Friday, September 21, 2012

What it Means to Be Conservative - Part 4: Natural Law

So far in this series, we have looked at several aspects of conservative views. I discussed why conservatives believe in limited government and free enterprise, why we abhor elitism, and how we know that wealth can be created through human creativity and work. In this fourth part of the series, we will look at a topic I have already written about: Natural Law.

Natural law is law that is higher and more basic than government. Unlike political law, which is arbitrary and made by humans, natural law proceeds from the nature of things and is thus older than government and cannot rightfully be overturned or violated by any political laws.

One of the major concepts of natural law is the concept of inalienable rights - rights that people have by virtue of their existence that cannot be given up or taken away by anyone (even government). These inalienable rights are granted by God, the Creator. However, even those who do not believe in God can agree that humans have these basic rights.

I have written a 5 part series on inalienable rights so I won't repeat all of that here, but you can read those posts to learn more about inalienable rights:

This concept of natural law explains why conservatives consider some political laws good while others are considered bad. Liberals like to pretend that we conservatives are inconsistent, liking government involvement in some areas and hating it in others without any rhyme or reason (other than our religious beliefs, perhaps). However, there is a consistent and logical basis for the positions we hold (although not all who hold these positions know the logical basis, unfortunately). Political laws that are consistent with natural law and that protect the inalienable rights of the people are good laws. Political laws that are inconsistent with natural law, whether by violating inalienable rights or placing undue restrictions on the liberty of the people, are bad laws. It's really as simple as that.

So, here is the 4th part of the video series. In it, Bill Whittle explains natural law and how it forms the basis for our American laws. He also explains how bad laws (i.e. those inconsistent with natural law) have led to the current economic problems. The one area on which I would disagree with this video (and it's probably more a disagreement with his wording than his actual viewpoint) is where he says that the Bill of Rights "protects freedoms given to us at birth." The truth is, those freedoms and rights are bestowed on us by our Creator, which means they begin at our creation - the very beginning of our existence. Since each human being begins to exist at fertilization, these rights are ours even before birth. Other than that issue, I find this video very informative and useful.


Here are all the parts of this series on What it Means to Be Conservative:

Part 1: Limited Government and Free Enterprise
Part 2: Anti-Elitism
Part 3: Wealth Creation
Part 4: Natural Law
Part 5: The Right to Bear Arms
Part 6: Legal Immigration
Part 7: American Exeptionalism


  1. Hi Lindsay,

    I enjoy reading your blog. I am wondering, how can logical conservatives justify laws that would prohibit state-sanctioned marriage between two consenting adults of the same sex? Making same-sex marriage illegal does nothing to protect anyone's inalienable rights. In fact, such laws put undue restrictions on people's liberty, therefore violating one of their inalienable rights. I don't think you've written about this particular topic, so maybe you agree with me that there is no logical argument for laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, but if you don't agree I would like to hear your justification. Thanks for your thoughts!


    1. Kiki, thanks for commenting. You ask an important question. You're right that I have not yet written on same-sex marriage here, although I have been thinking about it. I just haven't gotten to it yet. I will likely put something up soon that is more in-depth, but here are a few thoughts to get you started.

      First of all, I think you are framing the argument wrong (and it's not just you - lots of people do this). It's not a question of prohibiting same-sex relationships vs. allowing same-sex marriage. Let me explain.

      There are only 3 ways that government can treat behaviors. It can prohibit them, permit them, or promote them. Because the highest purpose of government is the protection of inalienable rights, government should NOT prohibit behaviors that the people have an inalienable right to engage in or allow behaviors that violate inalienable rights. However, there are many behaviors that are not a direct violation of inalienable rights. In such cases, government's secondary purpose is the good of society. Thus, behaviors which are definitely bad for society should be prohibited while behaviors which are definitely good for society should be promoted.

      The default position for behaviors is permitting them. Before a behavior can be prohibited, it is necessary to prove one of two things. You either have to prove that the behavior violates someone's rights or you have to prove that it is bad for society and that prohibiting it does not violate anyone's rights. You can't just willy nilly decide to prohibit something for no good reason or you violate the right to liberty. Similarly, before you can promote a behavior you must prove that it is good for society and that it does not violate anyone's rights. You can't just go around willy nilly promoting behaviors without good reason or you are not protecting the interests of society as a whole.

      So that's the background. The question is, what is government's role with regard to different kinds of human relationships? Which behaviors should be prohibited? Which should be promoted? Which should be simply permitted?

      Traditional marriage between a man and a woman has been promoted by government since the beginning because it is good for society. A traditional marriage is procreative, producing the next generation of citizens, and also forms a stable environment in which to raise those children, making them more likely to be good and responsible citizens. Thus, stable marriages are in society's best interest and government promotes this ideal by recognizing and protecting the marriage relationship and by providing economic incentives (such as tax breaks) to encourage people to marry and raise children in stable homes. It's an investment in the future.

      By contrast, homosexual relationships do not provide these benefits to society. No logical conservative is advocating that we prohibit same-sex relationships between consenting adults. We don't cart people off to jail for engaging in consensual homosexual acts, nor do we want to. However, because same-sex relationships have not been shown to be a good for society, the proper role of government with respect to same-sex relationships is to simply permit them. When conservatives talk of prohibiting same-sex marriage, what they mean is prohibiting government from promoting same-sex relationships by equating it with traditional marriage (not prohibiting people from engaging in same-sex relationships).