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If you vote your personal morals are you voting against personal freedom

  1. Aug 12, 2005 #1
    It is not a poll I would simply like some feedback from the community here.

    I was listening to the radio this morning and someone made this argument.

    (And I paraphrase)
    If you don't believe in the right to have a medically assisted suicide, then don't get one. However don't prevent me from getting one if I want.

    I have to go now.

    Looking forward to reading your comments
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2005 #2
    I agree 100% with the person. Nothing pisses me off like people who try to impose their morals on others.
  4. Aug 12, 2005 #3


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    As I stated previously in the thread on separation of church and state: An individual's rights end where another individual's rights begin. If we look at individual rights in the purest sense, as long as an individual is not causing harm to another individual than they have the right to do as they choose.

    Suicide is illegal in the U.S., and the validity of this law has been questioned. You really can't stop someone from taking their own life, and afterward you certainly can't punish the person. However, someone who assists and remains alive, here is the real situation to look at.

    These scenarios usually are in cases of terminal illness, and often prolonged suffering. We feel it humane to end the suffering of an animal, but we struggle with doing so in regard to our own kind. Terri Schiavo is a recent and good example. The feeding tube was removed, and IMO it was the thing to do, because most of us would have wanted the same thing done if it had been us. Though I feel slow death by starvation was not right--maybe lethal injection?
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  5. Aug 12, 2005 #4


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    That individual rights ought to be protected is also a moral stance, no?
  6. Aug 12, 2005 #5
    Perhaps. But the protection of individual rights is well accepted as a vital part of any "enlightened" system of government. Some things are just obvious: if you don't want to country to fall into a state of death and destruction, you have to outlaw murder. The belief that humans shouldn't kill each other is a moral belief, but one essential to the stability and success of modern society. In truth, every law is moral, in the sense that laws define what is right and what is wrong.

    Anyway, I don't think many people would object to having their individual rights protected. But laws based on very specific moral codes, like that of Christianity, are unacceptable to a large number of people.
  7. Aug 12, 2005 #6


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    The danger in allowing this form of euthanasia is where do you start and where do you end? A few obvious quandaries are; somebody suffering from severe depression might well genuinely feel that they want to die but with treatment they could overcome the depression and be very glad that people ignored their request made while ill. Another case is where a relative who stands to gain has in some way influenced the choice of the wouldbe suicide. Another example would be where doctors are involved in the decision making whilst their own opinions are biased by resource funding.

    In the specific example you mention whilst I see the point of view of the person talking it reminds me of the guy (who's name I forget - Gary something?) who was on death row in America for years. He insisted on his right to be executed which duly happened but also opened the floodgates for hundreds more people on death row to be executed who very much did not want to be.

    Far safer to leave assisted suicide illegal and if a case does come to court judge it on it's individual merits.
  8. Aug 12, 2005 #7


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    The concept of morals would be meaningless if everyone got to decide what constituted "moral".
  9. Aug 12, 2005 #8
    This sentance is confusing. Are you saying that the concept of morals would be meaningless if each person got to decide for themselves what is and is not moral, or are you saying that this would be the case if, somehow, everyone agreed on a single description of morality? Or something else entirely?
  10. Aug 12, 2005 #9


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    Well this is a rather impossible thread to give a yes/no reply to.

    Peoples morality ranges from, as I've said before, 15th century medieval Christianity morals that dictate women not show any skin and that cursing should be a jailable offense down to modern day ultra-liberal morals where anything and everything should be allowed and encouraged besides maybe a couple of things like murder. Since everyones morals are pretty much spread inbetween the 2 extremes, a democracies job should be to set up a system of laws that are objectionable to the least # of people. The ironic part is that if you did subscribe to the laws wanted by the extreme 'do anything and everything' view, you actually are creating a dictatorship ruled by the immoral. I say its a dictatorship because since most people don't want that, your inevitably letting a few people rule over the many.

