Conscience and the Law

Your conscience is your exclusive property. It’s the voice in your head, the feeling in your gut. It is an entity entirely internal to you. The warning bells it sounds when choices likely to lead to bad ends are near are a product of the workings of your mind. Morality is a product of your intellection; it is up to you to define right and wrong for yourself and up to you to determine in…

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A Crisis of the Soul

American politics is anthropomorphized: we speak of the polity as “the body politic,” as one living and wholistic organism. Politicians appeal to “we,” inveigling themselves into constituencies and interest groups. Legislators view law as a type of nourishment for the body politic, using government power not as a check upon infringement of the rights of the citizenry—including those done by government itself—but as a force to improve the lots of their peoples’ lives. If the…

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On Political Etiquette

Political loyalty is a poison to sober, reasoned discourse. When a primacy is placed upon loyalty as a value, substantive and complex ideologies cease to be the standard of political ethics; they are deposed in favor of slavish obedience to party elites. A political etiquette that overemphasizes loyalty courts disaster, but so does a political etiquette that rejects the value of loyalty outright. The former promotes a system of patronage, where those at the top…

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Elections are not about partisan unity

Elections are not about unity. They are about competing ideas of right and wrong vying for resonance with the populace. They are about individuals exerting their conscience and branding their interests on the way government functions. They are about local actors reminding the federal government that power flows from the bottom up under the American construction of federalism. Coalitions are an end-run to this system, a way of sidestepping the deep and serious issues facing…

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