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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Political Cities

The Bay Area Center for Voting Research has the results. The most liberal city in the U.S.? Detroit. (New York comes in at #21, and Boston at #24). The most conservative city? Provo, Utah (followed in quick succession by most of Texas).

And the most schizophrenic state? California has four of the top ten most-liberal cities, but also six of the top twenty most-conservative. No other state can come close to that level of internal indecision.

Posted by Kaimi Wenger on August 11, 2005 at 03:55 PM in Kaimi Wenger, Law and Politics | Permalink

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Comments

This is very interesting. What strikes me is how significantly more culurally and economically prominent the list of liberal cities is compared to the conservative ones. The liberal cities are generally much larger, are more widely known as major tourist destinations, and are more major economic centers than the conservative ones. I don't want to start a nasty liberal vs. conservative debate, so I urge all folks replying to my comment to please post considerate replies, not my-political-party's-cities-are-better-than-yours braggadocio. But I wonder if there are any explanations for the stark differences in the nature of these two lists of cities. So Kaimi, sorry for posing a politically-charged question to make your moderating more difficult, but I couldn't resist thinking about what might explain the differences.

Posted by: Daniel Solove | Aug 11, 2005 4:34:49 PM

I think that short answer is that liberals are more inclined to be city folk, while conservatives are more inclined to be country (or at least suburbs) folk. That's terribly oversimplified, I know, but there's at least some truth to it.

Of the top-10 population cities, three are on the liberal list (New York, Chicago, and Philly). None are on the conservative list; you've got to go down to #62 on the conservative list before you hit a top-10-population city (Houston).

Posted by: Kaimi | Aug 11, 2005 5:07:49 PM

I agree that this is the most simple explanation, but I also wonder why it is that this trend exists. Is it just happenstance that conservatives prefer the country and liberals prefer the city? Why isn't there at least one really major metropolitan city in the U.S. that makes the conservative Top 25?

Posted by: Daniel Solove | Aug 11, 2005 5:19:16 PM

Well, there's also some ambiguities in terms of metropolitian areas on that list. The most blatant example: the "city" of Orange in CA is very much a part of Los Angeles in all but name. Much the same can be said for Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, etc. etc. etc. -- all suburbs of LA. (In fact, I think it's totally misleading to credit them with a meaningful separate existence.)

That makes me wonder if some of the little cities on the conservative list aren't also really suburbs of big cities, as opposed to "rural." In particular, I wonder if some of those texas cities aren't really Dallas or Houston. I don't know enough about Texas demographics/geography to tell. For similar reasons, it's a bit absurd to count San Francisco, Berkeley, AND Oakland. Or Boston AND Cambridge. Metro areas make much more sense than cities.

Some of the items are also wildly implausible. (Admittedly, this is my impression rather than their empiricism, but still...) Hartford as liberal? That makes me wonder about their methodology, and if they counted votes for cryptocons like Lieberman as "liberal" votes. I'm also VERY surprised to see some cities left off the liberal column, particularly Duluth MN (a.k.a. hippie-topia) and Portland (or Eugene or Ashland), OR.

Still, another thing worth noting about the urban/rural split is that a lot of the liberal cities are old industrial towns (Gary and Detroit most obviously) with presumably some big union presence still. Still others have a heavy African-American, Latino, or lower-income concentration (Oakland, Inglewood {also a suburb of LA}, Baltimore to some extent, Birmingham, and I think Newark [though I'm not sure on that one] come to mind). Those factors might be more significant than city size.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 11, 2005 5:33:33 PM

This, of course, aptyly demonstrates one very salient reason why the District of Columbia will never be granted statehood, and should direct its reform concerns towards the detatchment of the residential areas from the Federal areas, and the return of the former to (the already democrat-leaning) Maryland.

Posted by: Simon | Aug 11, 2005 5:52:07 PM

Paul,

Yes, some of the conservative cities are suburbs of bigger cities. Provo is a suberb of Salt Lake; Gilbert, Peoria, and Mesa, Arizona are suburbs of Phoenix; Escondido is a suburb of San Diego.

