AEI Newsletter, February 01, 2009.
Murder, adultery, and theft are outlawed by virtually all civilized peoples. These legal prohibitions are not only the necessary condition of civil peace; they erect important boundaries, not to be violated, between what is mine and what is thine: life, wife, property, and reputation. . . . Here, the principles acquire the elevated standing of sacred teaching, ordained by a divine law-giver and resting on ontological ground firmer than mere human agreement or utilitarian calculation:
Thou shalt not murder.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his [man-] servant nor his maidservant, nor his ox nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.
The first three absolutes defend the foundational–rather than the highest–human goods: life, without which nothing else is possible; marital fidelity and clarity about paternity, without which family stability and responsible parenthood are very difficult; and property, without which one’s chance for living well–or even making a living–is severely compromised.
American Enterprise Institute