To fill out a bit more from my last post, at First Things, Rusty Reno has sounded off on the whole Tiller incident, proclaiming vehemently that this whole issue is really about the importance of legitimate authority:
It is a moral luxury for modern men and women to discount the tremendous importance of the principle of legitimate authority. Go to a collapsed African country where warlords rule and the raw lust for power dominates. There you will see that that the rule of law is not a narrowly technical or complacently legalistic social good. A legitimate, functioning government is the precondition for civilization. It is the very basis for any successful collective effort to respect life.
Here is the quintessence of how most pro-lifers would respond to what I’ve opined about this incident. At the end of the day, the only way for them to solve the moral rubix cube is to insist that only the state can dispense violence. Moreover, anyone who questions their account of legitimacy is a member of the naive, pompous intelligentsia.
I’ve already critiqued this account of legitimacy, but I want to point out something else in Reno’s quote above. His whole, “Oh yeah, well go to Africa and see how you like it!” line is, frankly absurd. What Reno cites as the consequences of the breakdown of legitimate state authority is, in fact, the culmination of actions taken by the legitimate state authorities that are currently running the world. A principle reason why there are African warlords, Shahs, Ayatollahs, and what have you, is because of how legitimate states like the U.S. and the U.K. have deployed their global power. What we see in Africa is not the breakdown of legitimate authority, but the invisible wreckage that our own “legitimate” juggernaut has wrought.
It seems to me that it is Reno, rather than his derisively-named “modern” critics who are caught in moral incoherence. The powers of legitimacy that he vigorously defends create the very counterexamples he hurls at his potential detractors. In short, this whole line of argument sounds more like ideological spin than anything else.