Legislating Morality

“One of the great myths of our time is that you can’t legislate morality. . . .
It is a ridiculous notion to say you can’t legislate morality. I say you can’t NOT legislate morality.”

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Associated Press, 6/13/05

I tend to agree with this statement to a degree. Most if not all of our basic laws are “legislated morality”. Murder is against the law because it’s immoral. Theft is against the law because it’s immoral. Rape is against the law because it’s immoral. Incest is against the law because it’s immoral. Loan sharking, extortion, blackmail, arson, fraud, etc. are all against the law because it’s immoral.

So why does the mantra, “You can’t legislate morality” have so much traction?

Because enough people agree with child molesting being wrong to accept the moral law. Once there are enough to make a “voice” that might be the next one to go. Hey, he loves the kid and if they do it in the home what should you care… Take any of the laws, as the country gets less and less moral based we will see them all come under fire.

[quote]throttle132 wrote:
“One of the great myths of our time is that you can’t legislate morality. . . .
It is a ridiculous notion to say you can’t legislate morality. I say you can’t NOT legislate morality.”

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Associated Press, 6/13/05

I tend to agree with this statement to a degree. Most if not all of our basic laws are “legislated morality”. Murder is against the law because it’s immoral. Theft is against the law because it’s immoral. Rape is against the law because it’s immoral. Incest is against the law because it’s immoral. Loan sharking, extortion, blackmail, arson, fraud, etc. are all against the law because it’s immoral.

So why does the mantra, “You can’t legislate morality” have so much traction?[/quote]

You can not legislate morality.

How many of the 10 commandments are actually punishable laws?

hint - less than half

The origins of most of our laws are based on property and economic rights, not morality per se. For instance, the crime of rape originated in the Middle Ages because a girl’s father had a “property right” in his daughter’s virginity – it was easier to marry off a virgin than a girl who was “experienced.” Over the years, society has come to define rape as a “moral wrong,” and rightly so, but its origins had nothing to do with it being a wrong against the woman herself but a wrong against the father.

To this day there is no crime of “rape” that a woman can commit on a man, at least I don’t think so, although there may be lesser charges such as “indecent acts” that a woman can commit on a man.

The civil wrong of fraud (i.e., when you personally sue someone for damages as opposed to the D.A. bring criminal charges) requires proof of damages. For instance, suppose I made the following offer: send me $100 and I will send you a workout program that will add 50 lbs. to your bench in one week. I don’t have such a program, and most people would be smart enough to know that this is darn near impossible. Can you sue me for fraud even if you never send me the money? No, because without sending the $100, you have suffered no damages.

Theft is a crime because you are depriving someone of property without compensating them for it. Believe it or not, in real property law, there is an instance where “stealing” someone’s land is ultimately rewarded with the thief gaining title to that land because it makes economic sense. It’s called acquiring title by adverse possession. Look it up.

The problem with legislating morality is defining “morality.” As T.C.‘s column noted a few weeks ago, there are people who find the content of T-Nation immoral and unacceptable. If enough people agree with this proposition, should there be a law passed that would prohibit T-Nation from putting what it wants on its site? Or is the better solution to let people decide for themselves what sites on the Internet they do or don’t wish to visit? It’s not the job of the government, at taxpayers’ expense, to figure out what’s right and wrong. It’s our job. Instilling moral values starts with us and how we educate our children.

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[quote]MikeTheBear wrote:
I tend to agree with this statement to a degree. Most if not all of our basic laws are “legislated morality”. Murder is against the law because it’s immoral. Theft is against the law because it’s immoral. Rape is against the law because it’s immoral. Incest is against the law because it’s immoral. Loan sharking, extortion, blackmail, arson, fraud, etc. are all against the law because it’s immoral.

The origins of most of our laws are based on property and economic rights, not morality per se. For instance, the crime of rape originated in the Middle Ages because a girl’s father had a “property right” in his daughter’s virginity – it was easier to marry off a virgin than a girl who was “experienced.” Over the years, society has come to define rape as a “moral wrong,” and rightly so, but its origins had nothing to do with it being a wrong against the woman herself but a wrong against the father.

To this day there is no crime of “rape” that a woman can commit on a man, at least I don’t think so, although there may be lesser charges such as “indecent acts” that a woman can commit on a man.

The civil wrong of fraud (i.e., when you personally sue someone for damages as opposed to the D.A. bring criminal charges) requires proof of damages. For instance, suppose I made the following offer: send me $100 and I will send you a workout program that will add 50 lbs. to your bench in one week. I don’t have such a program, and most people would be smart enough to know that this is darn near impossible. Can you sue me for fraud even if you never send me the money? No, because without sending the $100, you have suffered no damages.

Theft is a crime because you are depriving someone of property without compensating them for it. Believe it or not, in real property law, there is an instance where “stealing” someone’s land is ultimately rewarded with the thief gaining title to that land because it makes economic sense. It’s called acquiring title by adverse possession. Look it up.

