We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The right to hold old-fart views

I take my good news where I can find it. The chaos in the EU corridors of power over the refusal by the EU parliament to ratify the proposed new line-up of EU Commissioners may only last a few weeks but hey, a few weeks in which the EU leviathan is unable to act is surely a net gain for humankind.

The fracas has been caused by opposition from PC types to the views of Commissioner-designate Rocco Buttiglione, who said that as a Roman Catholic, he regarded homosexuality as sinful. Well, he also said that he would not allow his moral views to support any laws against homosexuals, on the grounds that what is immoral should not necessarily be illegal. Such issues, he said, should be outside politics. I agree. If this man had supported bans on gay couples or use of State action against them, it would be an entirely different issue, but he said nothing of the sort.

By making that remark, the gentleman actually expressed a central feature of a liberal civil order. Many aspects of human dispute cannot, and should not, be dealt with by the law of the land. It is vital that there should be a space in which humans can disagree on moral matters without having recourse to law to make their views victorious. I support the wishes of gay men and women to get married, largely on the grounds that the State has no business telling us with whom we form binding relationships in the first place (so long as it involves consenting adults). But gay men and women should beware since the campaign to oust Mr Buttliglione as an example of how so-called liberals in positions of power in Europe are not really concerned about liberty, but power.

Where the EU is concerned, t’was ever thus.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

56 comments to The right to hold old-fart views

  • Andrew Duffin

    “a few weeks in which the EU leviathan is unable to act”

    Sorry Jonathan, you’re mistaken here.

    First, the old commission will just carry on, as happened after the Santer debacle a few years ago. Second, the EU doesn’t rely on the commission – or the parliament – for its continuing program of corruption, menace, and pointless malevolent meddling.

    The permanent officials will see to it that everything continues according to their plan. All that “democratic” stuff is the merest window-dressing.

  • Johnathan,

    there is no chaos, and the democratically elected memebers of the European Parliament are under no obligation to confirm the candidates the various governments want to push through.

    This is a victory for democracy at the EU.

  • NC

    When society is making an effort to promote gay rights, it’s not advisable to have someone in charge of that particular department who does not share the same ideals.

    It’s not about censorship, it’s about choosing the people who agree with the choice of society.

    You may now say that he was not about to be elected directly, but even if it is indirect, I would presume the ruling body of the comission would like to have someone aboard who shares the same view of society.

    If the U.S. don’t elect a liberal president, does it mean they are censoring the liberals? I think not.

  • NC

    Ok, wrong example, let me try again, if the Democrats win would society want Kerry to assemble a team of liberals?

  • Pete_London

    Ralf

    The sovereign government of Italy, democratically elected by the people of Italy, has been told by the Euro Parliament (made up mainly of non-Italians and voted for mainly by non-Italians) that their choice of Commissioner is unnacceptable and they must therefore choose another.

    How is this democratic?

    NC –

    I’ll leave your particular nonsense to Stephen Pollard(Link).

  • This is merely another power play by the EU. What the Italians could do which would be amusing is if it told the EU to get knotted and resubmitted his name.

  • Pete_London,

    Buttiglione is the choice of Berlusconi. And even if the Italian parliament had voted for him it still doesn’t mean that the EU parliament has to confirm the choice, for he is supposed to represent the whole EU, not just Italy.

    I also have to add that several other candidates were rejected, too, for they either would have conflicts of interest (the candidate of the commisioner for agriculture is the wive of a farmer whi is collecting EU subsidies etc) or are plainly incompetent.

    Andrwe Ian,

    it isn’t a powerplay by the EU, the parliament is asserting itself at the expense of the commision.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Ralf, MEPs are entitled to vote down whom they want as choices for commissioner. That is their right. As is my right to point out their daft PC views.

    Defending the EU parliament is a bit like playing in traffic, Ralf. I would not advise it.

    NC says that when “society” (weasel word) is trying to promote gay rights, it is unwise to have a man like Buttliglione. But like the man said, his views are personal, and will not relate to his actions in the job.

  • Julian Taylor

    Umm, does being a ‘PC’ type also include objecting to “Professor” Rocco Buttiglione’s views that women should be placed firmly back in the kitchen where they belong?
    As for the gay aspect, Peter Meddlesome supported Buttiglione’s nomination – probably in the knowledge that, having burned his bridges with Labour, he has nowhere else to go otherwise.

  • he also said that he would not allow his moral views to support any laws against homosexuals, on the grounds that what is immoral should not necessarily be illegal. Such issues, he said, should be outside politics. I agree.

    Unlike Johnathan and Mr Buttiglione I am a ruthlessly stern moralist. Almost without exception I think that immoral actions should be illegal, or at the very least actionable in law. I simply can’t understand this slack, lackadasical attitude where people seem quite sanguine about tolerating immorality. Surely to condemn something as ‘immoral’ means that this behaviour is utterly intolerable to you. Going around declaring things to be immoral but then saying that you really don’t mind one way or the other whether people behave immorally seems, to me a least, a very odd way to conduct oneself.

