Conservative Thought, Culture, Politics

Robert P. George and the Pillars of a Decent Society

Robert P. GeorgeThis is taken from Robert P. George’s, Conscience and its Enemies:

  1. The first is respect for the human person – the individual human being and his dignity. Where this pillar is in place, the formal and informal institutions of society, and the beliefs and practices of the people, will be such that every member of the human family, irrespective not only of race, sex, or ethnicity but also of age, size, state of development, or condition of dependency, is treated as a person – that is, as a subject bearing profound, inherent, and equal worth and dignity. A society that does not nurture respect for the human person – beginning with the child in the womb, and including the mentally and physically impaired and the frail elderly – will sooner or later (probably sooner rather than later) come to regard human beings as mere cogs in the larger social wheel whose dignity and well-being may legitimately be sacrificed for the sake of the collectivity. Some members of the community – those in certain development stages, for example – will come to be regarded as disposable. Others – those in certain conditions of dependency, for example – will come to be viewed as intolerably burdensome, as “useless eaters,” as “better off dead,” as Lebensunwertes lebens (“life unworthy of life”).
  2. The second pillar of any decent society is the institution of the family. It is indispensable. The family, based on the marital commitment of husband and wife, is the original and the best ministry of health, education, and welfare. Although no family is perfect, no institution matches the healthy family in its capacity to transmit to each new generation the understandings and traits of character – the values and virtues – on which the success of every other institution of society, from law and government to educational institutions and business firms, vitally depends.
  3. The third pillar of any decent society is a fair and effective system of law and government. This is necessary because none of us is perfectly virtuous all the time, and some people will be deterred from wrongdoing only by the threat of punishment. More important, contemporary philosophers of law tell us that the law coordinates human behavior for the sake of achieving common goals – the common good – especially in dealing with the complexities of modern life. Even if all of us were perfectly virtuous all the time, we would still need a system of laws (considered as a scheme of authoritatively stipulated coordination norms) to accomplish many of our common ends (safely transporting ourselves on the streets, to take a simple example.)

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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