It’s a useful distinction to consider. A particular moral idea governs left-wing views on social and health matters, and the left’s purpose with political advocacy is to put the power of government behind that view. By examining the left’s very different policy approaches to eating and sex, we can discern the features of the morality at work.
The left’s governmental approach to sex today involves, among other things, the following:
The suite of policies advocated by the left is designed to encourage sex but limit procreation and STDs. The social “good,” therefore, is deemed to be unfettered sex, while the social “ills” are the birth of children and the suffering (and infectiousness) incident to STDs.
Let’s compare this moral view and its program construct to the left’s policy attitude toward eating. In this latter realm, the social “ills” are thought to be obesity and the medical problems that come with it. But what is the social “good”? Is there one? It’s hard to say, because eating – which can be a most enjoyable activity, and far less avoidable than sex – is not, in the left’s moral view, considered a “good” to be promoted on whatever terms the individual prefers.
The left’s governmental treatment of eating is very different from its treatment of sex. It runs on these lines:
It is hard to make the case that eating a lot is worse than having a lot of sex outside of commitment and marriage. At the very most, the two practices are a moral wash, one no worse than the other. Both involve doing discretionary things with one’s body. Both involve courting well-known consequences. Both involve the strong potential for inconvenience to oneself and the larger community. It is making an arbitrary moral judgment, to insist that what causes obesity should be dealt with through coercion and the limiting of options, while what causes unwanted pregnancies and STDs should be the object of solicitude, and public programs based not on denial but on mitigation.
We know that eating in moderation and limiting certain foods generally results in better health than eating, indiscriminately, lots and lots of things we enjoy for only a brief moment.
But we also know that not having sex prevents pregnancy and STDs with unparalleled effectiveness. We know, moreover, that disciplining our sex drives, keeping sex within marriage, welcoming the children that come from it, and raising them with a father and mother are substantially more effective in preventing STDs, “unwanted” children, poverty, delinquency, addiction, and hopelessness than are government programs to distribute condoms and subsidize abortion providers.
If government treated obesity the way it treats sex, it would encourage schoolchildren to explore their enjoyment of Twinkies, Oreos, and moon pies; it would employ professionals to devise ways of suiting government policies to the principle that our bodies belong to us and we can put whatever we want in our stomachs; it would hold legislative hearings on the overriding importance of the freedom to eat what we want; it would resist the very idea of remedies that involve the individual eating less, or eating different things; it would pay for liposuction, cholesterol drugs, heart surgery, and diabetes-mitigation measures but not for programs of diet and exercise; it would encourage the development of drugs that could prevent fat formation regardless of what one eats; and it would make it a basic human right to be able to eat whatever one wants and have the consequences mitigated by the public.
There really is no case to be made that government should not do this. If, that is, we accept that government’s current approach to sex and its consequences is appropriate and warranted.
Ultimately, no discussion of these issues would be complete without the observation that if government – and the federal government in particular – wasn’t involved in them in the first place, it wouldn’t matter nearly as much when the people’s opinions and our moral perspectives on them differed.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Through The Looking Glass