  • dmick

    “This is a victory for democracy at the EU”
    There is no democracy in the EU, there is no demos that identify themselves as EUropean in a political sense. The numbers that vote in the Euro elections are miniscule and dont confer any legitimacy.

  • NC

    Pete_London,

    First of all, the link you gave me present no data whatsoever to corroborate his view.

    I can say I also have none, but it’s a fact that almost only the radical parties have similar official positions. This may be a part of Europe, but it’s by far the smaller one.

    The majority of the parties condemn his intolerance (yes, imposing your morals on individual consenting behaviours as law is intolerance) and therefore he shouldn’t be part of the team.

    Nonsense? Nonsense is believing in his unproved opinions of what European society is.

    At least you should use the parties as a guide and you would see that the huge majority of them (proportional to votes) doesn’t even remotely consider stating that homosexuality is imoral.

    ———————-
    Johnathan Pearce,

    You say his personal views will not influence him on the job. This denies the very existence of parties, politics is about choices and these choices will always be influenced by personal opinions. When you have to weigh alternatives, you decide based on the ones you think are the most important. That’s why it’s important that the comission assembles a team that is in accordance with the most important European parties.

  • “The state has no business telling us with whom we form binding relationships”?! So the State has no power to regulate marriage, even though the whole reason for marriage is to garner benefits from the state at the expense of the unmarried? Those who say gays should be able to marry those of the same sex, are saying that the State should condone those pretend “marriages” and provide benefits. If not, what’s the point? In my view, the State should not involve itself in marriage at all. As long as it does, though, it obvioiusly has the power to determine what marriage is and who can marry whom.

  • Mike

    Ralf,

    None of the other nominated Commissioners were rejected following their hearings. Whilst some MEPs voiced concerns over a number of the nominations, Buttiglione was the only one who received a “negative report” from his hearing. All the others were endorsed.
    As for Buttiglion, it is clear that the left’s decision to oppose him had far more to do with next year’s Italian elections than with anything he said about homosexuality or marriage. If he had been nominated by a socialist government, he would not have been opposed by the communist, socialist and (so-called) Liberal groups.

  • Pete_London

    NC

    May I humbly suggest you go back and read the link again? Its directly relevent to what you said. If you can’t see that then … anyway …

    Nonsense? Nonsense is believing in his unproved opinions of what European society is.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘society’ or European society’. I recognise only individuals. If I try to go along with this ‘society’ thing though I’d have to say that it is many things, not one homogenous mass (regrettably, for Euro-statists).

    The majority of the parties condemn his intolerance (yes, imposing your morals on individual consenting behaviours as law is intolerance) and therefore he shouldn’t be part of the team.

    The views of the parties are irrelevent – Buttiglione is Italy’s choice so suck it up.Try to understand that he stated he will not impose his morality on others (unlike you, Mr NC). He shouldn’t be part of the ‘team’ because he doesn’t agree with you or others? How intolerant is that?! Are you suggesting that only the lefty/Euro-social democratic view is allowed to prevail?

    At least you should use the parties as a guide …

    Why? Try thinking for yourself and stop being lazy.

    And one last thing, I do hope no-one mistakes me for something who gives a damn about the EU. When the whole edifice collapses and the dust settles listen carefully for hysterical cackling. That’ll be me.

  • Julian Morrison

    Does anyone else share my opinion that, for a guy who’s against gays, Mr Rocco Buttiglione has a very unfortunate name…

  • Try to understand that he stated he will not impose his morality on others (unlike you, Mr NC).

    What on Earth is the point of having moral views if you aren’t going to seek to impose them on others? Does nobody take morality seriously these days?

    Julian,

    You have been watching too many ‘Carry On’ films.

  • Johnathan

    Robert Spiers asks, “So the State has no power to regulate marriage?”. Of course it has power to regulate it. My point is that it should not have that power. Of course may gay men and women want to get their hands on State benefits available through marriage. My own view is that state benefits should cease to exist. Period.

    Paul, are you being serious? There are lots of things one might regard as immoral or ethically dubious but which are not banned outright for the simple reason that these issues are often highly debateable. The law, as I see it, allows humans to get along as well as possible while recognising that there are all sorts of disputes that cannot be easily dealt with by coercion. I would have thought that is what liberty means.

  • There are lots of things one might regard as immoral or ethically dubious but which are not banned outright

    Try as I might I can’t think of a single significant thing that I think is immoral but which I don’t think ought to be illegal (or at least actionable) also. People who make glib moral pronouncements without demanding legal sanction seem to me not to be taking morality seriously. I suspect that either:

    1. They do not really think that the action is immoral and are just engaging in windy rhetoric.

    or,

    2. They really do want to proscribe the things they say are immoral but currently find it impolitic to say so.

    I’m not sure which of these categories applies to Mr. Buttiglione.

