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O people, cause no corruption in the earth and dispute not with men; for, verily, this is not worthy of those who have chosen in the shelter of their Lord a station which shall indeed remain secure. – Baha’u’llah, Tablet of the Branch.

When the Panama Papers documents initially leaked—all 11.5 million of them—they made sensational headlines all over the world. Political leaders, business tycoons and wealthy celebrities were named, identified as the principals of shell companies that hid billions of dollars from legitimate taxation. A hue and cry went up from many quarters, demanding that countries tighten their banking laws and stop serving as tax havens for the superrich. Corruption and graft figured heavily into the story, too, because many of the politicians and elected leaders had no visible source of income beyond their relatively small salaries.

It is difficult, after all, to earn a billion dollars when your salary wouldn’t add up to that much in a thousand years.

Perhaps, many pundits thought and wrote, this kind of obvious corruption will make people distrust government even further. You think?

Worldwide, confidence in governments has fallen dramatically over the last few decades. Estrangement from the political process, already at very high levels, has increasing rapidly. Protest candidates from outside the political system; a sense of powerlessness and isolation; a widespread belief that all governments are corrupt; and a general conviction that government no longer operates for the good of the people but instead serves only a wealthy elite—each of these symptoms of political alienation have demonstrated their growing strength in countries all over the world.

Polls show that the erosion of public trust in government—a worldwide phenomenon—began occurring in the 1960s, when civil unrest, assassinations, unnecessary wars and political scandals proliferated; and when the news media more readily reported on them. The Pew Research Center has asked Americans whether they trusted their government since 1958, and reports that 77% said they did in 1964—but within a decade, the level of trust plummeted to less than 25%. Today, it stands at the lowest level ever measured: 19%.

The Gallup World Poll reached similar conclusions in its recent survey of global confidence in the national governments of developed nations conducted for the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Polling across all 34 OECD member countries showed that overall trust had also decline to a new low of 40%.

A protest against government corruption takes place in Argentina.

A protest against government corruption takes place in Argentina.

In general, we don’t seem to trust our leaders—so what can we do about that lack of trust? How can we root out and get rid of the corruption that seems to plague our politics and our governments?

The Baha’i teachings offer one central solution:

It is obvious that not until the people are educated, not until public opinion is rightly focused, not until government officials, even minor ones, are free from even the least remnant of corruption, can the country be properly administered. Not until discipline, order and good government reach the degree where an individual, even if he should put forth his utmost efforts to do so, would still find himself unable to deviate by so much as a hair’s breadth from righteousness, can the desired reforms be regarded as fully established.

Furthermore, any agency whatever, though it be the instrument of mankind’s greatest good, is capable of misuse. Its proper use or abuse depends on the varying degrees of enlightenment, capacity, faith, honesty, devotion and high-mindedness of the leaders of public opinion. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 16.

The civilizing virtues of honesty, duty and loyalty so central to human progress are cultivated by the language of the heart and the voice of conscience. Legal imperatives and penalties, while essential, are limited in their efficacy. To draw upon the spiritual roots of motivation that lie at the heart of human identity and purpose is to tap the one impulse that can ensure genuine social transformation. From the Baha’i perspective, then, the emergence of public institutions that engender public trust and that are devoid of corruption is intimately bound up with the process of moral and spiritual development. As Baha’u’llah confirms: “So long as one’s nature yieldeth unto evil passions, crime and transgression will prevail.” – Overcoming Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in Public Institutions: A Baha’i Perspective, statement from the Baha’i International Community, pp. 2-3.

Ultimately, Baha’is believe, the moral character of every leader—and every human being—relies on that person’s level of spiritual development:

After the moral aspect of humanity becomes readjusted, then the greatest unity will be realized; but without this moral readjustment it is impossible to establish harmony and concord, for it is a fact that war, conflict, friction and strife are but the visible results of deterioration of morality and corruption of character. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 176-177.

The only real and lasting way to end corruption, the Baha’i teachings say, has to start with the individual:

For you I desire spiritual distinction — that is, you must become eminent and distinguished in morals. In the love of God you must become distinguished from all else. You must become distinguished for loving humanity, for unity and accord, for love and justice. In brief, you must become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world — for faithfulness and sincerity, for justice and fidelity, for firmness and steadfastness, for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world, for love toward every human being, for unity and accord with all people, for removing prejudices and promoting international peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 187.

