It’s really quite simple: just ask yourself, “Is this action something that I would willingly do to another person had I the capability to do it myself?” That’s it. Government action, like any other collective action, is beholden to the same moral standards that you would ascribe to yourself or any individual. The government earns no special dispensation or privilege.
This is because that which we call “the government” is not a real thing. That is to say, is has no agency, it cannot make decisions or perform actions, and lacks moral culpability. It is merely a constructed idea, a figment, a generalization born of efficiency. This does not necessarily delegitimize the use of the term; I’m not above referring to the government and the things that “it does”; it’s convenient. But it is essential to always bear in mind that government policies, procedures, and actions are carried out by its agents, who are individuals. When you ask for or expect action from the government what you are truly doing is seeking a proxy to perform tasks that you are either unwilling or unable to do yourself. Is the action something that you would find personally immoral and couldn’t imagine doing yourself in any circumstance? Then why would it be moral to ask someone to do it for you or even to acquiesce to their doing it on your behalf without offering protest? Continue reading