  • Ian

    I don’t know exactly what Snr Buttf**k said, but it has been widely reported that he’s pronounced homosexuality sinful, and people have been commenting on this basis.

    He is quite wrong to hold these views.

    He calls himself a good Catholic. But the Roman Church holds homosexual acts sinful, not homosexuality per se.

    It is the custom of his church that the clergy make moral pronouncements. So he’s way out of line here.

    Sin is a religious term. To secularists, it doesn’t mean a damn thing. We just have morality.

    He also said that women should stay at home.

    Really, anyone worldly enough should know that women are sinful – delectably so – and that homosexual men achieve better results both decorating the place and also in the kitchen.

  • veryretired

    I’m pleasantly surprized that I can agree with Julian about something.

    As an aside, there is a link through Instapundit to an article written by Prof Reynolds about the Anglosphere in the Guardian. The article itself is an unremarkable thumbnail sketch, but the comments are very revealing.

    I thought about posting, but it would be pointless. One cannot persuade the impenetrable.

  • flaime

    I don’t believe anyone who seeks a political position in the world is concerned with anything but power. Those concerned with liberty are generally more in favor of the elimination of government.

  • NC

    The views of the parties are irrelevent – Buttiglione is Italy’s choice so suck it up.Try to understand that he stated he will not impose his morality on others (unlike you, Mr NC). He shouldn’t be part of the ‘team’ because he doesn’t agree with you or others? How intolerant is that?! Are you suggesting that only the lefty/Euro-social democratic view is allowed to prevail?

    Suck it up? Sorry, you’ll do that since he won’t be on the commision. If that is your type of argument, it’s a nice one.

    Would it make sense to you to have an anti-semitist as a commisioner?

    At least you should use the parties as a guide …
    Why? Try thinking for yourself and stop being lazy.

    Completely out of context. What I said was to use parties as a guide to what public opinion is. You’re the lazy one reading a blog and taking it as the truth. Do you even live in London?

    The views of parties are irrelevent

    I just realized your post must be a humorous one. It’s the only explanation…

  • limberwulf

    Paul,
    tolerating immorality and refusing to make it illegal are not the same thing. Not everything must be enforced by government, that is what market forces are for. That is also what natural consequences are for. It may be immoral to take self-destructive drugs, but the natural consequences can punish that quite nicely, we dont need to spend tax dollars on it. It may be immoral to be promiscuous, but social pressures and economic sanction by those who consider such action immoral will suffice for enforcement, not legislation. One can be quite intolerant of immorality and immoral acts without passing the buck to the government.

    To use a religious example, keep in mind that God Himself gave mankind the freedom of choice. Consequences for sin are tallied at judgement day and/or paid by natural consequence, not enforced along the way. From a religious standpoint, passing laws to enforce moral codes or prevent immoral acts is an attempt to place oneself above the authority and will of God, something Lucifer once did to his own extreme detriment. Just a thought.

    Government’s role should be to protect tht freedom of its population. This means that legislation need only be in place to prevent actions by individuals or groups that remove freedom from other individuals or groups, or to enforce punishment on perpetrators of said actions. Any other action or legislation by government is immoral, in that it presumes god-like power over other human beings.

  • I think Paul’s point is that ‘morality’ and ‘personal taste/distaste’ have been seriously conflated here. Someone might find homosexuality distasteful (‘one ought not do that’) without finding it immoral (‘one may not do that’). One can tolerate the distasteful without tolerating the immoral. In fact one should never tolerate immorality when given the choice, but you do need to be sure that when you say something is ‘immoral’, you do not really mean ‘distasteful’, i.e. “I don’t like that”.

  • Mike

    Perry — there are many areas of near-universal agreement on what is moral, but there are also areas where morals differ among persons and societies. A lot of the differences obviously resolve to differences in religious belief. Should everyone be pressed into the same mold in all respects? No, and any government that tries to do this is a tyranny. Mr Buttiglione drew a clear distinction between his personal beliefs and his obligations as a commission nominee. His declaration not to act in accordance with his own moral beliefs in all cases would better be described as humility and respect for plurality than as a moral surrender.

  • Ian

    Mike, by immoral, Rocco B. means ‘contrary to the designs of God, at least according to what I’ve been taught.’ In other words, he means ‘sinful.’

    Since sin only has meaning with reference to God, Rocco B. had better keep his ideas about sin out of politics.

    Not least because sin in the Bible is a mixed bag, covering everything from murder through thinking naughty thoughts to conversing with menstruating women.

    The Biblical injunctions against same-sex relationships are largely Pauline (and Paul was uptight about a lot of stuff and, in my opinion, has skewed a good deal of theology, bloody born-again that he was) or Levitican (which is really a kind of code for priestly purity, a sort of ritual purification). Odd that the love of David and Jonathan passes without censure and that Christ didn’t think the whole subject worth spouting off about, especially given the number of Greeks knocking about.

