Can you legislate morality?

October 2, 2013
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Some people argue against legislating morality, but what about things like theft and murder? The confusion disappears if we distinguish between….
Social Morality and Personal Morality
Some moral principles govern how we treat each other. This is social morality . It includes standards like …

These ideas lead to laws against assaults, murder, fraud, and theft. Nearly everyone supports these rules — even Adolf Hitler thought it would be wrong to kill him or to steal his property.
In contrast to this are values that govern how we treat ourselves….

  • What we ingest
  • How we worship
  • What we wear
  • How we have sex

There’s far less agreement about this kind of morality. It’s highly personal. So I call it personal morality .
Here’s the crucial point…

  • Imposing your personal morality on others requires you to initiate force against them.
  • You must tread on their personal conscience.
  • Doing this violates social morality.

Some people may consider this a good trade, but…

  • What you can do to others, others can do to you.
  • When you empower politicians to impose personal morality, the morality they prefer to impose will RARELY be yours.

This is your choice….

Do you want the law to enforce social morality, or someone’s version of personal morality? It cannot do both.

If you encourage politicians to enforce personal morality then they must tread on others. But….
If you restrict coercion to the enforcement of social morality, you can still use persuasion to promote your personal values.
Isn’t that the correct path? Isn’t peaceful persuasion the only socially moral way to promote your personal morality?
Teaching this distinction between social morality and personal morality is important. We hope you decide to adopt and share this concept. You can do that right now using Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
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