A question was posed to me recently that deserves a clear answer: “What is political morality?”
It was posed in the context that morality is different from one culture or ideology to the next. I strongly disagree with this notion. Instead, what changes is the culture’s peer pressure or coercion of its members to accept what they know to be immorality. There is a universal morality understood by all humans except a few sociopaths.
A government that upholds that morality is a politically moral government. Nearly all of human history is characterized by governments that instead chose amoral rule by a ruling class over a general population of serfs. The Founders of the United States took an honest look at morality, spelled it out then worked to build a political system that would limit the power of government to stray from it.
The Declaration of Independence states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles…
We all know when we have been personally wronged. If someone commits the amoral act of trying to harm us, to kill us, to rob us, to steal our earnings or to bully us into silence when they don’t like what we are saying, we know they are doing us wrong. Every healthy creature will defend itself against someone trying to do such harms.
But what happens when an individual is set upon by superior numbers trying to do him wrong? That is democracy, in which superior numbers have an assumed authority to wrong someone just because there are more of them.
A politically moral government, as the Founders put it, will defend one single person against 99 percent of the population trying to do him wrong. It will defend that person’s property against wrongful taking; it will defend his liberty to say what he believes to be true even if others find it offensive; it will defend him personally against physical harm; it will punish anyone who tries to wrong him.
It’s why our Founders wrote our Constitution to defend us against the evils of democracy. It was to ensure the Federal government had no permission to act on the will of the people and could perform only the specific duties spelled out in Article I, Section 8. Its overarching duty is to defend the people against the wrongs we all know to be wrongs.
That is political morality.