Saturday, July 30, 2005

Legality and Morality

That which is legal is not necessarily moral. That which is illegal is not necessarily immoral. That which is immoral is not necessarily illegal. And yet, I am continually astounded by the number of people who cannot distinguish between legality and morality. I was brought to this topic by a little rhyme I heard a few minutes ago on KMJ. A doctor was quoted as saying, "Getting high because you're sick and going to die is not a good idea... because it's illegal."

Now, taken at face value, it's not that bad a statement. Regardless of the benefits, doing things that are illegal is generally little more than a way of making one's own life more difficult. One has to hide one's activities, constantly be looking over one's shoulder, and if caught, there can be serious consequences. Sometimes, despite the lack of a good moral argument against a particular action, it's just better to avoid the trouble doing something illegal can start. And if you're representing a group, it is best to avoid illegal activities altogether, since if your name is damaged, so is theirs.

The problem I have is when comments like that are made by people who really mean, "it's wrong because it's illegal." I am continually frustrated by the general inability of the average person to have a political discussion about our drug policies becase, "It's illegal." They trot that out like it's the trump argument, as if God Himself delivered our laws to us and we can't do anything about it. I suppose our political system is so confusing to the avarage person that, so far as they can understand, our laws really *are* some immutable force. But it's just so stupid.

Our laws are written by men we elect and send to the various legislatures that represent us. Those laws are enforced by men who we elect, and cases are judged by men who are either elected by us or appointed by those we have elected. So "it's illegal" simply cannot be a moral argument against an act, because our laws were written by men, and can be changed by men! There is nothing immoral about saying, "I disagree that this law ought to be." And yet, in our society, there seems to be a taboo against suggesting that an act which is illegal should not be illegal. I'll say, "I really don't see what harm there is in letting a guy smoke a joint in the safety of his own home. It may not be a good idea for him, but I fail to see how he harms others with his habit." "But it's illegal!" is the retort I have often gotten. Yes, it is. The point I am trying to make is it oughtn't be.

It's no wonder our legislatures are so unresponsive to the desires of the people. We've become sheep, regarding our legislators as instruments of divine will. So many people think illegal=immoral that it's nearly impossible to overturn a law once it has gone into effect.

I can just imagine these people cringing at the thought of sheltering a legally oppressed class. Nazis could be going around, hauling off Jews for slaughter, and the few who have the ability to distinguish law from morality will attempt to protect these people in whatever way they can. But the sheep will sit there and say, "But it's illegal!"

4 comments:

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Tarvok said...

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Ɯbermilf said...

But see, distinguishing between the two would require thought.

Most people are too lazy to think.

They need someone to tell them "the rules," because they don't want to figure anything out themselves.

That's so frighteningly undemocratic; but then democracy has come to mean "I can buy stuff!" in too many people's minds, instead of "I am in charge of, and therefore responsible for, my life and my community."

Tarvok said...

Having a set of rules to live by handed down is not the same as creating laws to enforce morality. There are plenty of places for people who feel the need for strict guidance to look--the Bible, the Koran, or what have you. It's not the issue of being able to distinguish between the two.

It's more the fact that many feel the need to force [i]others[/i] to follow the same morality, regardless of whether or not the behavior of others affects their own ability to follow their chosen path. Indeed, many of these people, having chosen the wrong path, and having decided to force that path upon others, will likely suffer torments more horrible than those who they are trying to force, and yet are equally wrong...