Berean cogitations

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Legislating morality

People often claim that one cannot legislate morality. I think that's balderdash. If anything, morality is the only thing that one can legitimately legislate!

Y'see, all legislation must be built on some foundation of what's right and wrong. Any law that is not founded on some basis of rightness is either capricious or unjust. That is why we have laws against murder and rape, for example... because those actions are wrong.

"But wait!" one might say. "What about traffic laws? Surely you wouldn't claim that it's fundamentally immoral to drive above 35MPH! Or that it's immoral to drive on the left-hand side of the road. Traffic laws are completely arbitrary, and they are not based on morality."

That's simply not true, though. They are still built on the notion that it's wrong to recklessly endanger one's fellow man. The particulars of these laws may be arbitrary (e.g. which side of the road to drive on), but their existence is still necessitated by the rule that one must preserve human life and safety.

Some would say, "Laws only exist because they are good for society. They require no moral basis." To them, I would ask, "Why should we care about what's good for society? Perhaps a suitably dictatorial government would enact laws that ruthlessly enslave part of society for their own pleasure. The very claim that we should do what's best for society is itself a moral claim!"

So yes, we should indeed force morality on people. That's exactly what any just law does.