These norms equally exclude the sacrificing of the dignity and rights of persons for the sake of some supposed “greater overall good.” How do you respond to those who want to severe the ideas of limited government and moral truth?
It is a profound mistake to suppose that the principle of limited government is (1) rooted in the denial of moral truth or (2) a putative requirement of governments to refrain from acting on the basis of judgments about moral truth. Our commitment to limited government is itself the fruit of moral conviction—conviction ultimately founded on truths that our nation’s founders proclaimed as self-evident: namely “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What’s at the foundation of this proposition?
the general welfare—including, preeminently, protecting people’s fundamental rights and basic liberties.
Wouldn’t this require the granting of vast and sweeping powers to public authority?
What are the government’s primary responsibilities? Government’s responsibility is primary when the questions involve (1) public order. Its subsidiary roles include: to support the work of the families, religious communities, and other institutions of civil society that shoulder the primary burden of forming upright and decent citizens, caring for those in need, encouraging people to meet their responsibilities to one another while also discouraging them from harming themselves or others.
You’ve said that political morality requires (1) governmental respect for individual freedom and (2) the autonomy of nongovernmental spheres of authority. Government must not try to run people’s lives or usurp the roles and responsibilities of (1) families, (2) religious bodies, and (3) other character- and culture-forming authoritative communities.That each human being possesses a profound, inherent, and equal dignity simply by virtue of his nature as a rational creature—a creature possessing, albeit in limited measure (and in the case of some human beings merely in root or rudimentary form), the Godlike powers of reason and freedom—powers that make possible such human and humanizing phenomena as intellectual inquiry, aesthetic appreciation, respect for self and others, friendship, and love.This great truth of natural law, which is at the heart of our civilizational and civic order, has its theological expression in the biblical teaching that man, unlike the brute animals, is made in the image and likeness of the divine creator and ruler of the universe.Robert George’s books include Making Men Moral, The Clash of Orthodoxies, and Conscience and Its Enemies.Natural law theory is enjoying a revival of interest in a variety of scholarly disciplines including law, philosophy, political science, and theology and religious studies.This volume presents twelve original essays by leading natural law theorists and their critics.The contributors discuss natural law theories of morality, law and legal reasoning, politics, and the rule of law. The usurpation of the just authority of families, religious communities, and other institutions is unjust in principle, often seriously so, and the record of big government in the twentieth century—even when it has not degenerated into vicious totalitarianism—shows that it does little good in the long run and frequently harms those it seeks to help.What is the relationship between limited government and classic liberalism?Cornel West and Robert George talked about their books and responded to questions from viewers.Cornel West is the author of Race Matters, Democracy Matters, Living and Loving Out Loud: A Memoir, and other books.