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Morality vs. Legality

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Everyday, we are inundated with various groups from both sides of the political fence trying to push their agenda through legal actions involving all levels of government. Gays and lesbians want "equal rights", feminists push "women's rights", Christians want God's law recognized, and it goes on and on and on. It seems there is a group for every cause and a cause for every group. And, while there are legitimate legal issues that our government needs to address, many of these causes are simply people trying to get their point of view accepted by society even when the majority of those in society reject those very ideas. For many of these issues, the government should have a largely neutral position, with laws that only deal with any actual injustice that injures someone, rather than a myriad of laws and regulations that usually end up having little to no effect to the actual problem it is trying to rectify. It is not our government's responsibility to save people from themselves, it's role should be to save people from each other and give us a forum for redress against actions from others that cause damage to our person, property or liberty.

America was founded by Christian men and the country they created was based on Christian morals and beliefs. These men were deeply faithful and great philosophical thinkers. They feared a large, overbearing government and wanted a country where it's citizens were free to say what they want, assemble with whom they want, and believe and worship in the religion of their choosing even if it went against their own personal beliefs. That seems to be the key sentiment that current conservatives miss when making their arguments that Christianity should be used as the guide for lawmaking. They are quick to quote the Founding Fathers beliefs in Christianity and it's importance to society, but will ignore other quotes by the same person which suggests that it is not the government's place to legislate morality. For example, if they believed that our government was to be solely based on the Bible, why would they put the freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment? The First Commandment is "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me". It seems that the first step in making the Bible the blueprint for the nation's laws would be to eradicate and remove all other religions and beliefs. Yet, the Founding Fathers did not do this.

To be clear, there are many instances where Christian morals and government law agree and are crucial to ensure a just and functioning society. The morals that deal with preventing damages between two people are the morals that the Founding Fathers believed were the foundation of their new country. For example, thou shalt not kill is the basis for laws against murder. A great many teachings from the Bible are instructions on how to properly treat others so that groups of people can co-exist in a growing society. Murder, theft, and assault are just a few examples of these type of morals that the Bible teaches us are wrong and gives us a framework for a society to succeed.

On the other hand, many of the lessons of the Bible were to instill a personal code in people so that they could lead a longer and more productive life. Did you ever wonder why the Bible is so adamant about proper food preparation, cleanliness, and sexual conduct? Remember the time period in which the Bible was written. There was no penicillin, the human anatomy was barely understood. But, people did learn lessons from their own history. Meats not thoroughly cooked caused disease, being dirty made you more apt to be sick, diseases were passed through personal contact like sex. The personal morals the Bible taught were to help people survive. And those morals coming from God carried much more weight than your parents, friends, or local official trying to tell you the same thing.

To be a Libertarian, you should look at any law created through the following prism: Does this law infringe on anyone's life, property or liberty? With that in mind, let's take a look at the legalization of marijuana, and decide if we are dealing with personal moral choices, or actual legal problems that need to be addressed by our government.

With the recent legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, this has become a hot topic in the media and for state lawmakers around the country. The arguments against pot largely don't hold water due to the fact that we already accept the legal use of three drugs that have serious medical ramifications for the user: alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Any argument against pot is a de-facto argument against the other three. If you discuss the fact that you believe that pot should be illegal over dinner with your friends, while drinking a glass or two of wine, then having an after dinner smoke and coffee, you are a hypocrite.

While there are no direct passages in the Bible that deal with marijuana, there are several passages that allude to it being a sin to use substances that alter the mind. At the same time, the Bible is very much in favor of wine and considers alcohol as one of God's "gifts" for man to enjoy. So, here is where the basic moral tenant of "alcohol good, pot bad" was created that evolved in our society and influenced the current lawmaking decisions. Even though alcohol very much alters the mind, it is considered to be in a special class that is acceptable.

The legal issues with pot are a little more complicated. Most anti-pot movements tend to deal with the idea of societal cost and perpetuating the pot-head stereotype. While there are several good arguments that detail the medical and societal costs of pot, and there are a lot of habitual users who develop a lack of motivation to achieve higher levels of personal and professional success, simply making it legal or illegal has no bearing on the effects of recreational pot usage. This is similar to underage drinking or smoking. Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in America, but most surveys indicate that upwards of 80% to 95% (depending on the poll) of all high school students have used alcohol and a considerable amount of those drink on a regular basis. While many anti-smoking advocates like to point to public smoking laws as a cause of decreasing smoking rates, the fact is it has little to no effect on smoking rates. What has caused smoking rates to decrease has been the increased awareness of the medical ramifications of using tobacco, along with a comprehensive public service campaign to make smoking "uncool" with the younger generations.

