The Moral Priority Quiz

I hear many Christians say that abortion is murder, yet few if any call for the death penalty for committing abortion. In fact the silence is deafening when it comes to any discussion of the penalty for abortion from any pro-life politician.

Personally, I am not sure that abortion is murder, but it does come creepily close. I am not ready to call for capital punishment or dole out life sentences, but I do think the penalty should be higher than that for smoking a joint or or copying a copyrighted video.

I think our overall legal system is messed up when it comes to making the penalty fit the crime. Too often our lawmakers think atomically and simply jack up penalties based on how effective enforcement is going. This leads to serious injustice and a breakdown of law and order. Witness our extremely high incarceration rates accompanied by high crime.

Some years ago I made a small attempt to remedy the situation by devising a Moral Priority Quiz for the Asheville Daily Planet. Just recently I have updated it a bit and added it here in the Enforcing Morality series.

So have a look at my updated Moral Priority Quiz and let me know what you think in the comments below. Do your priorities match the law of the land?

Join the Conversation


  1. Heh, I’m definitely going to take this quiz, even though I’m not exactly the target audience for this.

    Personally, I think we could nearly eliminate prisons if we eliminated victimless crimes and changed to a system of restorative justice (as opposed to the punitive system we have) for those crimes which can be reversed, and a system of retributive justice for those which can’t, using Torah law as a guide. For example, a thief or a vandal should be required to pay back twice what was taken or destroyed, and those who were unable treated like any other delinquent debtor. Injury could be punished either by making the injurer liable for the necessary medical care if it can be fixed… or equal retribution if it cannot. This would, for example, keep murderers out of prison (and in the graveyard); I have no moral qualms about the death penalty when the crime is murder.

    I am unsure what should be done about things like child molestation. My emotional response to such a crime is such that I am inclined toward the death penalty… but that’s hardly just. Perhaps some kind of marking that makes their predicilations obvious even to strangers who first meet them, perhaps the existing sex-offender registration combined with a non-anesthetized public branding in an obvious place like the face or the hand. It sounds barbaric… but is it really better than the existing penalty, which is to saddle the public with the cost of supporting such an individual for years to come?

    I’ll be back later after playing with your quiz.

  2. “Yet few if any consider abortion a capital offense.”

    Yeah, that one REALLY bugs me. That people WON’T do so, especially in the political arena. Even the ones that think it is murder (See Mccain or Romney for politicians who PRETEND like they think its murder), they will avoid at all costs mandating capital punishment for it. If the baby is a life like you and I believe, it is in fact murder.

    I am assuming from your articles on here you do in fact support capital punishment, and if so, we need to act what we preach and so, the penalty for abortion should in fact be death.

    If not, well, I will say the Bible mandates the death penalty as you no doubt know, but if the death penalty is wrong, which in my opinion it isn’t, abortion should get the same sentence as death.

  3. Hi Someone. As I said before “I am not sure that abortion is murder.” Last I checked we have lots of laws on the books against things which might be murder: drunk driving, selling lawn darts, smoking indoors, etc. With abortion we are looking at fuzzy logic uncertainty vs. probabilities, but the principle is similar.

    I don’t know exactly what the penalty for abortion should be, but I do think it should by higher than prostitution or selling marijuana to teenagers. I wouldn’t go as far as capital punishment, as we do have this uncertainty, and miscarriages happen naturally a lot so we also have a sunk cost factor.

    In the real world, abortion isn’t going to be even the teensiest bit illegal until after we make it less popular. (Yes, it is a nearly 50-50 split when people do polls depending on wording, but it takes more than 50% to intimidate the Supreme Court.) I’m working up a few ideas which might make this happen.

  4. If it isn’t murder what is it? Manslaughter?

    If that is where you would go with it, then at least you are going there honestly. What really bugs me are the people that say it is murder but refuse to state they are willing to punish it with death (Well, unless you are anti-abortion and DP but most are supporters of the DP.)

