Monday, April 03, 2006

The divine right of democracies


Three recent news stories illustrate what I will call the divine right of democracies, in which morality is defined as whatever democratically elected governments choose to do.

1) Jacques Chirac insisted that the new discriminatory employment law must be “respected” because it emanated from the French parliament. Must it? Here in the US, there’s been a lot of condescending scolding (yes, Americans condescending to the French, it really does happen just as much as the reverse) of these “spoiled” French youths supposedly demanding jobs for life. Now while it may or may not be true that the French labor market is over-regulated in a way that stifles job growth, this law treats adults up to 25 years old as an inferior class of citizens without the protection from being arbitrarily fired in the first two years on the job that every other citizen enjoys. There are higher principles, and the protesters are trying to hold the government to them. Monsieur Chirac, fill in the blank: libert√©, blank, fraternit√©.

2) Last week the lower house of the Alabama legislature voted to pardon Rosa Parks and other civil rights activists who were arrested for civil disobedience (they or their survivors will have to individually request those pardons). I’m sorry, who is pardoning who here? There are higher principles, a higher morality, and who exhibited them, the state and its laws, or the people who broke those laws?

3) Republicans have not just stated their disagreement with Russ Feingold’s motion to censure Bush, which is their prerogative, but also attacked it as illegitimate, “beyond the pale” according to John Cornyn, oh, and it puts soldiers at “greater risk.” Beyond the pale equals above the law. There are higher principles.

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