Thursday, July 30, 2009
Inclusion of abortion in an official national healthcare plan is a communal imprimatur, similar to the imprimatur received for gay sex when gay marriage is approved. It does more than increase liberty; it says that nothing is significantly wrong with the act in question.
True tolerance, by contrast, takes no position in favor or against the act or relationship in question. It leaves others with full behavioral liberty to engage in the conduct, without endorsing what they do in any way. Gamblers may be left at liberty without affirming that what they are doing is a good thing. But the legal validation of gambling debts affirms that public policy supports them.
The great political problem for pluralism is that toleration alone may not satisfy the human heart. John Noonan (in A Private Choice) has reflected upon how slavery and abortion became polity-shattering to the degree that advocates for each cause escalated their demands from simple toleration to universal legal approval. Yet he also recognizes their difficulty in moderating those demands: “[I]n a moral question of this kind, turning on basic concepts of humanity,…you cannot be content with the practical toleration of your activities. You want, in a sense you need, actual acceptance, open approval,…the moral surrender of [your] critics.”