Prime Moral Imperatives and the End of Liberty

| Opinion | November 7, 2019

By Rob Werner
Moral imperatives are moral laws. These are strongly held principles we live by. Societies bind themselves and maintain order primarily through adherence to such moral imperatives as being truthful, keeping promises and not doing harm. We may believe that we have strong, unbreachable moral views. Our personal moral imperatives may extend to things such as love of others, love of country and respect for our Constitution. What we don’t recognize is how often circumstances arise that lead us to ignore these moral laws. This is driven by competing prime moral imperatives, which are based on survival, love and hate. Consider the following examples of prime moral imperatives overruling other moral imperatives.

Example one: You are law-abiding and honest and would never engage in theft. You have a child whom you dearly love. Circumstances leave you without the means to obtain food for your child. You steal food because your moral imperative to save the life of your child renders the others inoperable.

Example two: Your survival is a moral imperative, but in war you choose to give up your life so that your loved ones may survive.

Example three: Passionate hatred for someone or what they represent results in overruling moral imperatives to do injury to that person.

Example four: A weapon of mass destruction has been planted by a terrorist in our country. It will be set off in one day. You don’t know its location. You have the person who planted the weapon in custody. Do you obey all laws? Do you allow delay by providing an attorney? Will you ignore laws that you are supposed to uphold, torture him and use any means necessary to acquire the location of the weapon?


Our country is distant from hostile countries. Internally, we have evolved from one generation to another as a melting pot where people’s views and loyalties ultimately become American. But there are exceptions. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt, with the strong support of California Governor Earl Warren, suspended the civil rights of Japanese Americans and placed them in internment camps (Warren is best remembered for later becoming the liberal leader of the Supreme Court). This suppression of liberty was not callous and was supported by others who viewed it as necessary to ensure survival. They felt justified to ignore sworn liberties. Their argument would go like this: the Japanese declared war on us. Japan has a history and culture based on loyalty to their emperor. While most Americans of Japanese descent are loyal to America, many might be loyal to Japan. Ten percent would equal 12,000 people. That many inhabitants loyal to a foreign power could virtually destroy America’s infrastructure and damage America’s ability to fight the war.

In recent years, with open borders and the regeneration of loyalty to countries and religious leaders of foreign entities, we have a much greater and more diverse population that could show their hostility to this country. What if just 30,000 of the millions of illegal immigrants and 10,000 of their children were committed to destroying us? A date for action was announced, and our security forces caught a small fraction — enough to know that the country’s infrastructure would be destroyed. What would we do? The prime moral imperative of survival might overrule other moral imperatives, and liberals once again would justify the end of liberty.

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