    So it’s a sin. Who gives a toss? To someone without religion, his views are just so much irrelevant blather, and he might as well be spouting off about how he thinks it’s proper to put forks away in the fork drawer but won’t go after people who leave them with the spoons. So far from being humble, all he’s doing is saying ‘I belong to a club with funny rules and this is one of them.’

    And those rules have no relevance to morality, any more than if I belonged to a drinking society where men had to x in order to remain members.

    But if, on the other hand, our Rocco truly thought homosexuality immoral, then he would be severely lacking as a man if he did not follow through the consequences and seek to outlaw it.

    I.e., what I call an attribution of sinfulness and what Perry above calls personal distaste are basically the same thing, one formed through religion, the other through personal experience or prejudice. Neither has anything to do with morality, despite the many authoritarian conservatives (is there another kind?) that regularly conflate the two.

    But since Buttiglione can’t even get his theology right, he’s bound to be another self-righteous tosser showing a singular lack of humility or respect for plurality. Indeed, he’s a dead cert. to be trying to impose his likes/dislikes in the name of morality.

    Paul is bang on. Unfettered capitalism is the most perfectly moral system for the exchange of goods and services, and it would be immoral of us just to sit bak and say ‘it’s a nice idea, but I don’t think we should try and achieve it.’

  • Mike

    Ian — perhaps I’m missing in important detail of your argument, but I think that while many devoutly religious people may acknowledge different authorities for decisions that act x is “sinful” and act “y” immoral, they might not draw an essential distinction between the proscriptive consequences of the decisions. When both x and y are “wrong” and the mandates are perceived to have equal force, where is the difference between sin and immorality?

    In those rare cases where a person in government actually cares whether an official act is “right” or “wrong”, he might be equally moved by a “moral” rule or a religious rule. That Mr Buttiglione says he wouldn’t act on his religious beliefs suggests that he’s either not really religious, or that his own moral toolbox has some extra amenities. Or it could be that your more cynical explanation is the right one. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was candid in a way that ran against interest in the confirmation interviews, but he is, after all, only a politician.

  • Julian M: Yes that struck me as rather amusing as well. Very Pythonesque.

    It does strike me as rather pathetic that holding judenhass views is not a bar but actually following your church’s doctrine is a bar. I don’t agree with this bloke either but it does seem incredibly hypocritical what the EU is doing on this one.

  • Dodge – please provide details of these antisemite commissioners to whom you keep referring.

    Rocco reminds me of Catholic politicians in America who say they share the church’s view that abortion is murder, but that they won’t try and ban it. Either they’re lying about believing abortion is murder, they’re lying that they won’t try and ban it, or they don’t think murder should be banned. None of these positions is terribly creditable…

  • NC:

    “politics is about choices”

    LOL

  • Paul:

    “Try as I might I can’t think of a single significant thing that I think is immoral but which I don’t think ought to be illegal (or at least actionable) also.”

    How about mental cruelty? Going to out of your way to hurt somebody’s feelings, from spite? The sort of thing that goes on in schools and playgrounds all the time.

    Or disloyalty? A long-standing friend has helped you out in the past, but when it is their turn to need help, you walk away?

    Or how about breaking some social promises that mean a lot to the promisee? – “I promise I will come to the hospital with you” – and then not turning up because you’d rather watch the football.

    Being cruel and neglectful of your aged mother who worked her fingers to the bone to get you through school and university?

    All ugly and immoral by any standardsl, but nobody would want to make any of these things illegal or even actionable, would they?

  • Ian

    Julius, I’d guess these things are ‘low’ but not immoral.

  • Nick Timms

    I am truly amazed by some of the comments I have read above.

    It is perfectly possible to privately believe that certain things are immoral and also believe that over and above this we have a moral duty to allow others to make their own choices – even though we might believe them to be wrong choices.

    Paul Coulam you scare the shit out of me. You seek to impose your morality on me. Who made you boss of the world? Would you like to me to impose my morality on you by law. Millions of people have given their lives in to fight against this kind of tyranny. Believe whatever you like but do not try and impose it on me. Mind your own damn business and I will mind mine.

    Nick Timms

  • SC

    As a Christian can I please agree whole heartedly with the last commentator?

    Christian belief runs like this – God gave us free will- it is in this sense that we are like Him, in this sense that we are His Children; and this belief is not a bolt on- it is at the very centre of Christianity, from the story of Adam and Eve onwards.

    In addition to this Christians believe that we have been given moral rules and guidelines, revealed by God as His will for what we should do (10 commandments and Christ’s teachings to give obvious examples). All human beings, regardless of their faith or lack of it, should follow these rules. Should in the sense that as it is objectively true that God wants us to do this, we should. (I know I can’t give objective proof of His existence- ride with me for a bit please). But- and this is the absolutely crucial bit from a political viewpoint- it is only a human’s exercise of free will to choose to do right or wrong that counts morally.

