Let’s face it, right and wrong should be simple concepts to follow. The truth is that the people who make most of the rules – regardless of their political persuasion – tend to muddy up the basic concepts with pretenses that will favor their goals.
Religions have set down some concepts in pretty simple terms – e.g. thou shall not kill. It’s something that seems self-evident even if you don’t “have religion”. The truth is it doesn’t require a god to tell us this. It is pretty self evident that if it’s okay to kill someone, that someone could just as easily be you. Think of the line in Clint Eastwood’s modern classic “Unforgiven”, where his character says “…you kill a man, you take away everything he is, and everything he was ever going to be”. Death is final. You don’t get any do-overs. So if you want to protect your right to live, you have to accept the need to protect other’s right to live. Nothing mystical about that; it’s just common sense.
The same logic applies to Liberty (see a theme growing here?). If you want to preserve your freedom to make your own life decisions, you must recognize the importance to preserve the freedom of others to make their own decisions too. It is a matter of principle, and if you deny another’s right, you abrogate that principle not only for them, but for yourself. And “liberty” is a pretty big and inclusive word. It encompasses all humans – i.e. we can’t exclude anyone because they’re a different color, because they’re a different religion, because they’re a different gender, or because they have different sexual preferences. Moreover, liberty means the freedom to choose and do however one pleases – so long as one does not infringe upon the liberty of others. This is a simple, core principle. Once any entity (government perhaps) abrogates any person’s freedom of choice, it abrogates everyone’s freedom of choice on everything.
Let’s put it this way, using a modern issue…if you abrogate the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion, you have equally abrogated the right of a religious person to go to church. One either has the right to make personal life choices, or one does not. Therefor principles only protect us when we honor them. A principle is either true or it is not, and when true it applies to all.
I won’t even discuss the “pursuit of happiness”. It clearly goes hand-in-hand with liberty. The principle applies to all. Deny it to one, and you deny it – on principle – to all.
Certainly, it is possible to get into cases, egregiously nuanced definitions, and so on, and so forth. However, these are moot – a waste of time. What is important to know is that when speaking of holding to principles, we are not speaking of holding to “some degree” of principle. Principles are all or nothing. Every serious decision must uphold the core principles, or no rule will ever be valid or permanent. When you abandon principles, everything is lost.