Thursday, 11 October 2012 11:25

The Lover of Liberty and the 2012 Presidential Election

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Many of my fellow Ron Paul supporters insist that in this year’s presidential election, under no circumstances will they vote for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. Even if one of these two candidates can rightly be judged the lesser of two evils, an evil is still an evil, they say. And one must never will an object that conscience has declared to be an evil.

The great Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas agreed. However, he was quick to make two observations.

First, conscience, because it is nothing else than a species of reason, does indeed go wrong. Just because my conscience declares this or that to be a good or an evil doesn’t make it so: Each object of the will is good or bad independently of what we happen to think of it.

Secondly, one’s ignorance of the moral significance of an object may or may not be pardonable. For instance, ignorance of right and wrong — the natural law, Aquinas would say — fails as miserably as a justification for evil-doing as ignorance of the law fails as a justification in court for unlawfulness.

There are just some things of which we must be aware.

In light of this highly attenuated account of Aquinas’ ethical analysis, it is safe to say that while my fellow Paul supporters are correct in their judgment that conscience forbids us from deliberately choosing evil, they are incorrect on a couple of other scores.

Liberty is a good. Paul supporters recognize this. But what is liberty? Liberty consists in a decentralization of authority and a diffusion of power. Paul supporters know this also. They know that the more centralized a government, the less free are its citizens. In desiring liberty above all, every Paul supporter seeks, then, a decentralized government.

Sadly, it has been quite some time — arguably a century-and-a-half — since America has had anything even remotely approximating a federal government of the scope and size delineated by our Constitution. So, Paul supporters know — or at least should know — that if such a lost governmental structure is ever to be restored, it is not going to happen over the next four to eight years — regardless of whether our president over this time is named Obama, Romney, or Paul. 

We must judge matters from where we are at. In other words, ignorance of our reality — ignorance of the immensity of our national government, say, and ignorance of the sheer powerlessness of any one person or even group of persons to scale it back to so much as a shadow of its counterpart from the eighteenth century — is inexcusable. To make a decision regarding something as momentous as the future of our country on the basis of this sort of ignorance — even if it accords with one’s conscience — is to condemn oneself.

You should know better.

From the standpoint of liberty, I agree that Paul is a better choice than Romney. As I have already indicated, though, this is not because Paul would necessarily be able to do all that much more than Romney would be able to do in the way of freeing up the American citizen. But he would at least be willing to do more than Romney. And, at this stage in our national life, this makes him a better choice.

Paul, however, is no longer an option. Still, the same reasoning that drives the liberty lover to choose Paul over Romney should drive him to prefer Romney to Obama: Though Romney is not going to be able to dramatically reduce, or reduce at all, the size of government, he is resolved to prevent it from growing to the size that Obama desires.

There are a number of policies that Romney advocates that are less inimical to liberty than are those advanced by Obama. The latter — like ObamaCare, for example — Romney promises to repeal. Will Romney follow through? No one can foretell the future, but even if he doesn’t, that he has pledged to reduce the functions of the federal government while Obama has pledged to expand them yet further should be enough to bring the lover of liberty around to his side.

Think of it this way: If your loved one, your child say, had a terminal illness and there was the slightest — just the slightest — chance that he could be either saved or maybe even kept alive longer in the hope that, in the meantime, a cure may be discovered, would you not jump at the chance to stop the Grim Reaper from claiming him then and there? 

Our country is our loved one, and it is sick. It is very sick. We should attend to it with all of the care and concern, all of the sobriety, with which we would attend to our children.

But, the Paul supporter will object, even if Romney is the lesser of two evils, the lesser of two evils is still an evil, and it is always wrong to choose an evil! To meet this objection, we should again turn to Aquinas.

Aquinas articulated what has since been recognized by theologians and ethicists as the doctrine of “double effect.” This doctrine asserts that since moral worth hinges primarily upon an agent’s intention, it is permissible for a person to will a course of action that he foresees will have bad consequences if the consequences are unintended and the action is necessary in order to prevent a greater evil.

For example, suicide is always immoral. Even if a person is terminally ill, it is not permissible for him to intend his own death. But suppose a terminally ill person seeks not to end his life, but to administer to himself dosages of morphine sufficient to relieve his pain but equally sufficient to end his life. This would be permissible, for though death is a foreseeable consequence of his action, it is not an intended one. It is an unintended side effect of a non-suicidal act: an act intended to relieve pain — not end life.

It is indeed always and everywhere unacceptable to willingly choose what one thinks is evil. Yet even if one is convinced that Romney is the lesser of two evils, in voting for him, one need no more be guilty of choosing an evil than a terminally ill person who consumes a lethal dosage of morphine to relieve pain can be said to be guilty of having chosen evil. A liberty lover needn’t be any more attracted to any of Romney’s policies in order to vote for the Republican nominee than need the prospect of a fatal drug overdose appeal to the terminal patient in search of pain relief, or chemotherapy appeal to a cancer patient.

