Civility is a Social Contract, not a Moral Absolute

My latest piece at The Federalist considers the ethics of civility in uncivil times:

Because civility is not a moral absolute and its form is always adjusting along with culture, it’s requirements are determined primarily by social contract — the kind of behavior we all implicitly or explicitly agree to when interacting with one another. Historically, some of these contracts have been great blessings while others have been reprehensible, but all are, by nature, contracts.

The detail that conservatives tend to forget is that when one party violates a contract, the other party is no longer bound by all of its terms. If you sign a contract to buy a car, and the dealer refuses to turn it over you, you aren’t “sinking to their level” by refusing to hand over your money. If you contract an employee who never shows up for work, you aren’t “repaying evil for evil” by withholding his wages. The same is true when dealing with people who are deliberately uncivil to civil people — it fundamentally changes what the rest of society owes them.

While I’d rather we all be civil with each other, our God-given vocations and love for our neighbor sometimes demands that we be uncivil.  You can read the rest here.

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