Liberty Expose: Does the End Justify the Means?
A new edition of the speeches and writings of Maximilian Robespierre was recently published by again, almost two centuries after their first appearance. The speeches, titled Virtue and Terror, offer an insight into the political mind of one of the most important but terrible political figures in world history.
Robespierre will be remembered as the great champion of the reign of terror during the French revolution. His model of revolutionary terror will be adopted by the leftist revolutionaries that would terrorize the 20th century.
Despite Robespierre’s horrific contribution to the history, the origins of the revolutionary were admirable. He argued for the inclusion of Jews into the French citizenry, argued in favor of the abolition of slavery in the French colonies, and campaigned for the expansion of (male) suffrage rights. The monarchy Robespierre would come to oppose and the king he would argue to execute without a trial were apathetic and incompetent governors that led France to economic ruin.
It can be surmised that, had Robespierre died before his ascent to the Committee of Public Safety and the subsequent terror he induced, Robespierre would be remembered as a virtuous human rights advocate. But as we know, Robespierre would live – and his life would cause the death of thousands.
What makes the case of Robespierre so compelling is that he didn’t deny the terror he cased. Rather, the opposite – he openly defended the violence. Robespierre wrote “if the spring of popular government in the time of peace is virtue, the springs in popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless”
In a word, the ends justify the means.
This question of does the ends justify the means has an all-encompassing presence in modern American political life. Take the question of Roy Moore, the GOP senatorial candidate in Alabama. Over the last week, reports and accusations of sexual misconduct by Judge Moore have been published by the Washington Post. According to the Post, Judge Moore, while he was an assistant attorney in his 30’s, had multiple relationships with young women ranging in age from 14 through 18. The accusations have been disputed by Moore, but the allegations against him continue to mount by the day. Nonetheless, the situation with Roy Moore has shined a light on the moral calculus of GOP voters.
There have been those willing to dismiss the accusations for political means. Dinesh D’Souza, the documentarian responsible for 2016: Obama’s America and Hillary’s America, dismissed accusations against Judge Moore, by suggesting that the Washington Post report to be a hit piece originating from George Soros. D’Souza also tweeted that he was “lukewarm on Roy Moore until the last-minute smear. Now we must elect him to show that the @washingtonpost sleaze attack failed.”
And then there is the “whataboutism” coming from certain members of the right. “Whataboutism” is the act of diverting the actions of one’s group by comparing it to the actions of another. In this instance, it’s “yeah, well what about Bill Clinton?!” or “oh well what about JFK” as if somehow the media’s hypocrisy on not ruthlessly scrutinizing Bill Clinton’s accusations of sexual misconduct or JFK’s advances on 19-year-old interns undermines the media’s criticism of Roy Moore.
Aside from the partisan dismal of accusations by true believers, and the “whataboutism” of those enraged more by hypocrisy than by allegations of sexual misconduct by a senate candidate, there are those on Twitter that spread false information suggesting that individuals were paid off to lie about Judge Moore.
The most concerning are those who would dismiss the allegations because of who Roy Moore opposes. The argument goes “yeah, committing sexual advances on 14-year-olds as a 30-something-year-old-man is bad, but if it means beating the Democrats, then so be it.”
This behavior is of course completely unjustifiable.
The American system of government is predicated on a system of trusted moral authority between the citizen and their representative. America is not a direct democracy that sends representatives to enact the democratic will of the people on every question. Governance is too complicated and the voting public is too busy to analyze every public policy question. Instead, America has a system in which representatives are elected to serve as their continuant’s moral delegate to the government. By electing representatives that hold similar moral worldviews, the public can be have more assurance when their representatives vote on policy.
But that is undermined when representatives lack a moral compass. The notion that many defenders of Roy Moore hold, that the moral outlook of politicians are subservient to their partisan affiliation, compromise the predication for having the American system of government. If legislature were pure political actors, then what is the reason of even having a representative system of government.
It would be far more convenient to have constituents vote of issues directly. Thankfully, the US is not a direct democracy – and Americans must choose delegates that reflect the morality of their voters. For this reason, voting in morally compromised delegate to oversee American finance and security would undermined the republic.
This poisonous notion that the character of politicians doesn’t matter must be purged from the conscience of the GOP. The character of political leaders ties in directly to the moral fabric of the country – why should people trust politicians with power when that abuse their moral esteem? They shouldn’t.
What riotousness a cause may have is undercut when achieving that end is done by immoral means. It is an intellectual challenge to understand why, in a time when congress and politicians in general have such a staggering disapproval rate, would so many defend morally compromised political leaders when those with their moral compass intact face such scrutiny.
With the credibility of the American government already in question, composing the legislature by immoral drones to fight a partisan war will only divide the nation even further. The promise of liberty is predicated on the virtue of the citizenry and their leaders. With the sacrifice of virtue, liberty is put under immanent threat.