Monday, February 20, 2012


Every now and then I hear someone say,"You can't legislate morality." What on earth could these people possibly mean? What an illogical statement! What else are our civil laws except the legislation of morality? Wouldn't you consider our laws against stealing, breach of contract, and murder worth preserving? Yet are they not the legislation of morality?

When people argue that you can't legislate morality they are usually objecting to legislatures passing laws that are against their personal self-interest. Every time some new vice is discussed before the legislature we hear again the "You can't legislate morality" argument. What they mean is "We don't want society to create laws that make it illegal to do something they want to do."

Let's be honest: all laws are about legislating morality. The only question is, what should be our standard of morality.

So the next time someone suggests that we can't legislate morality, invite them to think about it more deeply.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Jim. What could they possibly mean? Maybe what they intend to say is "You can't legislate moral people." We can codify moral behavior but we can't create a moral and ethical populace via the legislature. I agree that this is not a good argument for abandoning legislative efforts to create just and moral laws. That is one of the ways that we build sustainable peace - by transforming systems and structures of society to make them more just, more inclusive, and less violent. A key question is indeed "What should be our standard for morality?" Another is "How do I make sure my internal moral compass does not get demagnetized?"