Next: Making Governments Trustworthy Again

4 Comments

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  • May 27, 2016
    Cronyism is the natural results of having a hands on rather than a hands off laissez fairs approach to governance. People are incentivized by the power of government to be corrupt. Government official are corrupted by the temptation to sell power and people subject to government are tempted to buy power either selfishly or in self-defense from the other examples of corruption in society. Not playing the corruption game can be very dangerous as seen in the example of John McAfee living in Central America. A government official came up to him asking him for a bribe which he refused. ...This led to tons of harassment by the police, military, and judicial system of both Belize and Guatemala. He's now in America running for the Libertarian Party nomination for President. I personally think Gary Johnson will get the nomination, but the point is power corrupts. To get rid of corruption in government would require shrinking it power to become corrupt and to corrupt.
    On Morality and Moral Foundations Theory
    Researchers have found that people’s sensitivities to the six moral foundations correlate with their political ideologies. While all three of the political camps studied by Haidt are sensitive to the Fairness foundation, progressives are particularly sensitive to the Care foundation, libertarians to the Liberty foundation, and conservatives roughly equally sensitive to all six foundations. According to Haidt, this has significant implications for political discourse and relations. Because members of two political camps are to a degree blind to one or more of the moral foundations of the others, they may perceive morally-driven words or behavior as having another basis—at best self-interested, at worst evil, and thus demonize one another. Further research has shown that while members of all ideological camps have difficulty understanding others, conservatives are measurably better at understanding the point of view of progressives than vice versa, presumably because conservatives operate in a six-dimensional moral matrix that contains all of the progressives’ dimensions. This would benefit conservatives in passing an Ideological Turing Test.
    Researchers postulate that the six moral foundations arose as solutions to problems common in the ancestral hunter-gatherer environment, in particular inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflict. The three foundations unique to conservatives (Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity) bind groups together for greater strength in inter-tribal competition; the other three foundations balance those tendencies with concern for individuals within the group. With reduced sensitivity to the groupish moral foundations, progressives tend to promote a more universalist morality. In attempting to show which moral matrix is "correct", progressives and libertarians may argue that the six moral foundations arose in a now non-existent tribal environment, and their evolution lags behind modern conditions, with larger-scale cities, countries, and supranational unions. Conservatives may counter that human beings remain cognitively designed for life in groups whose size does not exceed Dunbar's number, and that it is wishful thinking to expect group competition and conflict to disappear in the foreseeable future; Haidt hypothesizes an innate but normally dormant "hive switch".
    Other moral matrices may be possible, suggested by common political parties such as environmentalists or greens on the left and fascists on the right. Moral-foundations political research focused initially on the differences between conservatives and progressives in the context of the two-party system of United States; libertarians and the Liberty foundation were added later.
    Moral Fondations Defined
    Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm.
    Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating.
    Liberty: the loathing of tyranny; opposite of oppression.
    Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal.
    Authority or respect: obeying tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion.
    Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation.
    Back to Morality and Moral Foundations
    Haidt’s initial field work in Brazil and Philadelphia in 1989, and Odisha, India in 1993, showed that moralizing indeed varies among cultures, but less than by social class (e.g. education) and age. Working-class Brazilian children were more likely to consider both taboo violations and inflictions of harm to be morally wrong, and universally so. Members of traditional, collectivist societies, like political conservatives, are more sensitive to violations of the community-related moral foundations. Adult members of so-called WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) societies are the most individualistic, and most likely to draw a distinction between harm-inflicting violations of morality and violations of convention.
    Subsequent investigations of moral foundations theory in other cultures have found broadly similar correlations between morality and political identification to those of the US. In Korea and Sweden, the patterns were the same, with varying magnitudes.
    Culture War issues where the concepts of Morality and Spirituality are divided on
    Life issues
    Abortion / Reproductive rights
    Right to die movement and euthanasia
    Stem-cell research
    Sexuality
    Age of consent
    Homosexuality, Gay rights, and Same-sex marriage
    Pornography
    Prostitution
    Sexual revolution
    Education and parenting
    Creation-evolution controversy
    Family values
    Homeschooling and Educational choice
    Corporal punishment and Child discipline, most notably spanking
    Sexual education and abstinence only education
    Drugs
    Legal drinking age
    Recreational drug use and Drug decriminalization
    Harm reduction
    Environment and Energy
    Global warming and climate change mitigation
    Society and culture
    Animal Rights
    Feminism
    Gun politics
    History wars
    Immigration
    Race, affirmative action
    Media bias in the U.S.
    Moral absolutism vs. Moral relativism
    Multiculturalism
    Permissive society
    Political correctness
    Secularism and Secularization
    Law and Government
    Capital punishment
    Law and order
    Separation of church and state
    Crypto wars
    While the culture wars issues above aren't related to corruption, they do deal with issues that are in the political realm.
    Read more...
    • May 29, 2016
