Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hypothetical obfuscation

1. Selective Moralism?
In the year 2006, Captain Joseph Rodriguez of Aurora, CO, a Christian, was dishonorably discharged from the Army after refusing to follow orders to deploy his company to Iraq, on the grounds that it was a Biblically unjust war.
In 2007, Amy White of Evansville, IN, a Christian, was fired from her job as a grocery sales clerk for refusing to process any purchases of pornographic magazines.
In 2008, Judge William Clark of Macon, GA, a Christian, was forced into early retirement for refusing to hear the majority of divorce cases in his court, on the grounds that none of them met biblical grounds for divorce.
In 2009, Molly Thompson of Billings, MT, a Christian, was fired from her job as a hotel clerk for refusing to allow gay couples, or obviously unwed couples, to check into the same hotel room.
In 2010, John Barlow of Rochester, MN, a Christian, lost his job as a loan officer at a payday loan company for actively advising his customers not to take out loans from the company, and to go elsewhere where they would not be usuriously exploited,
In 2011, Michael Jones, a policeman of St. Petersburg, FL, and a Christian, was jailed and suspended from the force after conspiring to shelter an undocumented immigrant mother and her son, rather than arresting them to get them deported, as he was ordered.  
- See more at:

i) Notice how Littlejohn skews the answer by classifying the question in terms of "moralism." But why think that's the best way to frame the issue?

ii) We need to distinguish between public and private sector. In principle, I'm pretty libertarian with respect of the right of private businessmen to hire or fire whomever they please. That, however, is an academic issue, for the state of the law is not libertarian in that regard. Nondiscrimination laws often classify private businesses as "public accommodations." 

So long as those are the rules of the game, the rules need to be applied consistently. It's not hypocritical for me to disagree with the rules of the game, but given that I don't make the rules, insist that the rules be applied consistently. I don't agree with the current legal standard, but so long as that represents the status quo, I oppose a double standard. If the law treats a private business as a public accommodation, then nondiscrimination laws should be applied equitably.

To take a comparison, I don't believe in judicial supremacy. If, however, that's how are current system operates, then I'm not going to say it's wrong for judges to strike down liberal laws. If liberal judges are accorded the prerogative to strike down conservative laws, then conservative judges should be according the prerogative to strike down liberal laws. It can't be unilateral disarmament, where one side must play by the rules while the other side is free to break the rules. 

If one team cheats, and the referee lets them cheat (because he's on the take), then they other team is entitled to cheat to rectify the imbalance. There's a sense in which that's not even cheating. 

iii) The liberal establishment deliberately creates a false dilemma, which suckers like Littlejohn fall into. It becomes a game of chicken. The Liberal establishment makes arbitrary rules, then dares you to be consistent, given their arbitrary rules. Yet that takes the status quo for granted. But what if the status quo is a source of the problem? What if that needs to be challenged and changed?

iv) In a republican democracy, public policy is made by elected lawmakers (or popular referenda). The voters elect them to represent them. They are answerable to the electorate. Gov't officials don't have the legal authority to single-handedly make or change social policy. 

v) That said, there's an elementary distinction which Littlejohn fails to grasp: we should treat like situations alike and unlike situations unalike. The distinction between right and wrong, truth and falsehood does make a difference.

For instance, Islam and Christianity are both religions. However, Islam is a false religion while Christianity is true. Therefore, there are many situations in which they should not be treated the same way. 

Of course, that gets into debates over "who decides?" but there will never be a single, abstract answer to that question. In a republic democracy, the default position is that elected lawmakers decide. You also have direct democracy (referenda). 

There are, however, situations which call for civil resistance. There's no one person who makes the decision for everyone else without regard to the concrete circumstances or ethical considerations. We can't stipulate a referee in a moral or factual vacuum. We can't delegate our ethical duties to a second party. Facts matter. Morality matters. Decision-making is messy in a fallen world. 

A certain amount of injustice is unavoidable. We have to pick our battles. It depends on the gravity of the issue, and what's feasible. Individual duties may vary.  


  1. Steve, could you elaborate a bit on iii? I'm interested in hearing more on this point. What rules are the liberals making that they want conservatives to be consistent on?

    1. The Kim Davis controversy is a case in point. Liberal justices concoct a Constitutional right of homosexual marriage, then taunt conservatives to consistently support or oppose judicial authority, which grossly oversimplifies the issue.