With both sides of the traditional political spectrum being consumed with forwarding some moral ideal, it warrants consideration whether people have any claim to freedom if they are unwilling to grant it to another. The Founders clearly intended that one person should not be able to force the actions of another, but we must also come to the realization that any legislative solution to an individual moral question is contrary to the goal of liberty; regardless the origin of any perceived “moral imperative.”
The paradox of self-righteousness can be easily found in the first word of the phrase: self. The moral authority of one person over their own actions is clear; however, from where is the moral authority of one person over another derived? A common argument submitted to prove the existence and necessity of a list of moral tenets is murder being illegal. While, on its face, this argument would seem to hold—the reality, however, is that murder is not illegal due to a moral dilemma of killing someone. Instead, murder is illegal because it deprives the murdered of the most basic of natural rights—the right to life (which results in a loss of liberty and property as well).
The fundamental basis of liberty is one’s own right to self-determination; or, as the Declaration of Independence states: “the pursuit of happiness.” However, happiness is not a collective idea, it is an individual one. The same is true for morality as the righteousness of a moral position can be best characterized by the individual forwarding the idea; not surprisingly, the moral code can also be best followed by (only) that same person. If one man or woman has the authority or “right” to impose a moral belief on another, where then is the limits of any other person to do the same?
This illustrates the paradox. Imposed morality represents a two-sided problem because if the ability exists for one to impose on the others, is it not then implied that all the others have the same ability to impose their beliefs as well? This is where we stand currently. Everyone vying to use government’s monopoly on force to make others behave the way they want them to. If it is okay for conservatives to say no to gambling or drugs due to their moral code, why is it so unreasonable for progressives to wish to coerce “charity” as a moral imperative of their own? Both are premised on the idea that government can save us from a bad (or less than ideal) behavior or condition. By any one group imposing moral control on another, the door is open for the inverse to happen at a later date. A de facto standard is created whereas government becomes a weapon of majoritarian tyranny that’s use is justified as long as a moral precept and a large enough segment of the population is coupled together. Instead, when one is tempted to use government in an attempt to reform others for a personal moral end, society would benefit from them remembering the words of Bastiat: “Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.”