The liberty lover simply (yet reasonably) needs to believe that the only way to achieve some measure — any measure — of relief for his country from Obama’s liberty-eroding agenda to “fundamentally transform” it is to vote our 44th president out of office.

However, the only way to do this is to vote for Mitt Romney.

5 comments

  • Comment Link Christopher Lee Sunday, 14 October 2012 11:20 posted by Christopher Lee

    Et Tu Jack?


    You say that we should vote republican because Republicans aren't as bad as democrats. In my opinion, they are worse. They are worse because they speak of liberty during the election season and then hypocritically pass bills like No Child Left Behind, the Patriot Act, and NDAA. They speak of cutting the budget and reigning in spending during the election and then vote to expand mediaid, medicare, and the military. At least with Democrats, we know what we are getting.

    Secondly, the GOP has declared in no uncertain terms that the libertarian element in its party needs to "get in line and shut up". They don't want any libertarian influence in its platform and they have adopted rule changes to ensure that it stays that way.

    If libertarians vote for the GOP, they the GOP will know that they no longer have to try and appeal to us. And any future chance of having a candidate like Ron Paul will be destroyed.

    I am voting for Gary Johnson. I know that he won't win, but at the least it will result in the republicans loosing. They will loose because they turned their noses up, not just to Ron Paul, but to the ideas that he and his followers support. Hopefully they will realize that and come back around to our way of thinking. If not, they will continue to loose.

    There is another benefit of a democratic victory. Ever since Obama has been in the White House, the public has been hyper vigilant in opposing his attempts at limiting our liberty. Should Romney win, all that vigilance will evaporate into acceptance, compliance, and even defense. The fact that I hear people who claim to want a constitutional government defend travesties like the Patriot Act and the NDAA only because they were Republican laws makes me ill. And that will be the norm if Romney wins.

  • Comment Link Mikey-Pinkie Rings Friday, 12 October 2012 11:33 posted by Mikey-Pinkie Rings

    Romney has promised to keep the portions of Obamacare that makes it most promising to the People. He has stated that he would only repeal and replace the portions that PAY for it. So, in a sense, it is more irresponsible to have his positions prevail.

    Romney has indicated that he is eager to go to war against Iran even faster than the supposedly "peaceful" Obama. How could a constitutionalist vote for such a warmonger?

    Romney has indicated that he would "grow" the economy and "create" jobs. Let us remember that neither is mandated by the Constitution and neither is the appropriate jurisdiction of the federal government. However, the meddling of government in these areas is guaranteed to injure the free market further.

    Finally, if Romney were elected, what conservative could criticize him and get away with it? It is far harder to fight the guy that is on your side than to produce gridlock which at least slows down the slump towards insolvency.

  • Comment Link Richard Shepard Friday, 12 October 2012 11:10 posted by Richard Shepard

    Pragmatism has its place, sure. But there comes a time when one must cast it aside and stand for principle. Yes, it is fair to argue that Romney may not take us to "hell" as quickly as Obama. And, in my view, it also fair to argue the reverse. It just depends on one's definition of "hell". Unfortunately, with either candidate, we continue going in that same general direction. America needs a major course correction, and neither Romney nor Obama offer any substantial changes in policy.

    Regardless which one is elected America will continue its aggressive military policies. By several estimates we are no longer the world's policeman, but rather the world's tyrant. Regardless which one is elected the Federal Reserve will continue to inflate and debase the US dollar to satisfy Congress' insatiable appetite for deficit spending. This is a Democrat AND Republican problem. Regardless which one is elected American freedoms will continue to erode. Free speech rights will be chilled by heavy-handed police actions. Citizens will be incarcerated for refusing to testify before grand juries. Others, those on the President's assassination list, will be executed without benefit of public trial.

    I'm reminded of the famous words of Martin-Niemöller:
    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Comment Link REMant Thursday, 11 October 2012 18:52 posted by REMant

    Frankly I'd like to have the Senate more than Romney, but even if Romney wins and turns out to be no more obnoxious than Bush 41, he likely won't get the Senate, which will help keep him in check. If he loses we'll have four more grid-locked years during which the libertarians will likely get stronger. On the other hand, the next president may get to make a supreme court appointment.

  • Comment Link DJ Thursday, 11 October 2012 18:21 posted by DJ

    One can TRY to justify anything. Excuse is not reason. There are NO discernable differences between obama and romney in the issues that count, i.e., money and wars(foreign and domestic), and to pretend that romney is better is ludicrous at best. What exactly will ronney do differently? Lower taxes? BFD. We'll STILL have the unending wars, (foreign and domestic), and we'll STILL be enslaved to a private bank to fund the wars. Think about that before you try to justify a lesser of 2 anything. romney will NOT reapeal obamacare and the so-called issue of justices(?) for the SC being conservative is a theory that FAILED with roberts.

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