      Daniel Cooper, ethics and morality need to be viewed in light of the Euthyphro Dilemma. Their relationship to God and religion varies depending on which type of the formulation you side with or which horn you take as your view.
      The Euthyphro dilemma is found in Plato's dialogue Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro, "Is the pious (τὸ ὅσιον) loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" (10a)
      The dilemma has had a major effect on the philosophical theism of the monotheistic religions, but in a modified form: "Is ...what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?" Ever since Plato's original discussion, this question has presented a problem for some theists, though others have thought it a false dilemma, and it continues to be an object of theological and philosophical discussion today.
      Socrates and Euthyphro discuss the nature of piety in Plato's Euthyphro. Euthyphro proposes (6e) that the pious (τὸ ὅσιον) is the same thing as that which is loved by the gods (τὸ θεοφιλές), but Socrates finds a problem with this proposal: the gods may disagree among themselves (7e). Euthyphro then revises his definition, so that piety is only that which is loved by all of the gods unanimously (9e).
      At this point the dilemma surfaces. Socrates asks whether the gods love the pious because it is the pious, or whether the pious is pious only because it is loved by the gods (10a). Socrates and Euthyphro both accept the first option: surely the gods love the pious because it is the pious. But this means, Socrates argues, that we are forced to reject the second option: the fact that the gods love something cannot explain why the pious is the pious (10d). Socrates points out that if both options were true, they together would yield a vicious circle, with the gods loving the pious because it is the pious, and the pious being the pious because the gods love it. And this in turn means, Socrates argues, that the pious is not the same as the god-beloved, for what makes the pious the pious is not what makes the god-beloved the god-beloved. After all, what makes the god-beloved the god-beloved is the fact that the gods love it, whereas what makes the pious the pious is something else (9d-11a). Thus Euthyphro's theory does not give us the very nature of the pious, but at most a quality of the pious (11ab).
      The dilemma can be modified to apply to philosophical theism, where it is still the object of theological and philosophical discussion, largely within the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions. As German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz presented this version of the dilemma: "It is generally agreed that whatever God wills is good and just. But there remains the question whether it is good and just because God wills it or whether God wills it because it is good and just; in other words, whether justice and goodness are arbitrary or whether they belong to the necessary and eternal truths about the nature of things."
      The first horn of the dilemma (i.e. that which is right is commanded by God because it is right) goes by a variety of names, including intellectualism, rationalism, realism, naturalism, and objectivism. Roughly, it is the view that there are independent moral standards: some actions are right or wrong in themselves, independent of God's commands. This is the view accepted by Socrates and Euthyphro in Plato's dialogue. The Mu'tazilah school of Islamic theology also defended the view (with, for example, Nazzam maintaining that God is powerless to engage in injustice or lying), as did the Islamic philosopher Averroes. Thomas Aquinas never explicitly addresses the Euthyphro dilemma, but Aquinas scholars often put him on this side of the issue. Aquinas draws a distinction between what is good or evil in itself and what is good or evil because of God's commands, with unchangeable moral standards forming the bulk of natural law. Thus he contends that not even God can change the Ten Commandments (adding, however, that God can change what individuals deserve in particular cases, in what might look like special dispensations to murder or steal). Among later Scholastics, Gabriel Vásquez is particularly clear-cut about obligations existing prior to anyone's will, even God's. Modern natural law theory saw Grotius and Leibniz also putting morality prior to God's will, comparing moral truths to unchangeable mathematical truths, and engaging voluntarists like Pufendorf in philosophical controversy. Cambridge Platonists like Benjamin Whichcote and Ralph Cudworth mounted seminal attacks on voluntarist theories, paving the way for the later rationalist metaethics of Samuel Clarke and Richard Price; what emerged was a view on which eternal moral standards, though dependent on God in some way, exist independently of God's will and prior to God's commands. Contemporary philosophers of religion who embrace this horn of the Euthyphro dilemma include Richard Swinburne and T. J. Mawson.
      Sovereignty: If there are moral standards independent of God's will, then "[t]here is something over which God is not sovereign. God is bound by the laws of morality instead of being their establisher. Moreover, God depends for his goodness on the extent to which he conforms to an independent moral standard. Thus, God is not absolutely independent." 18th-century philosopher Richard Price, who takes the first horn and thus sees morality as "necessary and immutable", sets out the objection as follows: "It may seem that this is setting up something distinct from God, which is independent of him, and equally eternal and necessary."
      Omnipotence: These moral standards would limit God's power: not even God could oppose them by commanding what is evil and thereby making it good. This point was influential in Islamic theology: "In relation to God, objective values appeared as a limiting factor to His power to do as He wills... Ash'ari got rid of the whole embarrassing problem by denying the existence of objective values which might act as a standard for God's action." Similar concerns drove the medieval voluntarists Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. As contemporary philosopher Richard Swinburne puts the point, this horn "seems to place a restriction on God's power if he cannot make any action which he chooses obligatory... [and also] it seems to limit what God can command us to do. God, if he is to be God, cannot command us to do what, independently of his will, is wrong."
      Freedom of the will: Moreover, these moral standards would limit God's freedom of will: God could not command anything opposed to them, and perhaps would have no choice but to command in accordance with them. As Mark Murphy puts the point, "if moral requirements existed prior to God's willing them, requirements that an impeccable God could not violate, God's liberty would be compromised."
