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Thursday, February 26, 2004
Something That Has Always Bugged Me

By Steven Taylor @ 7:12 pm

It is often said that “you can’t legislate morality” and the phrase has, of course, been much bandied about of late for obvious reasons.

While I concur that you can’t legislate what morals individuals will hold, is it not the case that all laws are predicated on some moral judgment?

It just has always struck me a vacuous formulation.

(OK, ranting over).

Filed under: Political Philosophy/ Theory

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  1. Unless some smart person can think of some reason that encouraging or prohibiting something in no way should be construed as passing a value judgement on that thing, I would say that all legislation is morality.

    Comment by Mark Hasty — Thursday, February 26, 2004 @ 7:48 pm

  2. I’d have to agree that all laws are based on morality. But there seems to be much dispute over what should be the origin of said morals.

    Comment by tallglassofmilk — Thursday, February 26, 2004 @ 9:38 pm

  3. If you can’t legislate morality, what the hell is it with the 700 words of instructions plastered on my recycling bin telling me all the serious penalties that will accrue if I don’t take the bottle tops of my plastic pop bottles? And just think about throwing an aluminum can in a regular trash bin on a college campus. Holy crap!

    Comment by John Lemon — Thursday, February 26, 2004 @ 9:47 pm

  4. I’m in total agreement. If a law doesn’t have some moral purpose, why have it?

    Comment by GFE — Friday, February 27, 2004 @ 8:03 am

  5. Dear Mr. Taylor:

    Yes, it’s obvious that all law is a legislation of morality. The law is our minimum code of ethics. I don’t believe the Republic can survive the trend for it to become the maximum code of ethics.

    I suspect that this “can’t legislate morality” notion is due, at least in part, to the sad reality that few these days have much formal training in ethics and morals, or logic for that matter.

    Comment by Dave Schuler — Friday, February 27, 2004 @ 8:40 am

  6. Yup.

    Comment by Steven — Friday, February 27, 2004 @ 9:53 am

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