2015-10-19

Err On The Side Of Morality

I don't remember the quote exactly, but at some point Ayn Rand wrote that there are "sundry libertarians" who accept Objectivism's conclusions but reject either Objectivism's metaphysics or its epistemology, I forget which.

I don't want to comment on that, specifically, but the quote came to mind when I started reading this post from Robert Murphy. Reaching for a "gotcha" against open borders advocate Alex Tabarrok, he remarks that if you don't think it's okay to use guns to prevent immigration, then you must also not think it's okay to use guns to defend yourself in any other context. The gist of Bob's point is that, on some level, we all accept the use of violence as a deterrent against being attacked, so when Tabarrok claimed that doing so is morally problematic with respect to migration, Bob moved in for the "kill."

The ensuing comments made it clear that Bob's view is a common one, and that view basically boils down to, hey, if you violate the Non-Aggression Principle against me, then I will make you pay! My problem with that is that it seems to violate the spirit of the NAP. The whole point of this principle is to highlight the fact that a peaceful society requires little more than clearly defined rights coupled with a society full of broadly well-intentioned individuals.

The NAP is not, as some people seem to believe, a justification for surrounding your property with mines and hungry alligators in a moat and daring someone to trespass. That kind of attitude might be consistent with the NAP, but it is fully bereft of the kind of thoughts a non-aggressive person should probably have.

In other words, it accepts the Non-Aggression Principle, but rejects its metaphysical underpinnings.

It sometimes seems that there are a great many of us who view issues this way. That whole Civil War thing is another classic example: it's clear that, despite the rhetoric, human slavery was a major component of the Civil War. If one were to defend the Confederacy for all those technical states-rights reasons, that person might have a consistent and logical argument in his or her favor. But still: SLAVERY. You know?

If you're escaping a major moral indictment on a philosophical technicality, then you might have the better argument, but you're still immoral. Our purpose as moral agents in a society is not to push the boundaries of moral reasoning in order to get ourselves off the hook, but rather to err on the side of morality.