What is the role of the government?
I would answer that it is the government's duty to promote the health, safety, morals and general welfare of its citizens.
Yes, that's right. Morals. I believe firmly that it is the government's duty - and I mean duty, not just privilege - to regulate based on morals. This means that if something is deemed to be immoral, then the government should enact laws and regulations to criminalize, penalize, dis-incentive, or otherwise limit that behavior. So if we think excessive cruelty to animals is immoral, then things like cock fighting should be illegal, or at least discouraged. And if we think sodomy is immoral, then sodomy should be illegal, or at least discouraged.
The view that the government has the responsibility to implement moral legislation is historically the norm. It can be seen in the 10 commandments. It found philosophical support in Aristotle. It has continued - and continues still - to the current day.
And yet, for some reason, this view seems to be under attack. Many of my peers argue that the only legitimate reason for government action is to prevent harm. And by harm, they mean to exclude moral harm. Instead they seem to mean that government can only act to protect the life, health, and safety of the public and public goods (i.e. the environment).
This idea has also found expression in Supreme Court cases, most notably Lawrence v. Texas, where the court struck down a Texas law prohibiting sodomy. They said "The fact that the governing majority in a state has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice."
I, for one, find this view to be simply absurd. First, as I've said, it directly contravenes millennia of historical, political, and philosophical wisdom. I mean, what is the role of the state? I believe that it is to promote a good citizenry. And a prerequisite of a good citizenry is, as Aristotle taught, a moral citizenry. In addition to helping citizens be alive and healthy and economically prosperous the government is charged with the task of helping them be good people.
Secondly, the view that the government shouldn't legislate on a moral basis is absurd because the government can't help but legislate on a moral basis. This is true in 2 ways. First, when the government says "don't kill people" they are making at least 2 statements. They're saying both "killing hurts people's physical well being" and "killing is immoral". The moral judgment is inherent in any law that tries to prevent harm. The government is, in an objective sense, engaged in moral legislation whenever they say something is illegal.
But secondly, every governmental choice to make something legal or illegal is a moral choice. When the government says "we're not going to say cock fighting is illegal" they're basically taking a stand against those who say cruelty to animals is immoral.
And when the Supreme Court says "Texas, you can't outlaw sodomy", then the Court is saying "sodomy is permissible". And when you say something is permissible, you are, by definition, saying "it's not impermissible". Of course, saying "Sodomy is not impermissible" is a direct rebuke of those who would say "Sodomy is impermissible".
There are those who would say that the State should leave the moral decision to the individuals. And the only way to do this is for the State to take a neutral stand, which is what it's trying to do by making things permissible.
The problem with this view is that the whole concept of a neutral position is flawed. There is no neutral - something is either morally permissible or morally impermissible. So even an attempt at neutrality is a moral stand in favor of permissibility. Quite simply, regardless of what they're trying to do, the government is taking a moral stance one way or another. I, for one, say that governments should acknowledge and embrace this role, and feel free to make moral decisions.
After all, that's their job.
Don't act like it's not happening
As if its impolite