    If I give to the poor because the government forces me to, that is no moral benefit to me. It is not pleasing to my Creator. Nor does it please our Creator if I force, in the current example, a homosexual person to refrain from homosexuality through threat of force. There is a difference if one person is seeking actively to harm another- it is perfectly moral to prevent A murdering, or stealing from, B- but that is because acts are taking place outside their own moral consciousness. It is not moral for me to impose my own understanding of morality (which by definition I believe to be the correct one) on others. Rather, it is perfectly moral and Christian to say “I believe homosexual acts to be sinful, but I will not use force to prevent others engaging in them- although I will try and persuade them of my view, so that they come to make the same moral decision as me”.

    In other words, a belief in a Deity who has given us free will as the cornerstone of our relationship with Him implies, if you respect God, support for a “libertarian” state in which you try to persuade people to do the right thing, but do not force them.

    Finally, “I think this is immoral” means “I believe this to be the wrong thing to do”. It does not AUTOMATICALLY equate to “I should prevent this by force”, although it does imply that (all else being equal, which is a big IF) “I should attempt to persuade this person to understand that this is immoral, so they no longer wish to do it”.

    I know I have used language above that will send many Samizdata readers howling, but it’s about time that it was made clear that absolute conviction in the importance of freedom does not in any way require you to be an atheist.

  • there is a lot of disingenuous commentary here on how one can supposedly disapprove of things as immoral but in actual fact be tolerant of them.

    and yes, teasing in the playground, disloyalty etc. are good examples of immoral acts that no-one thinks the state should legislate on. but let’s be clear about this, these immoral acts attract high levels of social sanction against them. if you are disloyal to friends or in business, you are ostracised. if you behave offensively in social situations you will not be re-invited. calling homosexuality or single-parenthood “immoral” is effectively calling for social sanction against these behaviours.

    the state never sent single mothers to jail for having an illegitimate child, but the social stigma and ostracism visited on women in this situation was enormous only 40 years ago. is this what supporters of Buttiglione’s moral views want to see return?

  • Mike

    “the state never sent single mothers to jail for having an illegitimate child, but the social stigma and ostracism visited on women in this situation was enormous only 40 years ago. is this what supporters of Buttiglione’s moral views want to see return?”

    That’s not the choice on offer. Buttiglione didn’t seek out a soapbox from which to pontificate about his personal views. He was questioned about them (improperly, in my opinion) during a confirmation interview.

    It would make more sense to direct this complaint to the people who sought to discredit Mr Buttiglione by asking what he thinks of homosexuality &c. during that interview.

  • Andrew Robb

    I’d like to vote that real sanity entered this disscussion with Nick Timms finally telling Paul Coulam what should have been said immediatly after his fisrt post. I’m suprised to see that it took over twenty-four hours to happen. That man reminds me of Tom Coburn who is running for one of the U.S. seanate seats in Oklahoma. Dr. Coburn, who is himself a obsitrition favors the death penalty for anyone who performs an abortion. You’ll not that the quote is confimed by a republican web site, Coburn’s own party.

    This is exactly the kind of thing that an attitude like Coulam’s brings about. Gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies.

    limberwulf I seem to agree with you again.

    My thoughts are that Buttiglione ought to get a trail by fire. Let him put his money where his mouth is. If his personal veiws really don’t influence his actions in office good for him. If they do vote him out and vote in someone who will un-do whatever bulls**t laws he enacted.

  • Andrew Robb

    Or vote someone in who will vote Buttguy out or whatever it is that you have to do.

  • GCooper

    Willchill writes:

    ” is this what supporters of Buttiglione’s moral views want to see return?”

    Possibly they do. But so what? The EU is supposed to be a democracy and, whether Rocco Buttiglione’s views appeal to the sensibilities of the liberal political classes, they almost certainly represent the overwhelming majority of people’s opinions in Catholic southern Europe, Poland and Ireland.

    Now, people may dislike that point of view, but they are on distinctly shaky ground if, on the one hand, they claim to espouse democracy and, on the other, will only allow those metropolitan values of which they approve to be aired in public.

    The real absurdity, of course, is that the situation came about at all – doing so because of an inane attempt to weld together 25 distinct countries with probably 50 or more distinct and divergent cultures.

    Either way, which is it to be? A democratic system in which liberals have to persuade conservatives of the virtues of their beliefs and actually win the argument – or a system in which only liberal views are allowed to be heard?

