Among the strongest instincts in the world is self preservation. The theory of evolution survives because of this principle: flora and fauna will do whatever is necessary to survive. In human beings, the need for self-preservation extends into a rational state - an "if/then" statement - that could be stated thus: "IF I am to preserve those things most important to me, including my life and the lives of those for whom I care most deeply, THEN I must expect that others will wish likewise for themselves."
This communal sense of self-preservation is among the oldest elements in human civilization: the need for a state is predicated upon such. Among prehistoric peoples, tribes would coalesce around the strongest members, those who could not only preserve themselves best, but also train others to do so. The feudal system of governing is based - in part - upon this principle: in exchange for protection from a feudal lord, to whom one paid taxes, one expected a certain level of legal protection for those things held most dear to the self. Of course, this did not preclude corruption - it was merely a basis upon which the system was supported. On a macro-scale, the feudal lord was bannerman to a higher lord. When the realm was threatened, the highest lord of the land would call his bannermen, who would, in turn, call upon "their people," and the collective force - read: ARMY - would protect the land and holdings, thereby the way of life... extrapolate downward.
In a rational, republican system, such as ours, "the people" pay taxes to the Federal government, who, in turn, allocates nationally-held resources for the preservation and protection of those to whom its existence is owed (again, the people).
Where does morality fit in? We'll use a couple of "if/then" statements, with a moral, and further, a legal statement:
- IF I want to remain alive, THEN I must expect that others want the same; therefore, IF staying alive is "good," THEN it must be "bad" to take a life. We'll make a law against murder, but IF someone tries to take my life ("bad") then it is legal to do whatever is necessary to protect myself ("good"). So - murder=illegal, unless in self-defense.
- IF I want to keep my stuff, THEN I should expect others will want to do the same; therefore, IF keeping my stuff is "good," THEN taking it must be "bad". We'll make a law against taking other people's stuff.
currently on miPod - "Pennsylvania 65000" - Glen Miller