Posted by: Kaimi | Aug 11, 2005 6:04:55 PM

I also wonder pretty strongly how "conservative" or "liberal" is defined here. I suspect it's mostly "voted republican" or "voted democrat", with some other things mixed in. I say this because man positions that are now pretty commonly thought of as "liberal" positions such as being against regulating abortion, for gay rights, etc. are quite unpopular with large percentages of the African-American population. There's a pretty obvious sense, I think, in which San Francisco is "liberal" in a rather different way than is Detroit or even Philadelphia.
(Do you really consider Provo a suburb of Salt Lake? It seems too far away to my mind. Also, I've not paid much attention lately, but at one point at least there were some largely unpopulated areas between the two, which would seem to rule out one being a suburb of the other to my mind.)

Posted by: Matt | Aug 11, 2005 8:19:14 PM

Matt,
I say this because man positions that are now pretty commonly thought of as "liberal" positions such as being against regulating abortion, for gay rights, etc. are quite unpopular with large percentages of the African-American populationOver at Centerfields recently, there has been much discussion about "Cosby Republicans". There is a general sense that most of those who participate at Centerfields fall under the "normal" moderate/centrist grouping of "economic conservative / social liberal" (this doesn't necessarily descibe my views, by the way), while a fairly sizable chunk of the latin and african american population is speculated to fall under the "mirror image" (and hitherto-assumed entirely theoretical) version of centrism, which is to say, economically liberal / socially conservative. For this reason - writing today in response to a Cato Institute study highlighting the collapse of the GOP's commitment to fiscal responsibility (see Fiscal Indiscipline, redux), I label (not entirely seriously, but only half-joking) President Bush - not President Clinton - "America's first black president".

The import of this fact becomes clear when considering - as a report out earlier this week from a Democratic Party think tank concluded reluctantly that despite "broad dissatisfaction with the country’s direction...focused on three issues – the lack of progress or a clear plan in Iraq, a stagnant economy without job security, and skyrocketing health care costs...[and] a belief among many that Democrats would be more willing to tackle these issues and to offer new ideas in the face of current policies that are clearly failing," all these issues are trumped by a basic belief among voters that the democratic marty is at best ammoral, and at worst, fundamentally immoral. "[T]he introduction of cultural themes – specifically gay marriage, abortion, the importance of the traditional family unit, and the role of religion in public life – quickly renders [the preceding concerns] almost irrelevant in terms of electoral politics at the national level." GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman and Newt Gingrich hasve been particularly keen to emphasize that there is nothing keeping blacks and latinos in the democratic tent that can't be fixed, and I personally feel that the prospect of losing this block of support underlies the desparation of the Democrats to undercut the legitimacy of black conservatives. Of course, that doesn't entirely explain why Alan Keyes is determined to do the same thing, but that's another story. ;)

Posted by: Simon | Aug 11, 2005 9:49:47 PM

"Is it just happenstance that conservatives prefer the country and liberals prefer the city?" I suspect the arrow of causality points both ways. Liberals may migrate towards cities, conservatives to suburbs. (At least, those not tethered to one location by family or money--most Americans have considerably less choice where they live than those of us in the professional class.)

But people's attitudes are of course heavily influenced by their environment. It's impossible to live in a big city and not come into contact with many people of other religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations. Put a person who's a liberal Democrat in Chicago into an exurban community and she might start attending an evangelical church along with her neighbors and voting against gay marriage.

Posted by: gundryggia | Aug 11, 2005 10:11:08 PM

At least three things strike me about this study and the comments so far:

1. Absence of data/methodology is poor practice.

The www.votingresearch.org website, as far as I can tell, includes only a press release and a list-of-cities, but no full text of a real study, or methodology, etc. That's a poor practice, in my book (or a poor website design if it's buried in there and I couldn't find it). Some of the questions raised in the comments, e.g., whether they just used Democrat/Republican voting as a measure of liberal/conservative, could be better assessed if the group put its data and methodology out there.

