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Government should not legislate morality

 
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2004 01:22 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
I won't grant you that. Surely we can have near-universal agreement on a point and yet still need legislation. For instance, we have near-universal agreement that murder is immoral. Yet that near-unanimity does not lessen the need for laws concerning murder.


But that isn't "every issue" is it? If everyone in the world agreed on every issue do you think the rates for murder would be where they are now? You are applying the status of a single issue as it stands now into a utopian scenario and methinks that doesn't quite work.

Quote:
More to the point, if you say that we have laws to handle differences in opinion regarding morality, then you're simply stating that governments do legislate morality, without addressing whether they should legislate morality.


As I stated early on, I don't see how the government can do anything but legislate on moral issues.

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Moreover, if the law's purpose is to settle disputes regarding morality, one must ask: which morality should the government favor?


Generally, in our society, the majority generally prevails - provided thr government acts within the confines of the authority we've granted to it. That's the social compact we've all agreed to.

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Let me offer a hypothetical: suppose a legislature decides that it must make a law regarding divorce. There are a range of moral positions from which it could choose, from making divorce strictly illegal to making it purely a matter of individual choice. Given that there is no near-universal societal agreement concerning the "correct" moral position on divorce, what should the legislature do?


One would hope that the people in the legislature would contact their constituents (or conduct a referendum) and act in accordance with their wishes and then do whatever the majority decides upon provided it doesn't violate some constitutional restriction. That's the whole purpose in having a representative democracy isn't it?

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In the case of drug use, however, I think the libertarian position (see the third link in my initial post) is not so much in favor of drug use as it is opposed to government interference in private decisions. It's not that drug use is necessarily good, but rather that government regulation is necessarily bad.


That's probably a true statement regarding the Libertarian Party position. It sounds pretty close to me anyway. However, for those that argue that government shouldn't legislate morality - are they willing to live with the drug laws as they are now? Or do they think the drug laws should be repealed? If the latter, isn't that a case of government legislating morality too? It's still "legislating" whether the law being decided on makes something illegal or it repeals a previous law isn't it?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 08:20 am
fishin' wrote:
But that isn't "every issue" is it? If everyone in the world agreed on every issue do you think the rates for murder would be where they are now? You are applying the status of a single issue as it stands now into a utopian scenario and methinks that doesn't quite work.

Are you talking about universal agreement regarding just morality, or universal agreement regarding everything? Certainly, we can have near-universal agreeement on an issue of morality (e.g. murder is wrong) while still having disagreements regarding the best (i.e. the most efficacious or most prudent) methods for dealing with the issue. For instance, even if everyone agrees that murder is wrong, people can still have non-moral disagreements over the proper form of punishment for murderers.

fishin' wrote:
As I stated early on, I don't see how the government can do anything but legislate on moral issues.

That's true, but that isn't the question either. Governments cannot avoid legislating on some issues that involve morality (e.g. murder), but the real question is whether, in doing so, it should impose a certain version of morality on the general population. And if it should impose a version of morality, which one should it be?

fishin' wrote:
Generally, in our society, the majority generally prevails - provided thr government acts within the confines of the authority we've granted to it. That's the social compact we've all agreed to.

So the government should always impose the majority's morality? What if the majority is racist, sexist, and homophobic?

fishin' wrote:
One would hope that the people in the legislature would contact their constituents (or conduct a referendum) and act in accordance with their wishes and then do whatever the majority decides upon provided it doesn't violate some constitutional restriction. That's the whole purpose in having a representative democracy isn't it?

See my query above.

fishin' wrote:
That's probably a true statement regarding the Libertarian Party position. It sounds pretty close to me anyway. However, for those that argue that government shouldn't legislate morality - are they willing to live with the drug laws as they are now? Or do they think the drug laws should be repealed?

I think, for the Libertarian Party, it's the latter.

fishin' wrote:
If the latter, isn't that a case of government legislating morality too? It's still "legislating" whether the law being decided on makes something illegal or it repeals a previous law isn't it?

That's a good question. Is a "hands-off" policy the same thing as "legislating morality?"
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 09:06 am
joefromchicago wrote:
So the government should always impose the majority's morality? What if the majority is racist, sexist, and homophobic?


There was a time, let's take 17th century Connecticut and Massachusetts, when the world view (culture) of the residents of those two colonies were just exactly that (from our 21 century perspective). And the laws of those two colonies reflected that world view. Those laws were regarded as nothing more than the proper expression and regulation of the way things aught to be. They were in effect moral expressions.

Part of the issue here is the use of rhetoric, which I will define as claims made on the logic of an argument derived from it's initial premiss which is an etic approach, and emic arguments, claims made from the observation of what people actually do. The law must be emic, it must reflect how people think the world actually is, ie their moral understanding. If not then the law will be considered immoral, or an attempt to legislate and unacceptable morality and there will be conflict. There is almost always a one to one correlation between law and world view in small culturally uniform societies. In this case the morality of the law is not an issue for it reflect what people think is moral. It is when you get large. culturally divers societies with diverse understanding of what is moral, that morality and the law becomes an issue.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 10:42 am
joefromchicago wrote:
So the government should always impose the majority's morality? What if the majority is racist, sexist, and homophobic?


And what if the majority are rich, anti-environmentalist business people? You do exactly what has already been done. You create a Constitutional provision that prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, gender, etc.. In other words, you legislate the base morality into the highest level laws possible.
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ReX
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 May, 2004 10:46 am
**** authority
0 Replies
 
 

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