] Is it moral to use tax payer dollars to fund things that a
] large group of people in a society feel are totally immoral or
] unethical? Stated another way, is it ok to force people to pay
] for something they think is immoral, or should we have a broad
] moral consensus on something before we spend public money on
In an authoritarian society, this question might have some practical utility. In the United States, it seems rather academic.
A candidate for office is ethically obligated to present his/her views to the voting public. The people should be as inquisitive as possible, and no public or foreign policy question should be out of bounds.
Come election time, the people vote. You vote for the candidate of your choosing, with full awareness of the views and intentions of all the candidates. The winner carries out his/her stated policies.
Some candidates choose to separate their personal views from their public policy recommendations. Others do not. How any given candidate stands in this regard should be evident to the voters.
As a politician, one way to achieve such a separation is to make it your policy to defer to the public on certain matters. Call for a referendum and let the people decide for themselves regarding the outcome of a sensitive or highly charged issue.
Congress controls how money is spent, and it is supposed to represent the people in our society. If everyone in Congress had made known their views on stem cell research prior to being elected, then the collective outcome of a vote on a funding bill should be accepted by the public. If not, then the voters apparently didn't care enough to ask (and insist on an answer), because the topic has been part of the conversation for a while now.
Some of your examples are dubious. I don't think a majority of people "on the left" find the Iraq war immoral. The Congress voted in support of it, and they voted to continue funding it during the period of the occupation, even after we knew there were probably no WMDs. The morality of the action has nothing to do with the fact that the French opted not to help us pay for it.
I don't know your threshold for judging when we've reached "broad moral consensus" on an issue, but the whole idea strikes me as rather libertarian in the sense that it implicitly advocates for a smaller government.
Let's say the threshold is eighty percent. So then you go out and get one hundred voters who form a perfect cross section of the American public. You split them up, put each one alone in a room, and sit them down with a copy of the federal budget and a box of red pens. They are instructed to review the budget and redline anything they deem to be "immoral".
Once all of them are done, you compile the results, one line item at a time. If the item was redlined by more than twenty people, then it gets deleted from the budget. "No funding for you! Next!"
RE: Question of the day