  • the issue of “respect for other points of view” is of course fundamental to democracy, but there is plenty of nuance to this in practice.

    we allow the BNP to exist and to promote essentially racist politics, and the bar to what is “unsayable” has been set quite high at an actual incitement to hatred or violence.

    but there is a big difference between the types of points of view accepted in the polity as a whole and those which are deemed acceptable in the higher reaches of the political institutions which represent the dignity and serious intent of the polity. it would simply be unacceptable to have a racist in the UK cabinet, whatever kind of hung parliament which might lead to it.

    and i think my point it is that Buttiglione’s views are sufficiently offensive and divisive that he is unfit for a role in something as over-arching and by definition consensus-seeking as the EU commission.

    and Buttiglione played a sleight of hand by trying to say his views would not affect his politics, which as people above have remarked, is a nonsense. and even though there is a “catholic europe” out there, are they really seeking a return to real social prejudice against gays and single mothers? becuase if they really tried to promote that agenda in the EU there would be outrage, and they would lose hands down. part of the hostility of the European parliament was the way Buttiglione was promoting himself as “resonable”, whereas had he been open about the implications of his moral points of view he would never have had a chance of being a commissioner in the first place.

  • GCooper

    Willchill writes:

    ” and even though there is a “catholic europe” out there, are they really seeking a return to real social prejudice against gays and single mothers? becuase if they really tried to promote that agenda in the EU there would be outrage, and they would lose hands down.”

    I’m afraid I don’t share your smug certainty. Indeed, whatever my personal opinions on the matter, I would be very far from confident that a pro-homosexual marriage bill, for example, would win anything like a majority were it put to a vote across all 25 member states.

    “and i think my point it is that Buttiglione’s views are sufficiently offensive and divisive that he is unfit for a role in something as over-arching and by definition consensus-seeking as the EU commission.”

    Offensive and divisive to whom? You are trying to slide around the principle of representational democracy by making the assumption that it is only those of a liberal persuasion who can find anything objectionable.

    As I have said before, there are many in the EU who find the opposing point of view “offensive and divisive”. Why don’t their opinions and beliefs matter as much as yours?

    Oh and, by the way, unless you are a disciple of ee cummings, the shift key is the big one on the bottom left-hand side of your keyboard.

  • Hi GCooper,

    I do like ee cummings, but I was being lazy with my shift key. I’m sure no caps will be standard form eventually, but not yet so I’m happy to toe the line!

    Not supporting gay marriage is qualitatively different from advocating a return to wholesale social prejudice, which is what I take to be the end-point of finding homosexuality “immoral.” I think advocating such a return would lose hands down across Europe, but I accept there would be some support for it.

    I think that where we really disagree is that you seem to be arguing that an EU Commissioner can hold whatever views he likes, because that is democracy, whereas I would argue that there is a threshold of “acceptability” in an institution of such importance, and that this threshold is determined politically. In this instance the MEPs acted politically to say they found Buttiglione’s views unacceptable. If you deny there is any political process of contestation over “acceptability” you have no bar on having racists, anti-semites or whatever in the EU Commission. Conservatives above all must have an interest in maintaining the dignity, consensuality and integrity of political institutions, and having no bar for “acceptability” of views within them is one quick road to undermine all these.

  • You don’t think that the EU’s attitude towards Israel and support Palestinian terrorists cause might have something to do with the fact they don’t like Jews much? Or the fact that report on anti-semiticism in the EU was not released and buried was done for the benefits of the Jews in Europe?

  • Shawn

    ” you have no bar on having racists, anti-semites or whatever in the EU Commission.”

    Get real, the EU political machine is full of Jew hating racists. The idea that Buttiglione’s view on homosexuality is somehow worse than the EU’s actual support for Jew hatred and its active support of anti-Israeli terrorism is absurd. This is what the EU has come to, rejecting a man for holding to traditional European Christian morality, but allowing Jew haters and terrosist supporters free reign. Now thats offensive.

  • i’m new to commenting on this site. i have to say i’m a bit shocked to have 2 commenters in a row denouncing the EU as institutionally anti-semitic. maybe i have misunderstood something about the readership here.

  • Yes, there is anti-Semitism in Europe, but that has no influence on European policy.

    Btw, Buttiglione has given up by now.

  • Nick Timms (and Andrew Robb):

    “Paul Coulam you scare the shit out of me. You seek to impose your morality on me. Who made you boss of the world? Would you like to me to impose my morality on you by law. Millions of people have given their lives in to fight against this kind of tyranny. Believe whatever you like but do not try and impose it on me. Mind your own damn business and I will mind mine.”

    You have missed the point. Paul is a libertarian. He believes in people minding their own business. His morality consists of libertarian principles Surely all libertarians want their libertarian principles to apply by law? That is the whole point of being a libertarian! After all, it would hardly make much sense to say “I am a libertarian but other people are entitled to to practice their Statism and coercion if they wish, even though I disapprove”

    I think where Paul differs from the rest of us, is that he sees the limits of morality as broadly equivalent to libertarian law; whereas some of the rest of us think there is room for morality outside of law or libertarian principles. Paul thinks that is impossible; because if we really think something is immoral then we must also wish it to be proscribed.

