not be making "laws at all.

 
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No, the state isn’t supposed to dictate morality, whether it is an evil-friendly law or a good-friendly law.

The people are rather supposed to care about morality. The problem in this Inferno … ahem … World is not about governors. It is about townspeople!

 
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No it should not. You’re not free at all if you’re not free to choose wrong.

However, the place of government is to insure others may not infringe on your rights; and there is some overlap on these two things.
Ex: killing someone is infringing on their right to life however it is also considered morally wrong.

 
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So for what reason do many conservatives today believe the state should be allowed to dictate morality? How does this follow their ideology of individuality and the separation between the government and the individual?

 
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The number of how many people think positively about society is an objective way of measuring how many people think positively about a society, but that still isn’t an objective measure of how good the society is, independent of opinions. Just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it is objectively good. Come on man. Even you know better.

How good a society is is entirely dependent on how good people think it is, in a democracy. This is the best objective measurement you can get. You’d want to give a higher amount of votes to people more knowledgable in certain areas, but that is too hard to determine. This is the only viable way.

Why is damage to society “bad”?

Anything which helps a goal being fulfilled is better for that goal. Anything which reduces the goal’s efficiency or something similar is bad for that goal. The goal for society is not to have chaos in the streets and little jobs still being done. I can safely say that damage to society is inherently bad, exactly because of society’s goal.

What I feel your post is doing, is trying to differentiate between society dictating morality, and society dictating what is “good” for everyone.

Neither are really spot on, and I feel that you’re trying to push me in a box. Society’s laws need to keep society effective and efficient, and there’s an enormous amount of factors you need to consider in order to say your society is exactly that. There’s a lot of semantics going on in this discussion, so I think a lot of detailed answers are in order. Don’t have much time now, though, so perhaps later.

You’re answer to this thread’s question is “yes”. You do believe that morality should be dictated by government, and you believe that that measure of morality should be determined by popularity.

You’re really pushing me into a box (putting words in my mouth), because this is combining several discussions at once. You haven’t considered many of my comments that tried to discuss both how “good” a society is, and how “effective” it is. The most objective of the two is “effective”, as a singular concept, but both can be objectively defined, and I think you merely disagree that my solution to the former works.

 
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The state does legislate morality. What do you think laws are based on? Murder is immoral so it is against the law, rape is immoral and so it is against the law. All of your laws are based on morality and what is proper in our society.

 
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Of course the state should not ‘dictate’ morality.
That is not the purpose of the state…not only that but morality is a subjective and personal thing.
Laws should be passed not on whether it is moral or immoral to do something, but what the consequences of the actions will have on the society.