The problem with legislating morality is defining “morality.” As T.C.‘s column noted a few weeks ago, there are people who find the content of T-Nation immoral and unacceptable. If enough people agree with this proposition, should there be a law passed that would prohibit T-Nation from putting what it wants on its site? Or is the better solution to let people decide for themselves what sites on the Internet they do or don’t wish to visit? It’s not the job of the government, at taxpayers’ expense, to figure out what’s right and wrong. It’s our job. Instilling moral values starts with us and how we educate our children. [/quote]

I sse your point but can’t imagine that anyone would disagree that rape, murder, theft, blackmail, arson, fraud, etc. is NOT immoral. Maybe the crux of this question would be to define morality and immorality. I think immorality includes all of these examples. Maybe not?

Yeah, too bad the guy making the statement is choosing to misunderstand it.

You can “legislate” anything within the bounds of the constitution.

What you can’t do is actually affect the minds of the populace with respect to right and wrong by passing a law.

[quote]MikeTheBear wrote:
I tend to agree with this statement to a degree. Most if not all of our basic laws are “legislated morality”. Murder is against the law because it’s immoral. Theft is against the law because it’s immoral. Rape is against the law because it’s immoral. Incest is against the law because it’s immoral. Loan sharking, extortion, blackmail, arson, fraud, etc. are all against the law because it’s immoral.

The origins of most of our laws are based on property and economic rights, not morality per se. For instance, the crime of rape originated in the Middle Ages because a girl’s father had a “property right” in his daughter’s virginity – it was easier to marry off a virgin than a girl who was “experienced.” Over the years, society has come to define rape as a “moral wrong,” and rightly so, but its origins had nothing to do with it being a wrong against the woman herself but a wrong against the father.

To this day there is no crime of “rape” that a woman can commit on a man, at least I don’t think so, although there may be lesser charges such as “indecent acts” that a woman can commit on a man.

The civil wrong of fraud (i.e., when you personally sue someone for damages as opposed to the D.A. bring criminal charges) requires proof of damages. For instance, suppose I made the following offer: send me $100 and I will send you a workout program that will add 50 lbs. to your bench in one week. I don’t have such a program, and most people would be smart enough to know that this is darn near impossible. Can you sue me for fraud even if you never send me the money? No, because without sending the $100, you have suffered no damages.

Theft is a crime because you are depriving someone of property without compensating them for it. Believe it or not, in real property law, there is an instance where “stealing” someone’s land is ultimately rewarded with the thief gaining title to that land because it makes economic sense. It’s called acquiring title by adverse possession. Look it up.

The problem with legislating morality is defining “morality.” As T.C.‘s column noted a few weeks ago, there are people who find the content of T-Nation immoral and unacceptable. If enough people agree with this proposition, should there be a law passed that would prohibit T-Nation from putting what it wants on its site? Or is the better solution to let people decide for themselves what sites on the Internet they do or don’t wish to visit? It’s not the job of the government, at taxpayers’ expense, to figure out what’s right and wrong. It’s our job. Instilling moral values starts with us and how we educate our children. [/quote]

I guess it depends on how far back we go. But speaking for the USA, our basic laws started with the foundation of our governmental system, which is the constitution and the D of I. The constitution was written and ratified by Christians with Christian values and morals. The constitution mentions God many times.

So with these facts in mind it would be inaccurate to say that most of the laws are not related to the values that started this country. Which would mean most the laws are related to a Christian moral perspective, at least in the USA.

Also, there are many laws that are still on the books, but not enforced due to PC that are directly related to moral values. For example sodomy is illegal in California, but not only are men in San Francisco not written up for it, it is held up as a cool thing to do (strange in light of the HIV/AIDS problem they have there, but that’s a discussion for another thread).

The point is there are many purely moral-related laws on the books that were made laws by Christians with Christian values. The reason it is now stated that you can’t legislate morality is that those on the losing side of that argument don’t want people (or legislators) to vote with their conscience, because most in the USA still vote with their conscience. And when that happens we get an elections like we just had here in the USA; Bush in and Kerry out.

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[quote]Lorisco wrote:

The point is there are many purely moral-related laws on the books that were made laws by Christians with Christian values. The reason it is now stated that you can’t legislate morality is that those on the losing side of that argument don’t want people (or legislators) to vote with their conscience, because most in the USA still vote with their conscience. And when that happens we get an elections like we just had here in the USA; Bush in and Kerry out.

[/quote]

Sorry, but your logic about how all the law we have is related to Christian morality doesn’t hold water. Sure, the process involved the morality of the participants, but that doesn’t prove jack about whether these laws legislate morality - as opposed to public safety and reasonable freedom from unreasonable interference. The founders were pretty clear they wanted to keep religion out of it. Besides, these laws are identical to laws that non-Christians come up with. So that blows your whole line about how our law all comes down to Christian values right out of the water.

Sure you can legislate morality and we do all the time, particularly in our laws against victimless crimes. So tell me, how are Christian values doing in the war on drugs? Not so hot, eh? But you can’t say it’s for want of enforcement.