There have been untold billions spent on the enforcement of marijuana laws in the United States, and by all accounts, the usage of pot (or at least the admittance of usage of pot) has increased over the last 30 or 40 years. Two of our recent Presidents have admitted to pot usage and there is a very vigorous debate over whether many of our Founding Fathers grew and smoked pot or not. So what, if any laws should we have on the books for pot? It should be treated exactly like alcohol. Alcohol laws are based on a very Libertarian stance. You are only penalized for using alcohol if doing so injures another's person or property, or has the potential to place another's person or property in danger, such as DUI laws. As long as you are not out there driving drunk, causing disturbances in public places, or doing anything else to disrupt the norm of society, you are free to drink as much as you like as often as you like. Marijuana (or any other drug) laws should be no different.

This same argument can be applied to other "sin laws" or "victimless crimes" like gambling, prostitution, and more. For example, the act of gambling should not be illegal, but you should be held liable if you are running a crooked game, or are found to be cheating while playing the game. As long as the game is run cleanly and all participants are playing with the rules, then there should be no need for any government intervention. Accordingly, a "bookie" should not be considered an outlaw. If people want to bet on sports games and provided all debts are honored to the original agreement of the bet, then again, there should be no need for any government intervention. However, if the bookie doesn't honor the term of the bet, or resorts to violence for the collection of a debt, then he has committed acts that have violated another's freedoms and should be subject to prosecution.

Prostitution is another immoral act that should not be considered illegal. Men and women have sex for all different reasons. Society teaches males from a very young age that in order to "get the girl" you have to have more money, the nicer car, the right clothes, go to the best restaurant, buy roses, give jewelry, and do everything you can to impress the fairer sex. Society teaches females that they should stay away from "losers" (i.e. no money and no car) and "cheapskates" (i.e. doesn't take them to nice places and get them nice things). Think of all the songs where women singers equate sex with being lavished with gifts or having money spent on them. Janet Jackson had a huge hit with "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" Movies and television have millions of references where in order to "get the girl" you have to "buy the girl" through gifts, your material possessions, and your ability to earn money. But if a woman decides that instead of going through all the games, and tells her suitor to skip the dinner, movie, candy, roses, jewelry, etc, and instead give that money to her for an evening of coitus, suddenly she is a criminal? How ridiculous is that?

Women have long been demanding that they are free to do with their bodies as they see fit and prostitution should be included in those rights. Regardless of your moral objections to the practice, why should it be illegal to charge for something that is perfectly legal to give away for free? As much as we would all like to live in a world where sex always equals love, the reality is that we don't and we never have. Sex is a basic human urge, and both men AND women take actions to fulfill those urges. Sometimes it is between two people in a loving, long term monogamous relationships. Sometimes it is a friend or acquaintance who is basically a "friend with benefits" or just happens to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it is a co-worker who you spend long days and maybe evenings with at the office. Sometimes it is the person you picked up at the bar. And sometimes, it is a woman and her customer for the evening.

From a Libertarian perspective, there is no reason for the government to be involved. Two consenting adults should be free to do whatever they want. That is not to say that the profession should not be regulated. Spreading a disease is a definite injury to another's person, so any "professional" should be subject to penalty should they pass a disease along to a customer. The rest of the transaction should be treated just like any other contract and either party would be subject to penalty if they did not fulfill the obligations of the contract. The customer doesn't pay, he would be subject to criminal or civil penalties. The provider doesn't complete actions agreed upon, but doesn't provide a mutually agreed remedy, she would be subject to criminal or civil penalties.

As a Libertarian, you can have strong moral objections to drug use, gambling, and prostitution. In fact, many of us do. This is where many Libertarians are misunderstood. People are led to believe by the press and other political parties that Libertarians want everyone smoking pot, everyone being promiscuous, and complete anarchy. That is simply not the case. We want every one to have the right to be able to do those things free from government intervention. A lack of government control does not equal promotion of the activity. It simply means that we believe it is none of your business (or the government's business) what we do, provided we are not hurting others. If you want to go out and try to persuade every drug addict to kick their addiction, help every gambler stop gambling, and convince every sex worker to get out of the industry, that is definitely your prerogative and you should do whatever your heart tells you to do. Just don't ask the government to force anyone to conform to your morals and you are welcome to join us in the Libertarian Party.

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