      Morality without God: If there are moral standards independent of God, then morality would retain its authority even if God did not exist. This conclusion was explicitly (and notoriously) drawn by early modern political theorist Hugo Grotius: "What we have been saying [about the natural law] would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to him" On such a view, God is no longer a "law-giver" but at most a "law-transmitter" who plays no vital role in the foundations of morality. Nontheists have capitalized on this point, largely as a way of disarming moral arguments for God's existence: if morality does not depend on God in the first place, such arguments stumble at the starting gate.
      The second horn of the dilemma (i.e. that which is right is right because it is commanded by God) is sometimes known as divine command theory or voluntarism. Roughly, it is the view that there are no moral standards other than God's will: without God's commands, nothing would be right or wrong. This view was partially defended by Duns Scotus, who argued that not all Ten Commandments belong to the Natural Law. Scotus held that while our duties to God (found on the first tablet) are self-evident, true by definition, and unchangeable even by God, our duties to others (found on the second tablet) were arbitrarily willed by God and are within his power to revoke and replace. William of Ockham went further, contending that (since there is no contradiction in it) God could command us not to love God and even to hate God. Later Scholastics like Pierre D'Ailly and his student Jean de Gerson explicitly confronted the Euthyphro dilemma, taking the voluntarist position that God does not "command good actions because they are good or prohibit evil ones because they are evil; but... these are therefore good because they are commanded and evil because prohibited." Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin both stressed the absolute sovereignty of God's will, with Luther writing that "for [God's] will there is no cause or reason that can be laid down as a rule or measure for it", and Calvin writing that "everything which [God] wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it." The voluntarist emphasis on God's absolute power was carried further by Descartes, who notoriously held that God had freely created the eternal truths of logic and mathematics, and that God was therefore capable of giving circles unequal radii, giving triangles other than 180 internal degrees, and even making contradictions true. Descartes explicitly seconded Ockham: "why should [God] not have been able to give this command [i.e., the command to hate God] to one of his creatures?" Thomas Hobbes notoriously reduced the justice of God to "irresistible power" (drawing the complaint of Bishop Bramhall that this "overturns... all law"). And William Paley held that all moral obligations bottom out in the self-interested "urge" to avoid Hell and enter Heaven by acting in accord with God's commands. Islam's Ash'arite theologians, al-Ghazali foremost among them, embraced voluntarism: scholar George Hourani writes that the view "was probably more prominent and widespread in Islam than in any other civilization." Wittgenstein said that of "the two interpretations of the Essence of the Good", that which holds that "the Good is good, in virtue of the fact that God wills it" is "the deeper", while that which holds that "God wills the good, because it is good" is "the shallow, rationalistic one, in that it behaves 'as though' that which is good could be given some further foundation". Today, divine command theory is defended by many philosophers of religion, though typically in a restricted form.
      This horn of the dilemma also faces several problems:
      No reasons for morality: If there is no moral standard other than God's will, then God's commands are arbitrary (i.e., based on pure whimsy or caprice). This would mean that morality is ultimately not based on reasons: "if theological voluntarism is true, then God's commands/intentions must be arbitrary; [but] it cannot be that morality could wholly depend on something arbitrary... [for] when we say that some moral state of affairs obtains, we take it that there is a reason for that moral state of affairs obtaining rather than another." And as Michael J. Murray and Michael Rea put it, this would also "cas[t] doubt on the notion that morality is genuinely objective." An additional problem is that it is difficult to explain how true moral actions can exist if one acts only out of fear of God or in an attempt to be rewarded by him.
      No reasons for God: This arbitrariness would also jeopardize God's status as a wise and rational being, one who always acts on good reasons. As Leibniz writes: "Where will be his justice and his wisdom if he has only a certain despotic power, if arbitrary will takes the place of reasonableness, and if in accord with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in that which is pleasing to the most powerful? Besides it seems that every act of willing supposes some reason for the willing and this reason, of course, must precede the act."
      Anything goes: This arbitrariness would also mean that anything could become good, and anything could become bad, merely upon God's command. Thus if God commanded us "to gratuitously inflict pain on each other" or to engage in "cruelty for its own sake" or to hold an "annual sacrifice of randomly selected ten-year-olds in a particularly gruesome ritual that involves excruciating and prolonged suffering for its victims", then we would be morally obligated to do so. As 17th-century philosopher Ralph Cudworth put it: "nothing can be imagined so grossly wicked, or so foully unjust or dishonest, but if it were supposed to be commanded by this omnipotent Deity, must needs upon that hypothesis forthwith become holy, just, and righteous."
      Moral contingency: If morality depends on the perfectly free will of God, morality would lose its necessity: "If nothing prevents God from loving things that are different from what God actually loves, then goodness can change from world to world or time to time. This is obviously objectionable to those who believe that claims about morality are, if true, necessarily true." In other words, no action is necessarily moral: any right action could have easily been wrong, if God had so decided, and an action which is right today could easily become wrong tomorrow, if God so decides. Indeed, some have argued that divine command theory is incompatible with ordinary conceptions of moral supervenience.
