Right, Dangerous, and Chaotic


The lessons we should learn from all
the fighting in the Days of Old
when Providence bestowed Divine,
the Sanctuary purified:

“Let the let encircle all you hold
and don’t uproot the olive grove.”

So now Jerusalem, you know it’s not right
After all you’ve been through, you should know better than
To become the wicked ones
Almighty God once saved you from.”

– Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, “Jersualem“

It is wrong to use violence against people who are living peacefully. Sometimes we have to, because we don’t know ways to solve our problems that don’t involve being violent to peaceful people, but that assault remains wrong.

Likewise, it is dangerous to take actions that have unknowable costs. Sometimes we do so anyway, because the alternative is so wrong or is itself dangerous, but those excuses do not erase the danger that we introduce.

Finally, it is chaotic to introduce changes against the wishes of a democratic majority. This is does not mean doing so is necessarily wrong or dangerous, but it randomizes the purpose of elections (which are to allow the people to fire officials who they find unbearable), generates annoying social movements, and distracts the broader society from the more important goals of economic growth.

In Washington State, where I live, the people directly voted on, and approved, laws to legalize both marijuana and gay marriages. These are certainly dangerous (and gay marriage more so, as for most of American history marijuana was legal). But banning the right to contract in both cases is certainly wrong. Fortunately, Washington State’s legalization of both forms of contract was orderly, without judicial fiat or even legislatorial arrogant bullying the process.

In California, on the other hand, unelected judges took the dangerous and chaotic path of legalizing gay marriage (but not marijuana) by fiat. One wrong was undone — the one that was the most dangerous — but in a chaotic way.

This case is now before the Supreme Court. The nearest analogy I can think of is Roe v. Wade, which likewise was a dangerous and chaotic method of abolishing a wrong (violent persecution of post-conception birth control). Of course, Roe v. Wade also legalized another wrong, infanticide, so it is unlikely that the dangerous chaos ensuing from even a reckless ruling on the California gay marriage case will be as bad as what was caused by the Roe v. Wade decision.