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August 9, 2013

Personal Morality vs. Social Morality

Today, we discuss a distinction that is the key to building a moral civilization. But first…


Earlier this week Downsize DC President, Jim Babka, appeared with Gary Franchi of NextNewsNetwork to discuss the NSA spying dragnet, terror alerts leading to embassy closings, and America’s surprising enemies. You can watch the interview on YouTube.

Yesterday we argued that we should all…

  • Avoid debates about the supposed social benefits of The State’s criminality
  • Focus instead on The State’s moral transgressions

Sadly, the word “morality” often causes confusion. Some will say that “you cannot legislate morality,” yet everyone approves of legislation against moral wrongs like theft and murder. This confusion is a cultural problem which must be fixed. We will be more effective if we can teach our neighbors to distinguish between

Social Morality & Personal Morality

Some moral principles govern how we treat each other. This is “ social morality .” It includes standards like

  • The Golden Rule: Respect the conscience of others, as you desire them to respect your conscience.
  • The Zero Aggression Principle: Don’t tread on others.

These standards lead to laws against assaults, murder, fraud, and theft. Nearly everyone supports these rules. And even the worst dissenters still agree to some extent. Even Adolf Hitler thought it would be wrong to kill him or to steal his property.

In contrast to this are moral principles that govern how we treat ourselves

  • What we ingest
  • How we worship
  • What we wear
  • How we have sex

There’s far less agreement about this kind of morality. It’s highly personal. So we call it “ personal morality .”

Here’s the crucial point…

To impose your personal morality on others requires you to initiate force against them. You must tread on their personal conscience. Doing this violates social morality.

Some may consider this a good trade, but…

What you can do to others, others can do to you.

When you give politicians the power to impose personal morality, the morality they prefer to impose will RARELY be yours.

This is your choice: Do you want the law to enforce social morality, or someone’s version of personal morality? It cannot do both.

If you choose to permit politicians to enforce personal morality, then you will need to violate social morality, by treading on others. But

If you restrict law and coercion to the enforcement of social morality, then you will still retain the right to use persuasion to promote your personal values.

Isn’t that the correct path? Isn’t peaceful persuasion the only socially moral way to teach personal morality?

Teaching this distinction between social morality and personal morality is important. We hope you decide to adopt and share this concept.

Perry Willis, Inc.
& The Zero Aggression Project

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