      Why do God's commands obligate?: Mere commands do not create obligations unless the commander has some commanding authority. But this commanding authority cannot itself be based on those very commands (i.e., a command to obey commands), otherwise a vicious circle results. So, in order for God's commands to obligate us, he must derive commanding authority from some source other than his own will. As Cudworth put it: "For it was never heard of, that any one founded all his authority of commanding others, and others [sic] obligation or duty to obey his commands, in a law of his own making, that men should be required, obliged, or bound to obey him. Wherefore since the thing willed in all laws is not that men should be bound or obliged to obey; this thing cannot be the product of the meer [sic] will of the commander, but it must proceed from something else; namely, the right or authority of the commander." To avoid the circle, one might say our obligation comes from gratitude to God for creating us. But this presupposes some sort of independent moral standard obligating us to be grateful to our benefactors. As 18th-century philosopher Francis Hutcheson writes: "Is the Reason exciting to concur with the Deity this, 'The Deity is our Benefactor?' Then what Reason excites to concur with Benefactors?" Or finally, one might resort to Hobbes's view: "The right of nature whereby God reigneth over men, and punisheth those that break his laws, is to be derived, not from his creating them (as if he required obedience, as of gratitude for his benefits), but from his irresistible power." In other words, might makes right.
      God's goodness: If all goodness is a matter of God's will, then what shall become of God's goodness? Thus William P. Alston writes, "since the standards of moral goodness are set by divine commands, to say that God is morally good is just to say that he obeys his own commands... that God practises what he preaches, whatever that might be;" Hutcheson deems such a view "an insignificant tautology, amounting to no more than this, 'That God wills what he wills.'" Alternatively, as Leibniz puts it, divine command theorists "deprive God of the designation good: for what cause could one have to praise him for what he does, if in doing something quite different he would have done equally well?" A related point is raised by C. S. Lewis: "if good is to be defined as what God commands, then the goodness of God Himself is emptied of meaning and the commands of an omnipotent fiend would have the same claim on us as those of the 'righteous Lord.'" Or again Leibniz: "this opinion would hardly distinguish God from the devil." That is, since divine command theory trivializes God's goodness, it is incapable of explaining the difference between God and an all-powerful demon.
      The is-ought problem and the naturalistic fallacy: According to David Hume, it is hard to see how moral propositions featuring the relation ought could ever be deduced from ordinary is propositions, such as "the being of a God." Divine command theory is thus guilty of deducing moral oughts from ordinary ises about God's commands. In a similar vein, G. E. Moore argued (with his open question argument) that the notion good is indefinable, and any attempts to analyze it in naturalistic or metaphysical terms are guilty of the so-called "naturalistic fallacy." This would block any theory which analyzes morality in terms of God's will: and indeed, in a later discussion of divine command theory, Moore concluded that "when we assert any action to be right or wrong, we are not merely making an assertion about the attitude of mind towards it of any being or set of beings whatever."
      No morality without God: If all morality is a matter of God's will, then if God does not exist, there is no morality. This is the thought captured in the slogan (often attributed to Dostoevsky) "If God does not exist, everything is permitted." Divine command theorists disagree over whether this is a problem for their view or a virtue of their view. Many argue that morality does indeed require God's existence, and that this is in fact a problem for atheism. But divine command theorist Robert Merrihew Adams contends that this idea ("that no actions would be ethically wrong if there were not a loving God") is one that "will seem (at least initially) implausible to many", and that his theory must "dispel [an] air of paradox."
      Now that I have discussed both horns of the Euthyphro Dilemma and their issues, I can showcase the relationship between ethics/morality and God/religion. Unless a person subscribes to fideism and Divine Command Theory with regards to ethics/morality (which is the second horn), then one subscribes to the first horn. The first horn can be called Shared Moral Universe or Independent Ethical/Moral Standards while the second horn can be called Divine Command Theory. The first horn corresponds to Care, Fairness/Proprotionality, and Liberty while the second horn corresponds to Authortiy/Respect, Ingroup/Loyalty, and Purity/Sanctity.
      All ethical/moral theories that aren't based on the Divine Command Theory are based on the first horn. Even though not listed, I am familiar enough with the Dalai Lama to add him to the list of religious people who adhere to the first horn. Each horn listed people who adhered to each with the other side sometimes being quoted with the problem section of each horn.
      By recognizing all six traits as moral foundations, Moral Foundations Theory gives equal time to both horns, but does it in a first horn leaning kind of way.
      Contemporary philosophers Joshua Hoffman and Gary S. Rosenkrantz take the first horn of the dilemma, branding divine command theory a "subjective theory of value" that makes morality arbitrary. They accept a theory of morality on which "right and wrong, good and bad, are in a sense independent of what anyone believes, wants, or prefers." They do not address the aforementioned problems with the first horn, but do consider a related problem concerning God's omnipotence: namely, that it might be handicapped by his inability to bring about what is independently evil. To this they reply that God is omnipotent, even though there are states of affairs he cannot bring about: omnipotence is a matter of "maximal power", not an ability to bring about all possible states of affairs. And supposing that it is impossible for God not to exist, then since there cannot be more than one omnipotent being, it is therefore impossible for any being to have more power than God (e.g., a being who is omnipotent but not omnibenevolent). Thus God's omnipotence remains intact.