    For that reason, he is highly sceptical of those who announce that something immoral but claim not to wish it proscribed by law; and in many (but not all) cases his scepticism is probably warranted.

  • limberwulf

    Julian,
    I too beleive in people minding their own business, but that is not to say I do not run my business with very firm belief based choices. I believe in the free market, but I would not support a law outlawing communes. If a group of people want to get together and form a little socialist club or village, they are free to do so. I find the principles of such a thing immoral, and I can point to instances in history to prove that it will fail. I would support a law preventing anyone form being forced or coerced into such a commune, but people are free to engage in such a thing, despite its immorality.

    I personally have a firm belief in helping my fellowman when he is in need and I am able to help. I do this because I want to, and because I think it is the right thing to do. I do not support any forcing of such action by others, but that does not imply that my own belief in such things is weak. I do not use drugs because I believe they are harmful to the body, and to harm oneself is immoral and foolish. If someone else wishes to do so, they may certainly do so. I will not employ such a person because I think they will not be dependable in my business. That is enforcement of a moral issue without the use of legal force.

    A libertarian who wishes freedom to be forced on all is not acting as a libertarian. Freedom should be protected for all, and available for all. Choices must remain. However, some will still choose to follow others, to be under the leadership of another because that is easier. To be free, people must have the freedom to be bound by their own choice. I suppose in a way that means that all are actually free by law, but it is not a clear as it may seem, and the “morality” of libertarianism can be as easily corrupted as any other belief system, such that those who support legal enforcement of moral codes may find themselves backing some pseudo-libertarian position that is actually corrupt. I am not saying Paul is one of these, but I would say that suspicion for his position is as warranted as suspicion for the firmness of the beliefs of others who do not think legal enforcement needed.

    SC,
    Well said, I find it is often frustrating to see the pro-atheist stance of most freedom lovers. The fact is religions have historicly become largely corrupt, and in recent times they certainly give much reason to be suspicious of any who believe in a higher power. However, the concept of Christianity in particular and of many other religions as well is in no way opposed to libertarianism, quite the opposite in fact. The issue is the same as the one that makes me suspicious of the militant stance of someone like Paul, corruption of a good idea is often far more damaging than a bad idea. Paul may be right on in his thinking, but if others who were slightly skewed used his logic, they might cause far more harm than a person who did not start from a freedom loving stance. Good intentions and corrupt thinking lead to horrible ends, far worse than any other.

  • limberwulf

    sorry, that was addressed to Julius, not Julian, no offense intended to either.

  • Limberwulf:

    “A libertarian who wishes freedom to be forced on all is not acting as a libertarian.”

    I don’t understand. How can you “force” freedom (by which I presume you mean liberty) on somebody? It sounds like an oxymoron. The only example I can think of would be a refusal to enforce contracts of slavery. Pretty far – fetched though! What did yo have in mind?

  • Andrew Robb

    Wait a freaking minute Julius! Coulam is a libertarian? He supports minding his own buisness? Did you read his posts?

    “I think that immoral actions should be illegal, or at the very least actionable in law.”

    and

    “What on Earth is the point of having moral views if you aren’t going to seek to impose them on others? Does nobody take morality seriously these days?”

    Does a libertarian not advocate freedom from coersion and free will? Impose denotates the use of athority and/or force and connotates almost the same.

    Mr. Coulam therefore argues that his morality should be forced upon us, by himself and the state if he can acheive it. By that alone he sets himself outside of libertarian law. Either that or he has a very different websters than I do.

    I would not seek to impose libertarianism upon others, as Limberwulf put more eloquently than I can. Yes I do personally oppose collectivism and facism and support opposition of governments of this sort to include violence. However if a liberated Iraq were to turn communist, I would not shed a tear.

  • A_t

    Hmm… depends how you construct your ideas of morality I guess.

    limberwulf, I would argue that many of the issues you describe as ‘moral’ are in fact nothing of the sort:

    “I believe in the free market, but I would not support a law outlawing communes.”

    …precisely because such a law would be contrary to the free market principles you espouse. Said commune would presumably still interact with the outside world via the free market, & as far as I understand it, most free market principles make no particular conditions about the nature of economic entities within that market. If I want to organise a business according to astrological predictions, socialist principles or a system of inherited privilege, all those approaches will be tested by the market & will either succeed or be found wanting & fail. If a commune is composed of adults who freely joined it of their own violition, how is it immoral?

    I also take issue with your idea that taking drugs is immoral; Personally, I’d say morality has nothing to do with it (& I’m curious to know, do you drink alcohol or coffee? How do you justify this to yourself?).

    If a person takes drugs which make him less capable of doing work he’s contracted to do, that would be a moral issue. If he took drugs which made him incapable of looking after a child he was supposed to be minding, that would clearly be immoral.

