Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why I still have doubts about Romney

A moth or so ago I drew a lot of fire by suggesting a candidates religious beliefs really do matter because government policy if affected by what we believe about morality, human nature, justice, etc. Since that time, on of the Presidential candidates, Romney, has given a number of interviews and answers clearly explaining that his beliefs as a Mormon will have no affect on public policy. For example, Romney explained that even though he is personally opposed to alcohol, he did not believe that belief should support legal prohibition. But all that did not make me feel better.

Irrelevant to public policy, then they must be using some other world view or set of ideas in deciding public policy. Based on his history, I strongly suspect Romney of being a pragmatist or opportunist (of course most of the other candidates probably have similar views). Why is that a problem? Because it means that for public decisions Romney has no principled understanding of objective moral truth, human nature, and the way things work. Instead he will do whatever he thinks will keep him in office or please “important” people. We have been running government that way most of the time since 1930 and it creates and sustains problems and errors. For example, a pragmatists running for office in 1825 would have no reason to oppose slavery or work for abolition. Today most of the pragmatists in Washington have done little of what they could do to end abortion on demand, prevent cloning, save marriage, or expand religious freedom of expression despite the fact that the majority of Americans favor these things. They just don’t think those positions “work” and they have no principled moral insight to guide them. Self interest is most of what they think about.

What could a candidate say instead of what Romney said? If he were a Christian he could have said “my faith believes a relationship with God cannot be formed as a result of human laws or force. We also believe all people commit sins. The government cannot require all virtue or punish all vice because humans cannot handle that kind of legalism. Instead, government should only regulate external acts that cause fairly serious and direct harm to the public or individuals and can be deterred much of the time. Government should only make laws that are within the capacity of most people to obey. And by the way, the moderate use of alcohol is not immoral. My faith believes that not all people will become Christians, but all people are entitled to be treated with dignity and due process. My faith believes in love and mercy and justice. My faith believes all people have been given rights to life, liberty, property, and freedom to choose among real moral goods. My faith believes that its practitioners are human, make mistakes, and are not always faithful to the principles of my faith even though they should always strive to be. My faith believes that the government is there to restrain evil and coordinate and encourage good – not to try to solve all human problems (it can’t) and not to be a source of loot for those with power and influence. Government is supposed to work for justice with mercy.” He could have said all of that if he were a Christian – and if his faith did affect his political views.


Vance Esler said...

Excellent observation.

That said, Romney seems to come closer to having a moral compass than the rest of the field.

For example, when asked about his prior support of "choice," he said that, yes, even though he was personally opposed to abortion, he tried not to impose his views. Yet when a pro-abortion bill was put on his desk, he had to ask himself, "Do I have to sign this?" He ultimately didn't.

I wish someone would have the courage to speak as you suggest. They would garner more support than they might suppose. Reagan did.

Dean McConnell said...

Thanks vance. I think Huckaby may fill the bill. If so, I hope he can get some traction. He did come in second in the Iowa straw poll.

Sacchiel said...

Now if the candidates express themselves in similar terms, I'm only going to be more suspicious. :)