Hmmm. Maybe while we can legislate morality, just possibly it’s not that great an idea. There’s a Christian thought for you, straight from a Christian.

Oh yeah, and the California sodomy law you’re referring to was repealed in 1976. Sodomy has been legal in California for a long time. Now thanks to the Supreme Court, it’s legal everywhere.

I think Morality is a personal issue that should be for people to decide for themselves. Governemnt should legislate against things that disrupt the peace and the smooth running of society.

Rape, murder, child molesting, tax evasion and excessive drug use all impact on the smooth running of society. Me rooting my neighbour’s wife does not.

Keep society orderly and keep out of everything else.

[quote]Massif wrote:
I think Morality is a personal issue that should be for people to decide for themselves. Governemnt should legislate against things that disrupt the peace and the smooth running of society.

Rape, murder, child molesting, tax evasion and excessive drug use all impact on the smooth running of society. Me rooting my neighbour’s wife does not.

Keep society orderly and keep out of everything else.[/quote]

Now there’s some sense. Remember that when we legislate stuff, all we are doing is imposing our will upon a citizenry. Let’s keep the imposing down to a minimum, especially when it doesn’t do anything to promote the “smooth running of society” as Massif put it.

Here’s something for ya:

A) Should we use laws to shape our society?

or

B) Does our society shape our laws?

I would hope that most of you want B, because where I come from, A = Fascism.

Thoughts anyone?

[quote]lothario1132 wrote:
Massif wrote:
I think Morality is a personal issue that should be for people to decide for themselves. Governemnt should legislate against things that disrupt the peace and the smooth running of society.

Rape, murder, child molesting, tax evasion and excessive drug use all impact on the smooth running of society. Me rooting my neighbour’s wife does not.

Keep society orderly and keep out of everything else.

Now there’s some sense. Remember that when we legislate stuff, all we are doing is imposing our will upon a citizenry. Let’s keep the imposing down to a minimum, especially when it doesn’t do anything to promote the “smooth running of society” as Massif put it.

Here’s something for ya:

A) Should we use laws to shape our society?

or

B) Does our society shape our laws?

I would hope that most of you want B, because where I come from, A = Fascism.

Thoughts anyone?
[/quote]

Damn, I’ve been accused of making sense again.

Society shaping laws is where it starts to get grey. Societies in general are full of idiots with a human cattle mentality. It is usually these same idiots who are shouting about “Make sex education illegal. Think of the children”. Does sex ed bring about the destruction of society? No? Then shut the fuck up, and concentrate on something that is an actual problem.

Bugger, it’s time for me to go and this was getting interesting…

LOL Massif, your post reminds me of a sarcastic headline I saw a few weeks back that I used a story from in a thread about this same kind of issue:

“After solving all other problems, New Jersey lawmaker wants to change the name of the New Jersey hockey team”

Wouldn’t it be nice if our elected representatives kept focused on the REALLY important stuff? :slight_smile:

Morality is simply what people think is right and wrong. You can’t legislate morality because everyone is different and there are differing opinions on what is right and wrong in certain situations. However their are ‘universal’ wrongs which become law, they are accepted by everyone as a wrongful act and are punishable, ie Murder. I think legislating morality is wrong because there are always going to be some issues which certain people think are wrong but a lot of people would disagree with them. You cannot base a law on what one person thinks is immoral. For example a law against gay sex or sodomy. Some people would say gay sex is immoral, others would disagree but quite clearly there should be no law against it.

Option “B” is compatible with the ethics of the “Utilitarian” philosopher, John Stuart Mill. His subjective and relativistic view of ethics is “the greatest good of the greatest number.” In other words, what the greatest number of people in a given social construct agree to be “good” for them is what IS good. This sounds roughly like your idea “B” above. That sounds good, especially to our modern individuality-focused ears, however it denies objectively real moral standards. For example, imagine you are on an island where all of the islanders believe canabalism to be good. You, however, are their meal choice. The greatest good for the greatest number dictates that it is morally good for them to eat you.

Perhaps an alternative would be choice “C”

C) Natural Moral Law shapes our society which in turn shapes our laws.

Almost all laws legislate morality. The question is where the base of the morals comes from – as lothario pointed out, it should be from the majority if you think the legitimacy of a government comes from the consent of the governed.

It’s too bad everybody tries to take the damned saying literally…

Lorisco,

At the risk of starting a religious debate here (which seems to happen in these types of threads), I ran a search on the U.S. Constitution and neither “God” nor “Creator” are mentioned anywhere in the text. The following is an online plain-text version that includes all of the Amendments. The word “Christian” is not in there either. See for yourself.

http://www.usconstitution.net/const.txt

And I just want to add that Massif’s definition of the purpose of law is very good. Cheating on your wife, or buggering another man’s wife, may be immoral, but it really doesn’t harm or disrupt society to the point that it would require taxpayer money to be spent on prosecuting and incarcerating the would-be Lothario. This is something many people lose sight of - the money factor. It costs money to prosecute people and even more money to keep them in prison. If you want lower taxes, you will need to let go of some of the moral laws. That’s just how it is.