2. Liberal does not equal Democrat, esp. for black voters.

Assuming that they did equate liberal with Democrat-voting-preferences, that's a mistake, especially when they conclude that today's liberals are urban Detroit African-Americans. African-Americans may support the "liberal" positions on many economic issues re government activism, New Deal/Great Society, etc., but on average, African-American Democrats are MORE conservative than other Democrats, and even more conservative than country-club Republicans, on many social issues. In my midwestern city, the big corporations started giving domestic-partner benefits many years ago, but the city government still won't. Why? Because the black Baptist ministers blocked it every time. So maybe John Kerry could count on Gary, Indiana's votes for president, but I don't think that makes Gary a "liberal" town.

3. Are we talking core cities, suburbs, or metro areas?

It seems that the study looked only at true city limits, i.e., Detroit proper, and did not look at broader metro area. (Again, putting it all on the website would clarify this.) Other commenters have already noted, rightly, that some of the conservative cities may be considered suburbs of other core cities, e.g., Plano/Dallas. That is true, and further, some of the liberal/Democratic cities, like Detroit, are surrounded by some very Republican suburbs (in Oakland County) as well as Democrat suburbs (closer in, in Wayne County). This matters for several reasons. The overall culture or feel of a town differs if the whole Metro area leans liberal or Democrat, or if the burbs are all conservative or GOP. Also, it matters for Mr. Solove's comment that several of the liberal areas are economic centers. Often, as in Detroit's case, the economic activity is out in the GOP-leaning 'burbs, while the center city is less booming, if not in seemingly-permanent depression.

So there are layers of interesting issues here, but this "study" does not tell us much. All in all, this "study" may be nothing more than a list of cities, telling us that big cities vote Democrat, at least within city limits. Oh, and the big cities, within city limits, have denser black populations than rural America. Oh, and African Americans generally vote Democrat. I could have told them all that a long time ago. So unless there's more to this study, I sure hope that no one paid much for it.

Posted by: just me | Aug 12, 2005 3:17:00 PM


Simon:
Will you, as the token conservative, please explain to me why people care about those "morals" issues? I truly don't get it. Why do people on the right want to regulate other people's private behavior? What's the principle of belief?

I mean, it can't just be christianity. The bible talks about living one's OWN life consistent with its principles. It doesn't talk about passing laws forcing other people to do the same (except for some nasty old testament bits with stoning) -- in fact, as I recall, a major theme of the new testament is exactly the opposite. E.g. Matt 7:1-5, Matt 22:15-22... (ha! and they say good atheist boys can't read the bible...)

So what's the source of the moral principle that requires people on the other side of the "culture wars" to regulate personal choices that don't harm others?

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 12, 2005 3:56:06 PM

Mr. Gowder - Although I am not Simon, please allow me to start a brief answer to your question. Maybe later I'll have time for more. You ask why conservatives want to "regulate personal choices that don't harm others?"

First, as always, much of the game is in debating whether certain acts really are "personal choices that don't harm others." Of course, a classic is abortion. IF the fetus is an "other" -- and I'm not saying it is, just that IF it is -- then it's not hard to see why some think it's worth regulating, in order to protect that other. If you disagree on the premise of fetal status, fine, but then THAT's where the debate is.

Compare regulation of smoking. For years, many on the "left" favored restricting smoking, with an open admission that it was paternalism to save smokers from themselves. Today, the debate is usually framed in terms of secondhand smoke, to appeal to those who dislike paternalism but might back the idea of saving the third parties from harm. But I daresay that the true motivation of many smoking-ban supporters is not just based on the innocent third parties. And while smoking does not run along a perfect left-right divide, I don't think many people doubt that it keeps getting closer to that.

