In a society that prizes liberty and property above all other things, what constitutes morality?
In a moral society, any competent adult should be free to do as they please, with the only condition being that they cause no physical or financial harm to another. The astute reader will be quick to note that I do not mention “emotional” harm, and that is with good reason; emotional harm cannot be quantified or even rigorously defined. As an utter intangible, it cannot be used as a rational standard in any discussion of public policy. The free person should be encouraged to avoid causing unnecessary emotional pain as a standard of everyday living, but the government cannot and should not be the arbitrator of behavior affecting such an ephemeral.
In a moral society, competent people are expected to support themselves. A moral society must not force free persons to labor longer and harder for the benefit of others who can produce but do not. Only government has the legal power to initiate force, and only government has the power to confiscate a portion of a free person’s income and wealth. (Yes, confiscate is the correct word; government compels taxation by the implied use of force. If you doubt that, stop paying taxes, and see how long it is before agents of government, men with guns, come looking for you, to either force payment or fling you into jail.) It is immoral for government to use that power to confiscate income and wealth for no better reason than redistributing it to the indigent – and it is perhaps the height of immorality for politicians to use that power to purchase votes, which is precisely how many political campaigns are run today.
In a moral society, the only acceptable form of financial interaction is free trade. In free trade, persons exchanges value for value, voluntarily, with both parties realizing gain from the transaction. This is how wealth grows in a society. If a transaction is conducted by force, that is robbery. If it is conducted by deceit, that is fraud. Any instance of the two should be punished. Other than that, markets, not government, must be the only arbiter of success in business. Why? Businesses can persuade the consumer, but only government can compel. Since they have this power, government must not be allowed to prop up failing businesses or even failing industries; government must not dispense favors in the form of subsidies to businesses or industries they favor, or slap regulations and conditions on businesses or industries they disfavor. As there is a wall of separation between church and state, so should there be a wall of separation between the government and the free market.
In a moral society, no person should be compelled by threat of government force to engage in business or otherwise associate with persons they find morally objectionable. This happens today and is all the more egregious because it is so unevenly applied; it is acceptable for college campuses to have dormitories restricted to one ethnic group, but it is not acceptable for a Christian baker to refuse to cater a gay wedding. It is acceptable for a halal butcher to refuse to provide pork for sale, but it is not acceptable for a Jewish bookstore to decline to stock and sell Korans. We are either a free people or we are not, and increasingly in matters of freedom of association, it has become clear that some people, some groups are far more free than others – and this is not indicative of a moral society. If I were to open a restaurant, for example, I would refuse to serve patrons who refused to remove their headgear at the table, and that would be my choice – if I lost business because of it, on my head be it (pun not intended), but the choice – and the consequences thereof – must be mine alone. It is morally consistent, therefore, to assert the right of a businessperson to discriminate against patrons for any reason of their choosing, and in the next day to join the throngs of protestors that form in the street in front of his storefront to shut the bigoted son of a bitch down.
In a moral society, the products of a free person’s labor belong to themselves first. Government should only take what is strictly required for narrowly defined roles – such as national defense, border security, coining currency, dealing with foreign powers, and so on. Note that all legitimate roles of government have one thing in common: The protection of private property. This completes the two essential elements of a free, moral society: Liberty and property.
In a moral society, the free person has one right above all others: The right to protect their own existence. Your life is the most precious property you can ever possess, and so the rights associated with that life must be the ones we guard most jealously. Liberty and property are meaningless without life itself, and protection of life is a moral imperative. That translates in modern terms to the right to self-defense and, by proxy, the defense of others. We have militaries and police forces to aid in this moral imperative, but in the final analysis, it is the right and responsibility of all competent, free people to take responsibility for their own defense and the defense of their loved ones. For this right to have any meaning, a free person must have access to a reasonable means of self-defense. That means arms. There is therefore a moral right to possess and bear arms outside the home for purposes of self-defense and for defense of the community, and that right, as stated in the Constitution, shall not be infringed.
Personally, I do not need a god to tell me these things; I find these facts to be self-evident. I live by the moral standards I mention above, I advocate for those standards, and I think (I do not feel, I do not believe, I think) that these standards apply to us due to our existence as moral, thinking beings.
Unfortunately, it is in the nature of government to grow ever more restrictive, ever more intrusive and ever more dominating. It is also in the nature of government to reduce liberty, and in so doing to become ever less tolerant of individual moral decisions. That is the pass at which we find ourselves today, and if you are a student of history, an examination of other societies at similar times does not give one much cause for optimism.