Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.. Laurence Sterne A statement that’s heard nowadays very often in conversations about any political issue is: “Governemnt has no right to enforce morality on other people.” Isn’t it ironical that one section of society keeps on saying that something is immoral, and the other side will claim that it doesn’t matter, that the government should not be in the business of enforcing morality.
The idea that government should be morally neutral is an old one. It holds that society can be compared with a complex game in which different people have different goals and follow different values, and the role of the state is to enforce the rules of the game. So the government should be like a referee in a game of football and that it should not take sides or support any one player’s goals and values, but merely ensure that everyone follows the rules. In political parlance, there are two well-known dicta which seem to contradict each other but which have a lot of meaning.
Both of these are about governance. One of these says: That government is the best which governs the best. Whereas the first dictum implies that the government ought to limit its activities only to such matters as relate to the State, or to the community at large, leaving enough scope for personal liberty, and ought to give various kinds of freedom to citizens as individuals, whereas the other one stresses upon the quality of governance and upon not being lenient or lax in matters relating to maintenance of law & order, etc.
The second dictum also implies that it is not the form of government that matters most rather, it is the actual quality of governance that is mainly important. However, we find that it is now widely believed that Democracy is the best form of government that can deliver the goods even though Plato, in his classification of various forms of government, had opined that democracy is a perverted form of government. A question is, therefore, asked whether some kind of Democracy really helps us to realise the vision, encapsuled in the aforesaid dicta ? …to be continued
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