    Of course, you then run into the problem of defining what "freedom" is along with the debate of whether an extremely free society is actually counterproductive and harmful. One persons freedom might be a restriction to another person. Say for example, the misnomer of seperation of church and state. Cases have already been brought up saying that christmas plays for children at school carnivals or whatever are violating someones "freedom from religion" no matter how voluntary it is. Now, on the other hand, the people who want the play could easily say their freedoms to do their little plays are being infringed. Now, if you subscribe to the extreme view that the Constitution seperates people from religion as many people think, you have just shown how laws MUST infringe on someones idea of freedom in certain cases. Theres no way around it. Person A's feelings of freedom are in direct contradiction to Person B's feelings of freedom. Is anyones views more valid then the other? No. Are they both based on their feelings of morality? Yes. Is any human more of a human then any other human? No. Clearly a contradiction. So this shows how laws and societies must be defined based on the will of the majority. Why force ourselves to live with something we don't want to live with.

    As for counterproductivity, at some point you will reach a level of freedom where a society starts breaking down. People will soon insist that they deserve a freedom from set working hours or a freedom from being fired or a freedom from paying taxes or a freedom from worrying about the environment or a freedom from raising their own children. Obviously no society has ever come very close to this but its applicable to point out in this kind of discussion.

    The good thing though is that there are many societies on earth that mostly have basic foundations in their laws. What most people tend to do is push and pull those laws slightly into their favors. Now, if someone feels the laws have been taken too far out of their own moral views and desires for freedom, they most likely will have the choice of going to another society where the foundation of laws is more to their liking or where the 'push' 'pull' of the laws is more in their favor.
  11. Aug 12, 2005 #10
    Wait, are you saying that if a few people impose absolute freedom on the majority, they're actually being dictators? This doesn't seem logical. The only objection we have to dictatorship is that it inevitably leads to the loss of rights. This isn't the case here.

    That's the point, in some sense. If we allow a group of people to impose their beliefs (i.e. their "freedom") on others, then the others are being restricted. But if you allow a reasonable amount of freedom to all (that is, keep only laws that aren't based on the morals of a narrow set of people), then nobody is restricted, right?

    I agree that these things are often taken to extremes. However, a religious school play is not the same as one's right to choose to die with dignity or one's right to have an abortion. After all, if you don't believe in God, then you shouldn't have to wait until "God" decides that it's your time to go, just to satisfy a bunch of Christians who you've never met and who don't know anything about you.

    That laws must infringe on certain peoples' freedom is self-evident. That's their purpose. They prevent you from doing things that are detrimental to society as a whole or that interfere with others' rights.

    You say that no person's freedom is more important than any other person's. Then, you go on to say that we should restrict some people's freedom because there are less of them. This seems logical, but consider this: why do you need to restrict anyone's freedom (within reason) at all? By allowing abortion, for instance, you aren't restricting the freedom of pro-life people. They still have the choice between getting an abortion or not. You're expanding the freedom of those who support abortion, since they now have the freedom to get an abortion or not, while before, they didn't.

    This is an extreme example that won't follow from giving people the right to medically-assisted suicide, for instance. No more than will communism follow from imposing limits on the length of the work day. As far as your example goes, however, I agree with you.

    You mean like proponents of Democracy in Iran could just escape the country and forget about their attempts to bring representational government to their country? Of course people could leave the U.S. if they disagree with the laws. But this is contrary to the spirit of Democracy. They shouldn't have to leave the country because of such a petty disagreement: this is why democracy provides the minority with certain protections.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  12. Aug 12, 2005 #11


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    What do you mean this "isnt the case". I thought we're talking about the all-encompassing idea of voting personal morality.

    Some might feel restricted! Someone, as in most situations in life, is always left unsatisfied but the main goal in a society is to keep as many people satisfied to the highest degree. Obviously, not everyone is going to be satisfied but its a give and take situation that we all readily agree with when we decide to live in a society.

    Again, I am talking about the all-encompassing idea. Your missing the point. If you live in a society, you should accept their laws or try to get them changed. Of course, since this is an all-encompassing idea, there are bound to be cases where it just doesn't work that way. You can argue for abortion and euthanasia all you wan't but im simply stating my opinion on the idea of this thread, not the case that it brought up. Hell if you want to kill yourself, go kill yourself. I find it odd that people actually fail in their attempts to kill themselves (no large buildings where they live?) so why not just go and end your own life on your death bed if the idea comes up.

