Is Passing Laws an effective deterrent?
There are many potential purposes for why a law might be passed. The main one is to go after criminal evildoers for the main four true crimes:
These are essentially the four commandments of all governmental systems and thus will not be discussed. The question of their effectiveness is not relevant since people have always done these legitimately criminal acts, but it has never been deterred by the laws’ presence itself. We recently found that cities like San Francisco are passing legislation, or have done so, to make theft under $900 unprosecutable. The outcome has encouraged people to steal, so, while the law itself deters people from stealing, its laxity of punishment encourages people to steal much more from other people than otherwise. If you allow something to be non-criminal under a certain amount, then the people who want to steal but were afraid to go to jail now have an amount they can steal before they are a criminal.
Imagine if we said that for anything else? It would only be criminal after a guy raped a woman for over two minutes, but any amount of rape less than that is not criminally prosecutable as the other rape. On the other hand, if someone punched a guy over 7 times, then it would be seen as battery. Anything less than that is just horseplay and would not be prosecuted. You could imagine many people would figure out ways to do these non-consensual acts of aggression within the rule of law. In this conversation, I am by no means questioning the golden universal four laws that are the bedrock of all governments’ legitimate purview. If the government were to get rid of any of those four, societies would quietly dissolve because of Chaotic Anarchism, brought about through neglect of the Social Contract (the non-material fabric of public life that binds and limits the role of government over its citizens and has the role of government to only stop evildoers) between the government and the citizens it serves.
Instead, I want to discuss laws that are not universal for all countries like the prior golden four were, but instead laws that are subjective and optional, laws that some countries have and some do not. Even some states have these laws while others do not. The main one I am thinking of is laws on the war on drugs and its prototypical version prohibition on alcohol. One of my favorite political thinking quotes (I love it so much I made custom bookmarks with this quote. "One of the greatest mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."-Milton Friedman). So, in the spirit of this quote, let's examine the lure of the "great mistake" of good intentions around laws that regulate substance possession and then consider their actual results.
The heart behind drug and alcohol prohibition is obviously good. The mindset goes, let's try and limit the consumption of said vice to make a better society of people that are neither high (Potheads)' nor drunk (drunkards). They think that it would create better husbands and better fathers. It would make people care about their jobs more and maybe be more devoted to a religious community. While these intentions are noble, namely the intention of using Law (Coercion) as a means to make people better, they not only violate their civil rights of self-ownership, self-government, legitimate role of government, Non-aggression principle, bodily autonomy, personal property, freedom of association, and as Thomas Jefferson Calls it, their right to "Pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is also totally ineffective at stopping people from doing drugs and does not help people from making their own alcohol under prohibition. All it did was push the market underground where people had to:
I. Deal with shady people
2. Be limited in their options by the rare provider or dealer
3. The product became more powerful (weed much more powerful or concentrated today than it was in the hippy era of the 60s and 70s, and prohibition of alcohol lead to high alcohol content liquors like moonshine)
4. The product could easily have questionable things in it, thus no accountability due to the fact that shady people are the people who are willing to sell you drugs at risk of being caught and criminally prosecuted. So no way to hold these shady people accountable because it is being done under the table.
5. As it is illegal to produce/grow the product, the cost of logistically moving the product from out of state or country drives up the price of the final product at being produced or grown locally. And they do not have the advantages of economies of scale because they have no legal legit presence in the world, so no ability to make contracts that are legally binding.
Another point to mention is that many states in America realize that their laws do not affect 99% of consumption habits, in the sense that there is no way that they keep people from buying and selling. The only reason it was even being held up was because it was way more lucrative than the police work because it allowed for a civil asset forfeiture," basically legal precedent that allowed the government to steal people’s money. In other words, something that started off with the good intention of stopping people from partaking in a 'perceived' immoral vice became a means to justify stealing from people, pure and simple. The only reason that it has gone on so long is for this very reason. Instead, prohibition has only lasted a little while. One of the other problems is more people across all generations partake in alcohol these days; it is more of a young person thing to parade in drugs. In general, as people get older, and their kids grow up, people start smoking less. The bulk of weed smokers are young. Whereas all generations drink and arguably middle and older aged people spend more on alcohol as they upgrade from high/college house parties and bar drinking to craft beer and harder alcohol like liquors. As their income goes up, they are not drinking just to drink socially to be drunk but because they have grown to enjoy the taste. So, it is harder to ban something that isn't just a phase young people go through but is enjoyed throughout life and is associated with most social gatherings.
This is the unfortunate thing about most laws that seek to regulate morality in cotters. It is sold with good intentions but as its inevitable failure to stop anyone from actually partaking in it, without the government becoming full blown totalitarian and oppressive, it morphs into something else. The places where weed has been legalized people who were still using despite the war on their substance now are able to have a much better experience. This is because a whole industry is able to rise up and compete above board with all other companies. This allows government to generate money from the product’s ongoing taxation when the product is sold.
I do not care about weed in particular. I am not some sort of Pothead myself. I personally do not stand to gain if it becomes legalized. It is just an example of how there is a clear disconnect on what a law tries to do and its ability to be remotely elective in that. Any time we desire to legislate morality, we must ask what other form of regulating morality has been truly effective in deterring people from doing that thing? On its face, if someone seeks to do something that won’t be effective, it should not be attempted and should be fought against and overturned. Fortunately, this conversation about whether a personal moral law deterioration is effective is actually the least important thing to talk about when it comes to the preliminary question, should something be a law or is it illegitimate and unworthy of being a law ever?" Even if in theory a law regulating morality could be effective, that would merely be Utilitarianism, which is moral relativism. Utilitarianism can be summarized by “might makes right" and “the ends justify the means."
Just because something can be 'feasibly done does not mean it should or ought to be morally done. I just brought up this conversation because that's the kind of question morality legislation supporters (interventionist) ask themselves when they try and justify why they want to assign the government to do their dirty work of "enforcer of their will.” The more legal questions to be asked is:
Is the law fit within the legitimate role of a government?
Will this law violate the inalienable civil rights of all the people in this country?
Both alcohol prohibition and the war on drugs violate these fundamental filtering questions that are part of a limited government and are even assumed of the Constitution. Which is where the founding fathers got the principles of:
1. Freedom of speech
2. Freedom of Religion
3. Separation of Church and State
These principles and many like them are rules of thumb that try and inhibit the government from violating the more fundamental principles than these, self-ownership and self-government. I own myself, thus I am enslaved to myself. I am a property owner unto myself. That's why if I do a crime, I will serve time for my own crimes. It is hypocritical and wicked to say the government should honor my civil rights, but not to honor other people's civil rights just because their personal beliefs/religion lead them to explore their “pursuit of happiness" more than you. People who do not break the four golden universal laws are not criminals and to treat them as such makes you a tyrant. The people in power are only able to be Democratic tyrants because you are the first actor in having this self -righteous superiority in your heart, like the Pharisees did, and you put these human rights in power to violate people. And then the reason why you do it, to deter people from what you deem to be evil, is most of the time ineffective.
Tim is a Christian author. His worldview that informs his writing is Calvinist, Baptist, and Libertarian. His main series is his Christian picture book series, “About God for Kids”, where he discusses the attributes of God in a way kids can digest. He also wrote a Christian Romance novel, libertarian book for beginners, and Christian coloring books. He graduated with a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
You can find his works at his amazon author page,
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