It’s easy to take an indignant moral position on a single issue. “Torture is wrong.” “Abortion is wrong.” “Coerced transactions are wrong.” Such positions aren’t rare, and thus not particularly interesting. What is rare, however, is the ability to demonstrate consistency in taking several unequivocal moral positions. That is, those who take an unequivocal moral stand with respect to torture, or abortion, or the individual mandate are less likely to purport to take such a fervent an unequivocal a position as to all three. Yet, if we’re talking about objective morality and deontology—which we almost always are when we’re taking absolute, unequivocal positions—then we really have no excuse.
For instance, a prototypical conservative might take unequivocal positions against abortion and the individual mandate, yet refrains from taking absolutist positions on the torture question, and instead offers ticking time bomb scenarios and subtle nuances as to why waterboarding isn’t torture, etc.1 Similarly, a prototypical libertarian might take unequivocal positions against torture and the individual mandate, yet offers subtle nuances explaining why a fetus isn’t a person, or why rights do not extend into the womb. The prototypical liberal, like the libertarian, might categorically reject all mitigating factors offered in support of coercive interrogations, yet makes “the greater good” the centerpiece of his justification of the coercive individual mandate.
On these and most every other important issue, we scoff at one another for pledging to principle on certain things, and excoriate one another for parsing principle on others. This phenomenon—at work in many other examples, some of which I’ve listed previously—demonstrates how our underlying judgments about what is objective and what is merely instrumental define our reality. For example, is economic liberty an end in itself, or merely an instrumentality? I submit that the deviations in these sorts of judgments are the key to many if not most of our moral and political disagreements, and explain why we parse some principles yet stand indignant on others.
 You can probably put me in this camp as to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” I acknowledge that certain techniques that cross the line into “torture” are always morally unacceptable. Assuming an appropriate showing is made that the interogatee is in possession of information concerning a threat to national security, one might say that interrogation techniques that are not torture are justified because, although they amount to coercion, it is coercion against a thing the interrogatee has no moral right to do in the first place: withhold information about immoral and illegal acts to harm or kill others. This same approach permits one also to say that abortion is wrong (excepting certain extreme cases) because, while it arguably amounts to coercion, it is coercion against a thing no person has a moral right to do: kill an human being conceived through natural consensual relations.