    The miscarrage thing is a valid point, but that’s an issue of conviction, not the punishment. Rarely should the punishment be influenced by the chances of guilt (Unless the punishment is borderline cruel, something you might support if guilt was absolute but not otherwise.)

    In the real world we are supposed to use “Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” in other words, if there is doubt of their guilt, it is unreasonable, or its a false conviction. If we CAN prove guilt, then we should punish it as murder. There is an argument that ATM that liberal propaganda makes people unaware that what they are doing and therefore they are actually committing manslaughter, but if we put it on the lawbooks as murder, it would be considered murder, not manslaughter, as the law would then consider it a life.

    As for SCOTUS, I agree a federal ban will never happen, but I’m getting the feeling some of the riskier, very conservative states are going to start banning it without SCOTUS consent. Florida tried it, Arkansas tried it, its getting close. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is because not a lot of people are aware that A: The ruling was judicial activism (AKA Lawmaking by judges) and B: they are never going to change it. Once they realize it, they will petition their lawmakers to ban it without SCOTUS’ approval(SCOTUS has been successfully ignored before at least once) with limited if any reprecussions.

    And I’m all for it.

  5. I don’t know exactly. I lump it in with various forms of reckless endangerment, such as drunk driving. MOST incidences of drunk driving result in no harm whatsoever. We penalize drunk driving because it substantially increases the probability of harm.

    Here is one way to think of it. Most modern Americans agree that infanticide is in fact outright murder. (Many other cultures differ.) So, is abortion the day before the child is due murder or “fingernail removal?” How about two days before? Two months? You can play all sorts of intellectual games about beating hearts, brain activity, viability, etc. but still not come up with a hard and fast line where legally defensible life begins.

    So I don’t. I want to reframe the debate. Instead of asking where the step function is from “fingernail” to independent human life, what should be the curve? At what point should abortion be a $50 fine? At what point is it worth a week in jail? At what point is it first degree murder? I don’t have definitive answers. I just want people on all sides of the debate to ask the right questions.

    As for why I call myself a left libertarian or left freedom lover, I am “left” in the egalitarian sense. Even with minimal taxes, regulation, etc. the amount of wealth you start with significantly impacts your opportunities. And right to self-ownership of your body doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the resources to keep that body going. Work or starve isn’t that far removed from work or get shot.

    So I support a Citizen’s Dividend or something along those lines. I’ll have more on that in the near future. In return for such the Right deserves greatly simplified labor laws and taxes.

    The Bible Law had a wealth floor for Hebrews citizens. I think we can do something similar for U.S. citizens as a replacement for the nit-noiding welfare state. Charles Murray has a book on the idea, but the idea goes back to Thomas Paine at least. The early Robert Heinlein had some ideas along these lines as well. (I cam into the libertarian movement from Heinlein, not Rand, and it still affects my thinking.)

  6. To the abortion portion- Remember the thing in Exodus (21 IIRC but this could be off) where it talks about the child who is forced prematurely about out of the womb by a man who strikes a pregnant woman if the child is fine then a fine is paid but if it dies they kill the man? That’s pretty solid pro-life evidence there.

    Also, while I don’t claim total balance, we shouldn’t play games with human life. There is no question a child in the womb is a life. There is no cutoff point in my opinion. Once the child is conceived, killing it is premeditated murder worthy of death.

    As for the left-libertarian- Your views seem very interesting on here, but I’d consider you more of a centrist then a left-winger. You seem to support a lot more equal opportunity then equal result. I actually understand your opinions on such issues as estates and such a lot more than I understand the Democrats position. I can accept any position accurately made in the name of equal opportunity. What the democrats are doing is trying to make the result equal no matter how you use your chance.

  7. I center my political maps at the status quo. My positions would result in more equality than we have today. In terms of effect, my positions are more egalitarian than the Democrat positions.

    The Democrat leadership is elitist. While they care about the poor and lower middle class, they think them too dumb to think for themselves. I would throw some wealth transfer their way, and just as importantly remove some subsidies for the rich, but I’d also fire an army of social workers and get rid of quite a few forms, special accounts, etc.