      Richard Swinburne and T. J. Mawson have a slightly more complicated view. They both take the first horn of the dilemma when it comes to necessary moral truths. But divine commands are not totally irrelevant, for God and his will can still have an impact on contingent moral truths. On the one hand, the most fundamental moral truths hold true regardless of whether God exists or what God has commanded: "Genocide and torturing children are wrong and would remain so whatever commands any person issued." This is because, according to Swinburne, such truths are true as a matter of logical necessity: like the laws of logic, one cannot deny them without contradiction. This parallel offers a solution to the aforementioned problems of God's sovereignty, omnipotence, and freedom: namely, that these necessary truths of morality pose no more of a threat than the laws of logic. On the other hand, there is still an important role for God's will. First, there are some divine commands that can directly create moral obligations: e.g., the command to worship on Sundays instead of on Tuesdays. Notably, not even these commands, for which Swinburne and Mawson take the second horn of the dilemma, have ultimate, underived authority. Rather, they create obligations only because of God's role as creator and sustainer and indeed owner of the universe, together with the necessary moral truth that we owe some limited consideration to benefactors and owners. Second, God can make an indirect moral difference by deciding what sort of universe to create. For example, whether a public policy is morally good might indirectly depend on God's creative acts: the policy's goodness or badness might depend on its effects, and those effects would in turn depend on the sort of universe God has decided to create.
      Basically, it's a chicken and the egg thing with regards to ethics/morality compared to religion. The first horn says ethics/morality came first and the second horn says religion came first.
      The first horn relies upon God being omniscient therefore knows ethics/morality and commands it because ethics/morality requires God to. As ethics/morality exist on their own, both religious people and believers in God can access ethics/morality via religion and belief in God as well as independent of both while secularists and disbelievers in God can access ethics/morality directly. The dilemma of times where people believed that God or a religion commanded people to ignore the dictates of ethics/morality serve as a dividing point between the horns. First horn believes in caring, liberty, and fairness in a Shared Moral Universe that runs on Indepedent Ethical/Moral Standards. Moral conversion is an example where the disconnect between ethics/morality causes a person to convert to a more ethical/moral religion. An example would be a conversion from Catholicism to Anglicanism because of a belief in LGBT rights. Criticism of religion or a specific religion or specific subset of a religion is done on ethical/moral grounds and showcase how religion conforms to the dictate of ethics/morality or not.
      The Golden Rule would still be golden even if God and religions didn't tell people to do it. This is in accord with the first horn. It would also still be golden even if God and religions told people to ignore it and contradict it. This is the flip side of the first horn. But don't worry, God and religion do in fact command the Golden Rule. It's just the command the Golden Rule because it is golden, not it being Golden because they command it.
      Buddhism and Hindiusm are weird religions to categorize on their beliefs on the existence of God. Hinduism has six orthodox philosophies which differ on this topic and allow a whole ride of stances and arguments on both sides. Buddhism ignores that and is neutral on the issue while offering arguments for neither side. Though both are types of Monism overall that by dissolving all Dualism make the existence of non-existence of God moot.
      I really hoped I explained the Euthyphro Dilemma and its implications as best as I could. If you have any more questions on the first horn, give me more questions for me to summarize it more if need be.
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    • May 27, 2016
      Daniel Cooper, as a Libertarian, I am neither a Progressive nor a Conservative. I'm specifically a natural rights or deontolgoical type rather than a consquentialist or utilitarian one. I firmly adhere to the concepts of the Non-Aggression Principle and Self-Ownership. These two concepts are the basis of all Libertarianism in a nutshell each. It's basically the notion that the ends never justify the means taken to its ultimate conclusion.
      As a former Christian (raised historically black Protestant, went to Catholic school), I'm familiar with various religious justifications for Libertarianism (Christian Libertarianism and Libertarian Christianty as well as various other ...religious equivalents in other religions). I'm Buddhist (Mahayana, Nichiren, Soka Gakkai) and Unitarian Universalist also.
      I find the Liberty/Freedom foundation to be most disrespected in American society. It's the most likely to be sacrificed in the name of some proprosed law, regulation, or other project the government is scheming up.
      Back to ethics, Immanuel Kant and his Categorical Imperative is the best example of deontolgoical ethics. It says people are always an end in and of themselves, and should never be used as a means to an end. It says that it's the perfect duty that your actions if universalized would never end in a contradiction and an imperfect duty for your actions if universalized to bring about good outcomes. Therefore, logical consitency outweighs bringing about good outcomes. Politically, this means negative liberty and rights outweigh positive liberty and rights.
      It's hard to determine the poltical ideology of famous philosophers or the past as well as ones who didn't live in a Western country. This goes for double with non-Western philosophers of the past. Laozi (Laotzu) is the best example of a possible libertarian. I could go on and on with various Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophers of the past who showed libertarian leanings in their writings. I gave the best example.
      I specify in the study of Buddhist ethics as a Buddhist myself. Mostly topics related to killing/violence (capital punishment, war, vegetarianism, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, etc) and sexuality/gender (sex, relationships, women, homosexuality/LGBT issues, etc) in Buddhist ethics, but the environments, animals, economics, and other topics are sometimes discussed.
      Christianity specific info
