Guest Commentary

July 14, 2011 |

by Robert Schwarzwalder


Inviting social chaos: law, license and human nature


So now the Supreme Court tells us that violent video games are protected by the Constitution's free speech provision.

Really? Does anyone believe the signers of the Constitution would have defined free speech as the sale of a game in which "the player tortur[es] a girl as she pleads for mercy, urinating on her, dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire?"

Laws that permit evil in the name of privacy, choice and freedom invite the evil activities about which those laws' proponents claim neutrality. To allow moral wrong is to encourage it, given the realities of human nature. Not everyone will take part in wrongdoing, but some will — and of that latter group, some will carry out their indulgence to a destructive extreme.

"No fault divorce" became law in California in 1970, and New York became the 50th "no fault" state in 2010. Advocates of "no fault" claim that marriage is a private contract between two consenting parties; when one of them wishes to disengage, this wish should be honored by the law, no questions asked.

The result? Broken marriages from coast to coast. Roughly 55 percent of America's children are growing up in homes with only one biological parent. These children will not thrive in the same manner as their peers being raised in two-parent, intact families. The data prove it. Private choices have profound social consequences.

In 1973, Roe v. Wade made abortion-on-demand legal throughout the country. More than 52 million abortions later, which have come with great personal, social and economic costs, to suggest that abortion is merely a "private" matter is sort of like saying a fatal car collision only affects auto bumpers: Such a claim misses the major point.

Human nature is fallen. The Founders understood this. That's why they called neither for unrestricted liberty nor liberty's suppression. They wanted "ordered liberty," freedom under just and prudent law. In the words of the 18th century British statesman Edmund Burke, "But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice and madness, without tuition or restraint."

Just as they believed that government oppression was an assault on God-given rights, the Founding Fathers also grasped that when sinful men and women are given free rein to indulge their appetites, virtue would soon be discarded and vice become triumphant. With the collapse of personal and thus social virtue, license would overwhelm genuine liberty, leading to the kind of chaos from which arises a Napoleon, a Hitler or a Stalin.

In a letter to John Jay in 1786, George Washington wrote, "We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals." This reflects the biblical teaching that sin must not be "given opportunity" (Galatians 5:13).

The purpose of law is to remind the public of both the dignity and ignobility of man, a creature made in God's image who nonetheless has darkness embedded in his unredeemed soul. It is also designed to curtail sins' excess, to put a brake on the moral weakness intrinsic to a nature with a bent toward selfishness and the easy way.

Immediately, someone will respond, "You're calling for censorship!" Correct: In some measure, all of law is about censorship. We censor acts of murder and mayhem. We censor jay-walking and petty theft. It's a question of what we censor, and to what degree.

We should legally prohibit behaviors that have a serious adverse affect on the society that, together, we compose. This is why we censor prostitution: It is not just a private act between two consenting parties, but it is a destroyer of the family. It debases its participants and thus encourages their engagement in other wrongful pursuits, and spreads disease, brutality and human trafficking.

When video games that foster a delight in cruelty are permitted, when abortion at any time and for any reason is permitted (and even, under President Obama's health care plan, subsidized), when marriage is redefined at the beck of a small minority of vocal activists and political contributors, and when men and women are given no lawful reason to remain married except a radically autonomous choice, social chaos is upon us. CV


Robert Schwarzwalder is senior vice president at the Family Research Council. He served as Chief of Staff for two Members of Congress, communications aide in both the House and Senate.