Many other "nanny-state" regulations fall into this category as well. Thus, it seems to me that the more interesting question might not be why the Right, but not the Left, likes to regulate "personal choices," but why it is that the Left, rather than make the case for why SOME choices are worth regulating, and others aren't, seems to persuade itself on Monday that "the other side" are the authoritarians. And then on Tuesday, they are perfectly willing to roll out all sorts of paternalistic laws, as long as they are cast as "for your own secular health," but without that "God" stuff.

Second, a similar comparison can be made not with the "(arguably) my own body" issues, such as abortion or smoking, but with the contrast between some consenting adult issues, e.g., sex, and others, e.g., economic transactions. Let's posit that sex between consenting adults is no one else's business. It's not, to me, self-evident that consenting adults can't cut business deals, too. If I agree to sell you a widget for $3, and you're willing to pay, and there's no PHYSICAL externality (like pollution from the widget), then why should the government care enough to set a minimum or maximum price? Reasons are (1) to protect one of us from our stupid economic choices, or (2) to protect some third party who is indirectly harmed, e.g., the other widget seller, or the seller of the competing gadget that's a substitute goo, etc. Let's compare reason 1 - paternalism - to the sex scenario. I daresay that I know many people who have messed up their lives more from a serious of bad sex decisions than from dumb economic decisions. Getting a deadly STD might harm you more than paying too much interest on a credit-card, yet only the former is bundled with a constitutional right, I'm told. Now, I know there are argument for why economic paternalism is more justified than "bodily-rights" paternalism, but then the distinction between left and right is the TYPES of paternalism, not paternalism vs. individualism/non-paternalism.

I disagree with much of the "conservative" social agenda, while I agree with some of it, but I'm not about to deny that paternalism is just as rampant, and I think ultimately more so, on the left.

Third, at least some of the agenda of the "social conservatives" falls into the categories of (1) issues of the public square, which are analogous to the pollution/externality idea, or (2) "defense" of other rights, such as control of our own kids' education. I acknowledge that much of the agenda may also involve trying to "fix others," but not all of it does. In category one falls a concern about what's on commercial TV. Here, the left/right parallels are even closer than the sex/econ comparison above. For years we've had left-leaning groups watching cartoons to score them for violence, for sexism, for commercialism, for pushing fatty foods, whatever, while we've had right-leaning groups scoring the same shows for sex or whatever. Again, a case can be made for why one set of preferences is the better one to regulate in the name of the public square, but that's far different from saying the Left is the "libertarian" side. And in the second category, much of the upsurge for the right has been the appeal to those who feel that the Left's cultural agenda is being shoved down the throats of their kids at school. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen the other way, just that it's a tw-way street.

Today, it is an empirical fact that in SOME public schools in America, a kid wearing a "Gay Pride" shirt will get disciplined, while the "Straight Pride" shirt is OK, and in other districts, it's the exact opposite. In some school districts, either shirt is fine, or both shirts are off-limits. But the incidents of leftist-orthodoxy, just as with cultural-rightist orthodoxy, are undeniable. Why do some feel that the "personal choice" to wear the wrong shirt is worth interfering with? Oh, I know: it's because the wrong shirt offends others. Now, which one is it that is measurably the offensive one in an objective way, as opposed to pure subjective preferences? Oh, yeah - the social conservative is objectively irrational to take offense at one shirt. But the liberal offended by the Straight Pride shirt is PROPERLY offended. That's not imposing a moral view, that's just protecting civil rights. Riiiiiiiiiight.

In sum, I think no honest lefty can attack "those conservatives" for paternalism, without specifying why SOME paternalism is better than others, or why SOME third-party effects are legit to regulate in ways that others aren't. And in fact, I've noticed that, ironically, after a long spiel on why we can't regulate immorality, my typical liberal friend is quick to condemn those nasty GOPers because their indifference to the poor is not just ineffective, but is "IMMORAL."

I don't know your politics. But if they are "typically" Left, then I ask whether your views of economic regulation are based on saving people from THEMSELVES, i.e., the "OK" kind of paternalism in your view, or is based on third-party effects? And if your views run more libertarian, then I suggest that you condemn both houses for their views, and not just the one side. (That's what I mostly do.)