      Christian libertarianism describes the synthesis of Christian beliefs concerning free will, human nature, and God-given inalienable rights with libertarian political philosophy. It is also an ideology to the extent its supporters promote their cause to others and join together as a movement. In contrast to the Christian left and the Christian right respectively, they believe that charity and enforcement of personal-level morality should be the purview of the (voluntary) church and not the state. These responsibilities must not be abrogated, though any non-governmental organization (NGO) not publicly financed is free to pursue them as well.
      As with secular libertarianism, socialism, fascism, and crony capitalism are strongly opposed, as is theocracy. The latter does not include merely being influenced by Christian concepts; whereas in a theocracy, government derives its powers from a divine or religious authority directly exercising governmental control. The use of force is never justified to achieve purely political, social, or religious goals, but is reserved solely to uphold natural rights.
      Individual freedom of religion without state interference is absolutely supported regardless of one's beliefs. Nevertheless, a majority religion in a given locale could display its faith on government-owned property if it had the popular votes to do so. Public sector discrimination is strictly forbidden, while in the private sector, it is permitted, though discouraged (excepting bona fide associated costs, such as insurance rates).
      Christian libertarians believe these principles are supported by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, which are recorded in the Bible, and His criticism of the laws (Halakha) observed by the Pharisees. For example, in Jesus' day, it was prohibited to heal someone on the Sabbath, because this was considered doing actual work on the mandated day of rest and worship. He opposed the Pharisees due to their self-righteous, man-made regulations added to God's law, which they obeyed outwardly, but with the wrong inward motivation. Also, most Christians believe the ceremonial and civic laws found in the Old Testament have been superseded by the New Covenant. For these reasons, Christian libertarians may consider Jesus as the greatest libertarian in history.
      According to Andrew Sandlin, an American theologian and author, Christian libertarianism is the view that mature individuals are permitted maximum freedom under God's law. Alex Barron, an American blogger and podcast host, states that Christian libertarianism can be summed up like this: "I am as libertarian as my Christian faith allows."
      Christian (including Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic) libertarians are people who believe in maximum liberty for individuals, but recognize there are universal and objective moral truths, such as "murder is wrong." For Christian libertarians, an understanding and appreciation of these moral absolutes is formed in large part by their Christian faith. Christians in this school of political thought tend to describe such basic directives in terms of natural law or natural rights, or the law that "well formed" humans seem to come to on their own. The concept of maximum economic and political liberty under the limits of natural law as understood by theologically conservative Christianity is what forms the basis of Christian libertarian philosophy. The ideas of Christian faith and libertarian political and economic theory are somewhat in contention, but Christian libertarians are constantly trying to balance their desire for minimal involvement by the state in the affairs of individuals, and limits to behavior from Christian moral teaching.
      keeping with the fundamentals of libertarianism, laws of the state should be kept to the bare minimum. Acts that merely annoy others or slowly degrade their health might be dealt with at the local level, where the least amount of effort is needed to initiate or oppose change.
      There is great concern that even in relatively free societies, laws and regulations are becoming increasingly numerous, irrelevant, and too complex for the average person to understand. While those on the Christian right may wish to outlaw what they see as immoral, this only makes the public more accustomed to having to deal with new laws. Thus, it "opens the floodgates" for social liberals, progressives, and non-libertarian secularists to pass their own laws when they are in control of the government, rather than having an aversion to all new laws.
      As Jesus did not call upon the political and legal authorities to enforce piety or discourage sinful behavior, Christian libertarians do not believe in a political mandate to Christianize culture. Behavior considered sinful by the Church—but which does not violate the lives, liberty, or property of others—must be disciplined within the Church itself. (This includes family discipline in the case of minor children.) Even if such behavior warrants cultural opposition amongst the general public, it must not be prohibited by the state. Only actions which legitimately constitute various forms of physical assault, tangible theft (including destruction/desecration), or fraudulent schemes may be criminalized and prosecuted, as these alone infringe upon the natural rights of others. Due to the large taxpayer expense to house nonviolent offenders, and immoral "prison culture," Christian libertarians generally maintain that only violent criminals and those who have demonstrated a willingness to transgress the natural rights of their neighbors should be quarantined from society and incarcerated. On an international scale, non-interventionism is promoted based upon the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination. The right of people to immigrate (without public assistance) is fully supported, as is free trade.
      While there may be a need for police, prosecutors, and prisons to uphold natural rights, these should not be so numerous and costly to enforce laws beyond natural rights. This becomes a burden for taxpayers, and affects churchgoers ability to give to their local church and support missions. The prohibition of drugs, for example, takes away funds from the church and gives them to the state, while greatly increasing violence due to the illicit drug trade. While drug abuse is considered immoral, it is within the realm of the church, and not the state. In addition, libertarians do not support civil asset forfeiture, as it can easily affect the innocent with very limited due process and costly legal fees.
