Soap Box:  Morality Laws and Victimless Crimes

September 4, 2003

Have you ever heard the term "morality law"? How about "victimless crime"? There are some laws in our legal system that people say fall under these headings. And some say that these laws should be abolished. Sometimes the case is argued that getting rid of these laws would reduce crime. Other times, it's argued that it would relieve some of the burden on our police force by allowing them to focus only on the more serious crimes. Although I don't have any evidence on what impact the abolishment of such laws would have on crime, I do think quite a few of these so called "victimless crime" laws should be taken off the books. I also believe the same about some of the "morality" laws. Let's face it, when you're dealing with morality, there's a fine line between it and religion.

One such law that I think should be abolished is the law against prostitution. Prostitution is basically selling one's body for sex. Since it is actually legal in certain parts of the world, even hypocritically legal in parts of the state of Nevada, it can be judged as a law that is solely trying to dictate morality. I'm not saying that the act of prostitution is right or wrong. I'm saying that the government shouldn't be in the business of telling us what is morality right and wrong. Prostitution has two (or more) willing people, engaging in sex for money (or some other monetary measurement). It is a business transaction between adults. The prostitute offers the sex and gives the price and the deal only proceeds if the customer agrees to the conditions. There is no legal harm to the people involved or to the general public. There is no legal harm to the government. In fact, pornography, which is legal, can be considered prostitution. Pornographic video is definitely people having sex for money and even pornographic magazines provides a form of sex for money. If prostitution is to be fought on moral grounds, then it needs to be done by private citizens and by churches and religious organizations. It should be considered as just another sin, if they view it as such, they need to get rid of.

In fact, the various governments, both state and federal, should take note of what Nevada is doing.  I would think that a government's point of view would be that they would want to regulate the industry. It would represent an enormous tax revenue. They could also license brothels and maintain that prostitutes most undergo regular health screenings, an action that might help reduce the spread of venereal diseases.

Another law that might be considered a morality law is one against drug usage. There is a big debate on whether drugs should be legalized. It's quite apparent that there is a huge criminal element involved in the drug market. Opponents to the drug laws argue the criminal element will disappear once drugs are legalized. Unlike prostitution, drugs can affect society as a whole. People often claim they commit crimes because of drugs and sometimes our health system has to absorb the cost of treating people that are addicted to drugs. So legalizing drugs is not a straight forward issue. But there are certain drugs that are already legal, so there is some hypocrisy and morality involved.

The biggest legal drug is alcohol. Alcohol probably has the biggest effect on the nation as a whole. Every year, thousands of people die because of people driving automobiles while they were drunk. And what of all the broken marriages because of the misuse of alcohol? What of the bar fights and general lawlessness that people blame on alcohol? What of the health issues, from cirrhosis of the liver to the treatment needed for alcoholics? It would seem that alcohol has a greater impact on society than prostitution, yet alcohol is legal. You can buy it just about everywhere. The only moral issue I've seen with alcohol is that the bible denounces the drunkenness that comes from it. It doesn't denounce the simple drinking of alcohol. Our nation once tried to abolish alcohol with a constitutional amendment, but that didn't last very long. Besides, our hypocritical government saw the enormous tax revenue that could be gained from allowing alcohol to remain legal.

So if alcohol is legal, why isn't marijuana legal? It's because marijuana is seen as "drug usage" which is considered a moral sin while alcohol is not seen as drug usage at all, but rather as some sort of food consumption. Smoking cigarettes is legal, even though we know about the nicotine and its addictive traits. It's just plain, blatant hypocrisy of our government and from all those that label smoking marijuana as evil drug usage while turning a blind eye to cigarettes and alcohol. In fact, the hemp plant, from which marijuana is made, is also illegal. This is despite the fact that it can be used to make rope. That's just plain silly. I contend that if alcohol and cigarettes are legal, then there is no reason that marijuana shouldn't be legal too. It would be another product that would offer a tax revenue for the government and would not cause any more societal harm than the legalized drugs are currently doing.

What about the "big" drugs such as cocaine or heroin? Those are different in that small amounts can cause devastating results because of the addiction. It doesn't take much for those to have immediate affects on society. I can totally understand why a government might want to make those illegal.

There are other morality laws on the books but I think the ones I covered here are representative enough to point out the flaws in our current system. Our government should not be in the business of enforcing laws just because the acts are considered immoral. Remember that whether something is moral or not often comes from religion, and that will vary as much as religions vary. When it comes to laws, the government should first try to identify any victims. That would be either individuals themselves or society as a whole. If there are no true victims, was there ever a crime? I think our churches and religious organizations are better suited to battle for our souls and morality than our government. I would much rather our police force to be working on preventing and solving murders, robberies, and such. These are crimes with unwilling victims, that cause much more harm to our society than those with willing participants.

Please don't see this article as an endorsement of prostitution and drug usage. I'm just saying that when it comes to laws being enacted and enforced, I don't want my government in the business of deciding what is morality right and wrong. I can make that decision myself. Only when that decision has a negative, undesirable, and direct impact on my fellow citizens, should the government get involved. The bottom line is that society, people, and our government should not impose their morality on others by the rule of law.

Jeff Polston


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