I'm sure that Simon and others will be more enlightening, but that's my two -- er, fifty -- cents.

Posted by: just me | Aug 12, 2005 4:42:03 PM

Paul,
I'm not sure that I'm qualified to speak to those issues. To my mind, a lot of the hot air originating from the right wing of the party is antithetical to the core tenets of the Republican Party in any instance - the very first line of the Republican creed is, after all: "I believe the strength of our nation lies with the individual and that each person's dignity, freedom, ability and responsibility must be honored." Personal freedom and individual responsibility are not distinguishable concepts, in my view, they're flipsides of the same coin. So I respectfully dissent from the party line on a number of issues, I'm more on the moderate wing of the party.

Which answers none of your questions, lol...

Posted by: Simon | Aug 12, 2005 4:43:51 PM

By the way, JustMe's post above is very well-argued; it didn't even occur to me that Paul might include abortion in the category "personal choices that don't harm others"?

Posted by: Simon | Aug 12, 2005 5:11:57 PM

Just me: Fair enough. I don't want to get into a political debate, and you make very good points. Let me just say that I personally think liberals are more consistent on that score than conservatives because liberals tend to target exploitative transactions whether they are economic or personal (i.e. many of us oppose both the sale of cigs. and statutory rape), and also because liberal paternalism is generally targeted against the manipulator rather than the person who is actually taking the manipulated action -- i.e. tobacco companies rather than banning cigarette use.

I think there's also a difference between "physical harm" and "moral harm." Paternalism on the moral dimension is necessarily contestable: we live in a world with a plurality of ethical approaches, and few are unambiguously correct. Paternalism on the physical dimension is not contestable: if we have reliable scientific knowledge to suggest that product X kills people, then it has a strong likelihood of being unambiguously correct. Hence we can more confidently act to protect people from physical harms than from moral ones.

But reasonable people could disagree for the reasons you list.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 12, 2005 6:32:44 PM

Mr. Gowder - I think you've got good points, too, so I shouldn't be snarky, but I can't resist tweaking this line --

"Just me: Fair enough. I don't want to get into a political debate . . ."

Not get into debate? Then why are we here? But it's happy hour, where the debate may be political, or may be tastes great/less filling. :-)

Posted by: just me | Aug 12, 2005 6:56:29 PM

Did "the left" really want to ban smoking "for years" for paternalistic reasons? I certianly don't recall this. It would seem pretty unlikely to me, too. Do you have any citations for this? All the no smoking campaigns I've seen have primiarily been about costs to others- most obviously with dangers from second-hand smoke, or annoyance w/ other bad results from smoking (smelly clothes, etc., where a ban is a way to solve a collective action problem) or with the externalizing of health-care costs. I'm suspiscious that you must made that up, so I'd like some more evidence, please.

Posted by: Matt | Aug 12, 2005 10:52:26 PM

Paul,

I'll agree with just-me that the phenomenon of paternalism (trying to regulate someone else's choice) is by no means limited to the right.

Of course, right and left are notoriously vague groupings, but I think that some characterizations can be made that are probably accurate to most peoples' perceptions of left and right. For example, the left is supportive of limiting others' choices to hire (I may not choose to hire only whites for my business) and choices to work (I may not hire myself out for $2 an hour).

Of course, the liberal response is that this level of paternalism is justified because of negative externalities. Anti-discrimination laws are justified because they combat negative externalities, such as racism.

However, the conservative response is that the paternalism sought by conservatives has exactly the same effect, combatting negative externalities. (This is the basic argument behind Stanley Kurtz's well-known Weekly Standard argument against gay marriage).

Both sides may disagree about the level of externalities. But the basic structure of the reasoning is the same -- paternalism is justified on the grounds of combatting negative externalities.