      Advocating legalization of what is sinful can put Christians in a difficult position. There is always the concern non-believers may misinterpret that whatever is being legalized is now permissible. While many on the Christian right believe that God still judges nations, Christian libertarians find no basis for this in the New Testament. Both agree nations were judged in Old Testament times, but is a matter of contention whether it applies to the present day. Inevitably, the Christian right becomes alarmed when moral laws are abandoned, as they feel their nation will suffer. Christian libertarians, on the other hand, believe that under the New Covenant, God judges only individuals. Nations become prosperous when they uphold and enforce the natural rights of the people. Maximum freedom from state interference must be preserved, and laws for the sole sake of morality need not exist.
      Unlike the versions of socialism or welfare statism traditionally favored by the Christian left, libertarians generally see no need for government-provided social services. These activities are best entrusted to private nonprofit organizations, which include churches and faith-based charities. This does not mean libertarians want to see governmental services shut down overnight, but, rather, phased out as soon as possible when nonprofits become capable of doing this work. Voluntary giving is more just and efficient than forced redistribution of wealth through taxation – as whatever is taxed, less of it will be produced. Christian libertarians believe public welfare is an ineffective means to lift the financially struggling out of poverty. This carries with it negative unintended consequences, such as people being less willing to obtain higher education or employment, or having more children than they would otherwise. Saving money beyond token amounts is often prohibited for those on public assistance, leading to unwise financial habits.
      School choice including parochial schools for primary and secondary education is advocated over mandated government-run schools at taxpayer expense. The spontaneous order of the free marketplace is always preferable to central planning. Over-regulation of business reduces productivity and increases unemployment, while enabling new possible avenues of corruption. Similarly, minimum wage laws hurt younger, less qualified workers, and cause price hikes even on the poor. Free individuals are in a much better position to rationally pursue their own interests than those who are being dictated to by a strong-armed central government. The state should not prohibit unwise personal, financial, or medical decisions, nor prosecute those who encourage them (short of fraud), as this is within the realm of the church.
      Other differences include the support of the individual right to keep and bear arms for defense. Being wealthy is not a problem for Christian libertarians. Only the love of money (not money in itself) is considered a sin.
      With respect to environmental concerns, libertarians largely view regulatory policies and the politicization of Creation Care as only superficially "green" and essentially corporatist. Often, they cite the large-scale pollution and environmental degradation caused by governments as a reason to minimize the activities and role of the state in society (see also green libertarianism and free-market environmentalism).
      Christian libertarians are generally opposed to relatively free countries relinquishing their sovereignty to international governing bodies such as the United Nations, as many in the movement believe this paves the way for authoritarian world government. Internationalism is perceived as a threat to free speech and expression, freedom of religion, self-defense rights, right to a fair trial, and the like. Among dispensationalist Protestants, this trend of political and economic centralization on a global scale tends to be cast in eschatological terms with connections being drawn to "the Beast" described in the Book of Revelation.
      Okay, while the above info is Christian specific, the principles can and could apply to any specific religion. I study Hinduism and Buddhism a lot, thought I studied and continue to study all religions as well.
      Books I Reccomend
      Brian Pagrick Mitchell's Eight Ways to Run the Country
      David Boaz's Libertarianism
      Virginia Postrell's The Future And Its Enenies
      Friedrich Hayek's The Road To Serfdom
      Lots more, but those minimum books are a good start.
      The morality and ideology of libertarianism, beyond what I have mentioned earlier, is very hard to explain to people who haven't read lots and lots of libertarian authors which is only done by libertarians, potential libertarians considering it, and others doing opposition research (which is the rarest group). Given libertarians are neither left nor rights, and most people view everything in terms of left versus right aka progressive versus conservative, libertarians are mostly ignored. David Boaz's The Politics Of Freedom and various of his other books covers this.
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    • May 27, 2016
      Stephen, you have presented a lot to think about. I had to do some research to figure it out, and I learned some things.
      Corruption such as bribery seems to involve governmental power, as you said. Some other forms of corruption, such as theft and violent behavior, are more likely if there is not enough governmental power.
      I usually consider myself to be progressive, and I am most concerned about Care and Fairness. I think this is more a function of the society in which I find myself, than of me. These things are particularly discounted ...in my (non-Baha'i) surround. If the more conservative foundations were more discounted, I would consider myself to be conservative in that environment.
      Moral Foundations theory seems based on the idea that morality has evolved, either biologically or culturally. It does not consider the possibility that morality is divinely guided, but divine guidance does seem to be a major factor in most religious peoples' understanding of morality. I would go so far as to propose an evolutionary basis to religion. Societies with a religion which provides a coherent world view and a basis for moral behavior have been more successful. For example, I think that monotheistic religions have superseded polytheistic ones because they provide a more coherent world view.
      I am afraid that our society is moving away from all of the moral foundations. Many people who I know or read about seem not to value any kind of morality. They call themselves liberal or conservative based on their tribal associations, rather than any moral or ideological basis.
      I believe that "any agency whatever, though it be the instrument of mankind’s greatest good, is capable of misuse." It is not so much a matter of how much or how little government we have, but rather how well the government is run and how well it respects its citizens.
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