    Morality. Some people certainly don't want to live in a society where people are allowed to kill children at will. Its the same as people not wanting to expose their kids to such awesomely sweet games as Grand Theft Auto. Your restricting childrens freedom to do what they want but we all readily accept this. Freedom can mean restriction you know. If we want to live with the freedom to breathe clean untained air, a lot of corporations will be restricted. The people who live and breathe that air dont work or know the companies or care about that companies profits and the companies dont really care what the people want other then what their marketing staff tells them (and usually for example, wal-mart cares little about how their patrons feel about say, deforestation). Same situation and obviously, laws have touched on it. If you don't like it, there are societies who feel different and if the idea is important enough to you, you can indeed change societies.

    And it was not meant to. This again, is a reply to the general idea of personal morals and laws.

    I don't think you actually read what I said or didn't understand what i mean. The "push and pull" is what most people do in societies where the laws have some problems. By push and pull, i mean you go out and protest or write congressmen or support candidates that believe in what you believe in. This is democracies finest quality. And one misconception about the minority having protections is that it is the majorities will for them to have these protections. The reason the minority has protections is simply because the majority decided they should. At any point, the majority can take those rights away and there is, as far as anyone can tell, nothing the minority can readily do about it. I mean with all jokes and ideology aside, what could say, christians do if they became the minority and the US Congress amended the Constitution to say that all religious practice is banned completely. There the minority.... laws arent set-in-stone laws like say, the laws of physics. We CANT decide that protons are no longer positively charged but we CAN decide the Constitution of the United States can ban all religious practice, public or private. What can ya do? nothing, its the majority, they run the society no matter how you slice it. You can protest and lobby of course but if you can't get it changed that way... thats it, nothing you can do really. Only thing left to do is for the idea of society breaking down as a civil war breaks out.

    As far as restrictive dictatorships such as Iran go... if the dictatorship represents a minority... or hell, even a majority that prevents border-crossings at all cost.... thats where societal breakdowns are common and justifiable. The ideal society allows people to come and leave as they please and if this is not applicable to a society, you obviously run the risk of a civil war. This has been evident throughout history. Restrictive societies that do not allow free-movement don't normally go through very long periods where intranational affairs are calm and peaceful.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  13. Aug 12, 2005 #12


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    Philosophical rigor is generally not practiced in political discussions. The vast majority of the time, when people say they don't want other's "personal" morals being imposed on them by law, they really just mean that they don't want a given set of religious values influencing legislation.
  14. Aug 13, 2005 #13
    As far as the US goes, this is extremely untrue. The minority has rights and protections because they're guaranteed in a constitution. It is contradictory to imagine that the majority 'allows' them these freedoms - on the contrary, a mob-rule democracy would see the majority completly squish the minority at every opportunity. The judicial branch is what upholds the consitution - definitely not the congressional majority. Congress could try to ban religion or create a Theocracy, they could try to get a supermajority in favor of it, they're still powerless against the courts. Stack the courts with people like Roberts... think it'll make any difference? Roberts won't uphold a "make-Chrisitanity-mandatory" bill, it's absurd. No judge will. No judge will let a 'ban on religion' occur either. I'd bet my shoes on it.

    This is extremely basic civics by the way, they teach this in 5th grade textbooks.

    A non-example. Things like banning Christmas plays are highly contraversial, and are not a legitimate example of what 'seperation of church and state' means. It's not a misnomer - there are extremely legitimate issues and tests of it right now, as in the "teaching creationism in the guise of 'intelligent design'". It takes on new dimensions of meaning if you expand your narrow worldview to consider states where there is no state/church seperation - most of the Arabian peninsula, Iran, etc.

    It doesn't. It seperates the state from religion. It explicitly prohibits congress from restricting, endorsing, or infringing upon religious worship (up to the point where it infringes on common law).
    The result of this is, among other things, people can seperate themselves from religion if they choose to.

