Conflating the legal and the moral

Dahlia Lithwick, normally a very smart writer, has a very silly article up today. She claims that Balloon Parents should be able to keep Balloon boy. Forcing a small boy to commit fraud, she suggests, does not warrant removing him from a home. Plausible enough, or at least, I'd like to hear arguments in favor of that position. But her reasoning is silly. The only reason she gives is that what the treatment the Heenes meted out did not meet the legal standards for removal from a home. But surely that still leaves the question of whether those legal standards are the correct ones. There is an independent moral consideration, separate from the legal one, of whether the children belong in that home. And Lithwick does not give us any separate reason why the kids should not be removed.

If the legal and the moral were the same, the segregation was okay before Brown v. Board of Ed, and breaking a zoning regulation is worse than committing adultery.

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth, legal standards are all you have to use, legally speaking. If an act is to be used to justify removing a child, then AIUI, the act must be a legal reason for removing the child. If it isn't, well, you may have an argument for changing the law, but parents can't be charged later on under the new law, since the act was, well, legal when it occurred. AFAICT, there really is nothing needed to justify leaving the child with the parents beyond 'the parents' actions do not meet the legal standard for removal.

    Yes, segregation was legal until it was found to be illegal. If their is no law against adultery, then breaking a zoning regulation is a violation of the law and committing adultery is not. Morality has nothing to do with legality. OTOH, it is hard to maintain legal standards that conflict with morality and ethics.