    If however, he’s only harming his own health, whether mental or physical, I’d say he was foolish but hardly immoral; his body is his to do with as he pleases. If he chooses to destroy it, that in itself is no more immoral than throwing out some perfectly good food; wasteful, tragic & stupid, yes, but immoral? I’m having trouble seeing how, unless you view a human as not having ultimate ownership over his own body.

    If you do subscribe to this ‘harming your own body is immoral as opposed to just foolish’ idea, is mountaineering, which in my experience carries a far greater risk of death or serious personal injury, more immoral than taking drugs?

    I agree that there are things which are immoral but should not be legislated against, usually because they’re seen as mildly immoral & the harm done is relatively minor, but equally can see Paul’s point that if one feels something is definitely, strongly immoral, the notion of not trying to do something about it, through legislation or other means, is bizarre.

  • limberwulf

    A_T,
    my point basically is that there are people who consider self-destructive acts immoral. To have such a conviction that governs your own life but not to force that morality on others does not take away from the strength of the conviction itself. (I do drink on occasion and consume coffee on rare occasions, but not in a destructive manner. Drug use in a similarly responsible fashion would not be against my personal standards of morality, I essentially avoid the less destructive ones for social/legal/financial reasons.) The point, however, is that my own personal standard of morality by which I live should not be enforced on anyone else. One of the most important reasons for this is exactly what you pointed out: many of these things you do not consider moral issues. That is perfectly fine, I do not wish to force you to see things my way, but neither does that mean that my own conviction is less sincere. I take my stance on morality very seriously, but I do not think government has the right, no matter what their position, to enforce moral standards on others.

    I do see some relevance in Paul’s point, but understand that even those things which some of us may view as strongly moral can be dealt with by other means. To not use legal force does not mean that one is not trying to stop something. The religious people who have specific and strong moral views, even if they are silly or corruptions of their faith, have every right to their opinion of morality. They do not have the right to coerce others to follow their personal moral code. You cannot simply say that what another person is trying to legislate is not a morality issue, but your own views and opinions are, and are therefore valid in legislation. This defies that each person’s mind is his own.

    Julius,
    That is an oxymoron, that was my point. I was responding to this statement: “Surely all libertarians want their libertarian principles to apply by law? That is the whole point of being a libertarian!” I want government to be restricted in scope, yes, and that would be libertarian principles applying by law. Libertarian principles as they apply to individual actions in the market, however, should not be applied by law. As a libertarian I would never engage in a commune lifestyle, as I think it foolish and wrong in principle. I would not, however, restrict the formations of communes independent of the state, providing they had no jurisdiction to force adults to participate. Those choosing such a lifestyle would not be operating on libertarian principles, but would not be forced to by law. When the state says “you must make your own way as an individual because it is better for you and for society” it may sound like a libertarian priciple, but it is still being a nanny state.

  • A_t

    limberwulf,
    I think there’s a difference between interpersonal morality (ie. how you interact with others) & personal issues like whether you choose to damage your body or not. I feel the law has no place saying anything about the latter, and only about the former if one or more parties are not informed or consenting & furthermore the consequences for them are sufficiently negative.

    Personally, I only think of morality as it applies to my interactions with others; I find it hard to think of being immoral towards myself; I could let myself down, certainly, but my model of morality requires that someone be wronged; I am obviously consenting to any decision I make, so to me this entire area is outside what I would consider ‘morality’. Living sensibly or not as it relates to yourself is not a moral question in my book.

    I’m curious though, when you say
    “I take my stance on morality very seriously, but I do not think government has the right, no matter what their position, to enforce moral standards on others.”

    how far does this extend? Surely the government should impose for instance, the rule that killing another person is generally wrong, no? I’m presuming that either that statement was not intended to be all-encompassing, or else that you believe society should be able to deal with most ills without legislative intervention. I’d be interested to hear what your opinion is in either case.

    It sounds to me as though you’d be happy to impose your morality, at least by my interpersonal definition above, on other people; just because you don’t want to force them to live like you, or as you believe life should ideally be lived, does not make this untrue. It sounds as though you believe it is not morally just to impose much upon others, & your beliefs about the ideal nature of government legislation reflect this.

  • Andrew Robb

    A_t writes,

    “It sounds to me as though you’d be happy to impose your morality, at least by my interpersonal definition above, on other people; just because you don’t want to force them to live like you, or as you believe life should ideally be lived, does not make this untrue. It sounds as though you believe it is not morally just to impose much upon others, & your beliefs about the ideal nature of government legislation reflect this.”

    I have read this through and it seems like a circular argument. Since I believe I should not impose my morality I seek to enact a government that will not impose any moral standards I am therefore imposing upon their moral choice to live under a government that would impose morality on them.

    Is that it or am I just not understanding this?