Posted by: Kaimi | Aug 13, 2005 12:35:22 PM

Also, Paul G., let me give an aside about the selective use of scripture. I find it very unconvincing when non-members of a religious group use that group's scripture to try to make a political point. I didn't find it very effective when non-Muslim Tony Blair turned into a theologian all of a sudden and started opining about the true nature of Islam. And I'm not really convinced by your scriptural citations.

You've cited two well-known passages -- "judge not" and "render unto casear that which is caesar's."

The second passage, standing alone, is very weak support for a scripturally required position of non-paternalism. It can be argued that the principle extends to some level of church-state separatism; I've used that tactic myself. But that extension is not part of the text, and it's far from clear that a believer in scripture should be required to accept it, or even (as you seem to imply) to automatically make that leap.

The first passage, "judge not," is another that is clearly limited to certain contexts. (After all, literal application of a "judge not" principle across the board would preclude any Christian from being a federal judge, for example). Jesus is condemnatory of behavior in many instances in the New Testament, such as his violent expulsion of the money changers from the temple.

There are reams of discussion on how to reconcile various passages of scripture. One possible (and, I believe, popular) reading of Jesus's "judge not" admonitions in context with Jesus's actual acts of apparently judging others in other places, is that Christians should be careful not to unrighteously judge others, but that genuinely sinful behavior should be condemned.

And conservatives who seek to regulate behavior probably feel that the behavior sought to be regulated is sinful or wrong, and thus perfectly within the scope of regulable behavior.

Posted by: Kaimi | Aug 13, 2005 12:50:17 PM

Kami: I strongly disagree with your apparent disagreement in principle with non-believers quoting the scripture of that which they don't believe in. How else is one supposed to communicate? If I am to try and convince person X, who takes their moral views from religion Y, that an action they are contemplating is immoral, I'm going to have to do it in terms of Y, whether or not I subscribe to Y or not. Otherwise there's no communication at all. "Well, Mr. Christian, that violates the categorical imperative." "I'm not a Kantian! I get my morals from Jesus!" "Uh, well, sorry, but I can't quote scripture at you."

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 14, 2005 2:04:33 AM

But on the substantive point: wouldn't the apparent contradiction between Jesus saying "judge not" and Jesus actually judging be effortlessly resolved within a Christian context by the postulate "the rules that apply to Deities [on trinitarianism] and/or Messiahs aren't the same as those that apply to normal people?" Or: "God gets to judge, you don't?"

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 14, 2005 2:06:26 AM

Or: "God gets to judge, you don't?"That's how I've always understood that passage. It's the same as the way that "thou shalt not kill" can be reconciled against God's frequent instructions to kill in the old testament: if you're not undertaking the act of your own volition, but in pursuance of a direct command from the almighty, then he gives you a conditional release of responsibility.

Posted by: Simon | Aug 15, 2005 9:40:12 AM

Paul,

I suppose that I'm jaded, since in my experience many times (most of the time?) such arguments are an attempt to be cute and arrive at a hoist-by-your-own-petard standard, rather than an attempt to seriously discuss the issues using scripture as a baseline. I don't want to characterize your comment as within this category, just to note that I am immediately suspicious of such arguments given that I see them often used in dubious ways.

Posted by: Kaimi | Aug 15, 2005 2:15:18 PM

Fair 'nough. I certainly didn't intend to engage in any petard-hoisting, although I'd also suggest that those who are susceptible to petard-hoisting are usually hypocrites...

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 15, 2005 3:24:56 PM

Paul,

I'm very doubtful of the substance of your argument, which seems to be that various New Testament passages in effect command a libertarian viewpoint when it comes to social regulation.

The Old Testament is chock-full of rules and regulations about how to live one's life. They certainly applied to "other" people in the sense that they were mandatory rules that were enforced on people who disagreed. For example, a leader of the Israelite host personally killed a couple for fornication.

Jesus gave certain general commandments, including the commandments to love one's neighbor, to do unto others as you would have done unto you, and so forth. Yet Jesus personally obeyed the Law of Moses (with certain well-known exceptions, such as His apparent easing of the Sabbath laws). While Christians believe that He overturned certain rules, such as rules governing animal sacrifice, His statements about judging, loving neighbors, and so forth must be read against the baseline that He _did not_ ever repudiate the longstanding model of widespread societal regulation of social choices.