    So different peoples' rights can infringe on each other... well done! We've known that since the time of ancient Sumer! That's what the judicial branches are for - to resolve these kinds of disputes. We have legal precedents that determine things like, XYZ's pesticide factory has every right to exist, but they most dispose of their waste properly, and if they dump cyanides in the Mississippi river, they lose their operating licenses. So here's the question - what should the legal standards be for the rights of terminally ill cancer patients to die painlessly vs. the rights of evangelicals to ensure the whole world obeys their religious precepts?
  15. Aug 13, 2005 #14
    What is the right thing to do in this situation? Suppose you borrowed your friend's gun to do some hunting or something. Since you're a firm believer in repecting other people's property, you want to give it back to that person and you bring it to thier house, but you notice that that person is feeling pretty down in the dumps. Your friend has made a point that he/she really wants the gun back. What do you do?
  16. Aug 13, 2005 #15
    You mean, if I strongly suspect them to be suicidal? I certainly wouldn't given them their gun then, for obvious reasons. The fact that he/she owns it really makes no difference. And how is this relevant to this discussion about assisted suicide? There is no comparison between terminally ill people with painful, degnerative disease, and otherwise healthy, clinically depressed suicidal people. Idiotic comparison, really.
  17. Aug 13, 2005 #16
    Only because the majority chooses to enforce the constitution.
  18. Aug 13, 2005 #17
    I would define that as a value, it is however values that make up a persons moral code.
  19. Aug 13, 2005 #18
    I mean that there is no loss of rights if we give some reasonable amount of moral freedom to everyone.

    Restricted and unsatisfied are two different things. The Christian Right will be unsatisfied if medically-assisted suicide and abortion are legalized and kept legal, respectively. They won't be restricted. The deathly ill and women, respectively, will be restricted if these two things aren't legal.

    The problem emerges when we have laws that aren't necessary to protect people, but only exist to satisfy the often narrow moral ideals of a subset of the entire population.

    You said yourself that there are no absolutes in this matter. Why contradict yourself here? The fact is, these laws can be seperated into two categories:
    1) Those that are necessary to the continuity of society
    2) Those that serve only to satisfy the morals of certain people
    The latter don't make sense when the alternative is to give everyone the freedom to act on moral issues as they wish.

    As for death: the key word in what I was saying is "dignity." Jumping off of a building is not dignified, according to many people. Nor can most of those who really want assisted suicide do it themselves: they are incapacitated, restricted to a bed, slowly wasting away.

    Are you just ignoring everything I've said? I agree that some laws are necessary, including many of those based on morality (murder, for instance). Your second point doesn't really apply. I'm not talking about what one could call "inalienable" rights (in your case, a good quality of life). I'm talking about the rights to do things that are not really harmful. The Christian Right (for instance) finds abortion and assisted suicide objectionable on grounds of morality. This is what I mean. How will it effect you or anyone else in a negative sense if people who are terminally ill are allowed to choose their time of death, so they can be surrounded by family at the end?

    The minority has these protections because they're written into the bloody Constitution, not because the majority grants them. This is why, for instance, we have the system of checks and balances: no single branch of government is allowed to become too powerful because of the possibility that a single party will take over and restrict the rights of the minority so as to create a one-party state.

    This couldn't happen any more than the Christian majority today can make Christianity mandatory. In any case, it's a different issue entirely. I'm not proposing that we impose anything on anyone. I advocate exactly the opposite: that we "unimpose" regulations based on narrow moral codes.

    I was making an analogy in an attempt to show that what you said about people leaving the country when they are dissatisfied is not something that should be necessary or encouraged.
  20. Aug 13, 2005 #19
    Sure, but this discussion is about democratic-type governments. Of course the majority or the guy with the biggest gun could potentially destroy a democracy and impose a dictatorship of some sort, but then none of what we're talking about applies anymore. Anyway, that's why we have such things as checks and balances: if the minority controls at least one branch of government, it becomes difficult or impossible to impose dictatorship.

    In other words, the majority isn't supposed to control all three branches of government. :wink:
  21. Aug 13, 2005 #20
    I agree with this assertion. No one has perfect morals, so therefore they should not try and impose them on others through political means

    The example I paraphrased belonged to the person who called the radio show. It was meant only as an example of an argument in support of a moral vote being a vote against personal freedom. (Since I was in a hurry and needed a quick argument...sorry.. :blushing: )

    I would prefer to keep the thread on topic if possible. I promise to be more thoughtful in the future.
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