The law based on the will of the people is not necessarily moral


“If the government is that foolish to do so, I don’t know what kind of country that would be, but that’s legal and if it’s constitutional, so be it.”

These are the words of Senator Inoue in an interview with Jan Helfeld.  Helfeld was attempting to expose the inconsistencies in the senator’s arguments about taxation and the government’s use of force against peaceful people.  Helfeld skillfully allows Inoue to talk himself directly into a corner, leading to answers that are completely contradictory and sometimes downright funny.

So we can chuckle all we want about these shoddy answers, but I do think that the general consensus among people is that Inoue is correct.  We’re used to the idea of government in our lives, so we never question its existence or authority.  And when we’re presented a counterargument like the one Helfeld lays out, we have no way of responding.

Like many liberty-oriented individuals, I’ve discussed the role of government, especially taxation, with a lot of pro-government people.  At the end of the day, the usual defense of government is “Well, that’s what the law is.”

“Because that’s what it is” is never a good argument.

Let’s say that a young child approaches you and me and asks for the sum of two and two.  You tell him that the answer is four and say that the reason is because two plus two is four.  I say that the answer is five with my reason being “because the answer is five.”

Who should the child believe?  Neither one of us provided suitable evidence to prove our answers.

So move back to the topic of government.  If I argue that taxation is immoral because it involves the initiation of force against peaceful individuals, it is not proper to respond by saying that it is moral because it is the law of the land.  You’re begging the question that the law is always moral.  The same goes for claiming that taxation is the will of the people.  This was the essence of Senator Inoue’s argument.

What is the “will of the people” anyway?  In order for a collection of people to create rules for their society, how many of them need to be in agreement?  Does every single person need to agree?  According to our own country and government, that answer is clearly no.  So it must mean a majority of the people.  Is it the plurality or an absolute majority?

Is this even moral?  Ruling via a voting system where people do not have the option of opting out of the collective can lead to disastrous consequences.  Surely it’s wrong for 60% of people to vote to kill the other 40%, so why is it also not wrong for 60% of voters to decide that the other 40% are limited to the amount of soda they can purchase?

Inoue suggested that if a law is considered constitutional, it is permissible.  Let’s assume that the United States Constitution is in fact a moral document as it was originally written.  It is perfectly legitimate to change the Constitution as there are methods described within it to do so.  What happens if the will of the people is such that the Constitution is amended to say that left-handed people be terminated?  This could be achieved through completely legal means.  If your claim is that the will of the people authorizes the government to create laws, how can you argue against the people legitimately creating a law that is so obviously immoral?

The problem here is that these types of views lack any sort of underlying principles.  So many commonplace views today are completely contradictory.  You cannot threaten violence against me if I refuse to allow you to take money from me.  But just change the “you” to “the government” and it is an accepted part of life.  By taking the position that the law is the basis of your philosophy, the only consistency you will have is that you will continuously be compromising your own morals.