Of course, arguments can be made that law should be searate from religion.

But I don't think that a close reading of scripture leads inexorably to your conclusion that Jesus wants everyone to be libertarians when it comes to social decisions.

Posted by: Kaimi | Aug 15, 2005 7:57:16 PM

I certainly don't think such a reading leads "inexorably" to that conclusion, but I think a fairly natural reading of the text of the Gospels can support it. There's any number of highly prominent places where Jesus renounced the judgmental tone of the society of the day in favor of a more social liberarian outlook. "Blessed are the merciful" comes to mind, as does most prominently Mary Magdalen. In fact, pretty much the whole business with the Pharisees, which certainly is a major theme of the Gospels, revolved around them judging some poor fool and Jesus forgiving, loving, healing, etc. the same poor fool. As opposed to, say, clapping them in prison somewhere, throwing blood on them, holding up a sign saying "God Hates Fags," etc. etc. Pretty much the only people Jesus scolded were the wealthy, tempters, the Pharisees, and his own apostles, the latter too when they judged people (i.e. Luke 9:51-56). Since we're in Luke, I offer Luke 11:46 as particularly relevant for law and lawyers:

"Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them."

The only passage that immediately comes to mind where he authorized mortals to judge other mortals would be Luke 10:8-12 -- where he authorizes his disciples, while preaching in his name, to curse towns that reject them. Notable there is that (a) they're acting in his name, and (b) the rejection is one of faith, he doesn't authorize them to reject people who commit less serious sins. (And I'm still in Luke, yeesh. Maybe it was just Luke who was the social libertarian!)

And then there's the deep theological reason to be against individual moral legislation: if one forces obedience on people, they will not come to the faith that one believes they should come to. Under those accounts that hold that faith, rather than works, are the way to salvation, it would seem that moral legislation would be entirely counterproductive, being more inclined to create resentment than faith. I doubt the Spanish Inquisition created many genuine converts, for example. Forgiveness and mercy tend to be rather more conducive to faith. (Indeed, I'm reminded of Charlie Nesson's interpretation of the Solomonic judgment: to "inspire awe" in the populace, impress them with his justice. A similar goal to inspire awe could easily be read into Jesus's public acts of forgiveness, and in that vein, another citation to Luke -- 13:10-17 to be precise, where an act of mercy that was in technical violation of the Sabbath law [according to the Pharisees] led to "all his opponents [being] humiliated," "but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing." Forgiveness inspires faith.)

I really don't want to get into a theological debate, as I'm hardly well-armed for the subject! Suffice it to say that there appears to be a very strong thread through the Gospels of Jesus personally judging others, but at the same time scolding those others who took the judging role from themselves, and such behavior seems to be entirely consistent with the goal of getting faith, rather than mere obedience, from the people.

I think I might have to repent this whole excursion now with 20 hail darwins! :-)

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 15, 2005 11:38:39 PM

"His statements about judging, loving neighbors, and so forth must be read against the baseline that He _did not_ ever repudiate the longstanding model of widespread societal regulation of social choices."

Holy Scalia's textualism! We could be talking about the Eleventh Amendment here. Christ gave clear mandates. He mentioned that he came to create a new covenant, and to destroy the laws of the old ways. He mentioned that faith (which includes the love of God, which as we know from scripture a person does not have unless he loves his fellow man) meant more than works (following thousands of regulations). That seems like pretty clear evidence of abrogation of the old ways.

Anyhow, while I'm not sure that Jesus would have been a libertarian, if one believes we man has free will, and that free will comes from God, then it's awfully presumptuous of us to seek to bind man's will when God would not do so. In a sense, one could say that by enacting morals legislation (and thus binding man's will), we are literally playing God.

Posted by: Mike | Aug 16, 2005 11:28:48 AM

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