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2017-03-10

The separation of law and morality

The separation of church and state has been great. It’s good for the country and good for religion. It’d like to see it taken further.

There are two problems with legislating a moral code:

  1. People disagree on what is and isn’t moral
  2. What works or doesn’t work on an individual scale can be very different from what works or doesn’t for society as a whole

The first point should be self-explanatory. Separating law and morality would get a lot of divisive, hot-button issues out of politics.

The second point means, in part, that we should adopt harm-reduction strategies without necessarily condoning everything.

Basically, bans and prohibition are awful ways to influence people’s behavior, when it comes to things that they want to do. I don’t care if it’s marijuana, abortion, circumcision, or sugar: try to take away something enough people want (or think they want) and they will fight you.

Whether these things (and others) are good or bad, we should legalize and regulate them because it’s the only thing that works. Then you can have a second, social component to discourage them, as you find appropriate.

Some things, like probably heroin, really are genuinely bad. However, simply banning them doesn’t seem to be working that well, and we’ve already tried “tougher enforcement” enough times.

Now, whenever someone points out that prohibition doesn’t work, someone else always points out, “but we prohibit murder!” Murder is different because pretty much everyone agrees it shouldn’t be allowed, and it generally doesn’t develop its own underground communities and black markets. (There are gangs and crime families but they’re usually based around something profitable, rather than people-hunting for sport.)

Like the separation of church and state, the separation of law and morality is good for both sides: laws can be written based around what is effective and enforceable, and morality can be unconstrained by practicality (or other people) to determine absolute right and wrong (if that’s your thing).

Assuming we find this idea mutually agreeable, let’s put it into practice at the earliest opportunity. Thanks.