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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Greg on Politics(13): Legislating Morality Comment
    Gregory Morris, 6/19/07 8:18:38 pm
    Oral sex was a criminal act in many places for a long time, and is still in certain locales. Clearly this type of legislation is based on "Relative" morality. "Relative" morality legislation A) has nothing to do with an actual victim and B) is often tied to some religious belief. Marijuana use, homosexuality and adultery, among other commonly attacked "immoral" actions, but they are private acts which should not be legislated. Problems arising from this kind of activity can generally be handled by a civil, rather than a criminal court. Legislation regarding topics like these reflect a religious or invented cultural bias, as opposed to the actual violation of another person's rights. The Constitution and Bill of Rights, in my humble yet correct opinion, were put in place to assure that the rights of the individual are always inviolate. This means that just because I disagree with your behavior, it does not mean I have legal recourse to stop it, unless it causes harm to me or my family.

    To steal a phrase from Eddie Izzard, "putting babies on spikes" is not something that someone of a sound mind would consider "moral". The absolute objectivity of this is questionable, but the truth behind it is undeniable. My intention then, is to define "Objective Morality" as a crime with a victim, whereas "Relative Morality" is victimless. As I have previously stated, "victimless crimes" should not be punishable. Only actions that deny the right of another human being should be. An extreme example: Smoking crack cocaine, in and of itself, should not be against the law. However, if a man smokes crack, then beats his wife while he is high, he should be punished for beating his wife, not for smoking the crack. Nobody reasonable person would find murdering your wife, with or without drug use, to be moral, because there is a victim who has sustained substantial harm. So what I find is that morality shouldn't come into play when writing law, because anything that is considered "Objectively Moral", can also be covered by my statement that an individual does not have the right to take away the rights of another. When you commit a crime, you must by definition, be abusing someone else's rights. In addition, many crimes involving a victim can (and usually are) handled by a civil court. Adultery, for instance, does not cause direct physical or financial harm the victim. Yet one can argue that the victim is due some kind of repayment. In a case like that, punishment of the actor is not the goal, instead it should be the repayment of the victim for their loss.

    That being said, one counter-argument might be: if we can reduce the number of crack users, we will reduce the number of robberies. This gross form of prior restraint in and of itself is a bad policy, and always leads to the loss of some of our rights. It is not ever justifiable to deny a right to everyone on the grounds that it will stop some criminals. Granted, keeping crack off the street may prevent some robberies, but you cannot keep all the crack off the street, because crack users won't obey the law anyway! So what might work better than this type of legislation? Since we are dealing with a social issue, perhaps social treatment programs would be a better use of taxpayer money. While preventative "relative" laws fail to prevent, strict enforcement of good objective legislation can handle the actual violations of rights.

    I find in general, this is a tough topic to get my head around. There are a lot of "what-ifs" that could be brought up. In addition, it is clearly a pipe-dream to shift our legal system into this paradigm, since we have already institutionalized a "nanny-state" mentality. Morality as a foundation of law has been the precedent since our country was founded. Additionally, I do not claim that my reasoning is perfect here, rather I intend to contrast this system against our own, in the hopes of pointing out the serious flaw in the content of the laws we pass. Congress consistently tries to pass laws that protect us from a possibly threat, rather than using the power of the executive threat to guarantee that criminals are punished. Each time a "criminal" act is regulated further, one more of my rights has been diminished. I don't believe that our freedom cannot withstand the constant barrage of nickel-and-dime or wholesale violations it is receiving.

    Note: this is not meant to be scholarly work. This is simply my opinion. If I use someone else's ideas, I try to credit them where appropriate. I also reserve the right to change my opinion when provided with better information, as any half-intelligent person should do.

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

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