  8. Well, at least you support giving everyone an opportunity and letting what they make of it being on them, unlike the Dems who support equalizing the result rather than helping them give a chance.

    Do you plan to endorse Ron Paul in 2012?

  9. Ron Paul is too old to be president. And I have some problems with the racist gold bugs he has hung out with — including one of his ghost writers. A movement for liberty based on dead white males is a lost cause. Demographics have shifted.

    Reverence for the Constitution is not what it once was for the simple reason that the Constitution reflected popular views when it was signed. Jefferson advocated periodic revolution, preferably non-violent, vs. reliance on the dead hand of the past. These revolutions have happened, albeit not always legally. (Actually, the original Constitutional ratification process was not legal under the predecessor government.)

    Before you misinterpret what I am saying, let me try to clarify. I like the idea of rule of law and of having a constitution. I like limited government. I like a great deal of what is actually written in the U.S. Constitution.

    But the reality is is that the social contract we are currently under is not the U.S. Constitution as written. Supreme Court rulings have modified the contract as per the process of common law.

    So I think liberty requires a new contract vs. restoration of the old. The case for liberty needs to be made to the current generation, on its own merits vs. tradition and legalism. Too much association of liberty with the past leads to associating liberty with some of the nastier aspects of the past.

  10. First Paragraph- Ron Paul is not a racist. I don’t know where you get that one from. As for him being too old, he’s not older than Reagan IIRC.

    Second Paragraph- The Constitution can be amended, but you can’t just rip it to shreds like the Democrats are doing, and the Republicans are also doing. Ron Paul wants to take America back to the Constitution.

    Third Paragraph- This is good

    Fourth Paragraph- I am aware. If Ron Paul had his way he would fix that.

    Fifth Paragraph- The Democrats would like that so they could get rid of gun rights and freedom of speech. Bad idea.

  11. Ron Paul hangs out with some racists. There’s some pretty racist stuff on Lew Rockwell’s web site, and the advertisements for Ron Paul’s newsletters could get pretty bad. I used to get them.

    Ron Paul’s actual policies would help African Americans on the net. The War on Drugs hits them worse. I just don’t think he is the right messenger to this audience because of past associations.

    I certainly do not want a constitutional convention today! I want to create a new consensus for liberty first. I just don’t think defending the old consensus as sacrosanct is the way to do it for the descendents of the slaves of those who signed on to the first contract.

    Ronald Reagan was 69 when he first became president. Ron Paul is 75 today and will be 77 in 2012.

    I’d be a big fan of Gary Johnson except he is pro choice on the abortion issue. As it now stands, I try not to think about presidential politics. Too depressing.

  12. Well, I question the validity of the “Racist!” Card, however I was wrong about his age. He should still run though.

    As for Gary Johnson, he seems to have the right ideas in general, but a pro-life record for a politician at that level is a must.

  13. I didn’t say Ron Paul was a racist. I’m saying that he has associated himself with racists via his paranoid-gold bug-von Mises Institute connections. Back in the late 1980s some very racist newsletter ads went out in his name. I’d put a link to them but The New Republic pulled them. They await Paul’s next run if any.

    David Weigel of Reason thinks the newsletters were written by Lew Rockwell. They were in Rockwell’s style. Or maybe they were written by Murray Rothbard; Rothbard could be incredibly nasty when he felt like it, which was very often. If so, you could say the newsletters were not racist, since Rothbard/Rockwell could be nasty to anyone they disagreed with regardless of race, creed or color.

    I want to put forth a freedom vision which isn’t hitched to conspiracy theories or over-fondness for the past. Also, I am not sold completely on Ron Paul’s isolationism. If you think American interventionism is bad, try Chinese. Look to Burma, Sudan and North Korea for examples of the gentle hand of Chinese interventionism.

  14. Oh, I agree with you on the foreign policy issue, I just think we need to spend 4 years seriously cleaning up our own country first.

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