Thursday, October 12, 2006

You Can't Legislate Morality

One of the advantages to going to school for ten years is that you learn a lot of stuff. One of the advantages to going to university, as opposed to college, is that you learn lots of stuff that has nothing to do with your major. Some people really don't want to learn anything except their area of concentration. Electives are mere annoyances in their "education." Whereas I've always enjoyed my electives. Often times, more so than my concentration subjects.

As a result, I've taken a number of law classes in university. I think it's fair to say that I know more about Canadian law that your average Joe. (I'm no lawyer, nor do I know very many specifics. I mostly know how it works. I don't know a lot, but your average Joe knows very little. One guy kept trying to convince we don't have the right to remain silent when arrested in Canada. We certainly do. It's in the consitituion and case law (Ibrahim v. The King.))

There are two theories of law that I'm aware of: positive law and natural law. The natural law theory says that laws come from a sense of right and wrong that we all inherently have. Positive law theory says that something is law because the powers-that-be said so; made law to keep order, not because it's right or morally superior.

Law, as a whole, is a combination of the two. Some laws are obviously positive law, like driving on the right side of the road instead of the left. Driving on the right side is not morally superior to driving on the left. We need to have a side, the actual side is arbitrary, but in Canada we drive on the right. If everyone obeys that law then order is kept.

But where people, mostly Christians, get confused when dealing with law is they assume that laws that have a moral component come from the natural law as opposed to positive law. Take killing. Murder is wrong, and murder happens to be against the law. But (and this is the sixty four thousand dollar question) is murder against the law because it's wrong, or because without it on the books chaos would erupt?

Imagine a society where murder was not illegal, but was still understood by most to be wrong. Or, where it is illegal, but not enforced by the state. Person A murders Person B for whatever reason. It may be justifiable, it may not. It probably is justifiable in the eyes of Person A, but probably not to Person B's son, Person C. Person C then goes and administers justice and kills Person A. Justice has been done, right? Well, not in the eyes of Person D, Person A's son, who administers justice on Person C. And it goes on and on.

Eventually what will happen is that revenge-for-hire businesses pop up; officially or unofficially (like the mafia). Now you have two groups administering justice; the state for all official crimes, and the other groups for the unofficial crimes, like murder. But the unofficial groups are unofficial and can't be controlled. The government can be voted out, or revolted against. It seems inevitable that the unofficial groups would come into conflict with each other.

What we end up with is chaos. It's the same thing for other natural law things like stealing, raping, etc.

But, as long as you make those things illegal and enforce those laws then you can have some semblance of order.

The sooner you realize this, the sooner Canadian law, indeed most constitutional laws, make more sense. When it comes to the same-sex marriage debate, sure you may say it's a wrong life style, and shouldn't have been made legal; Canada shouldn't be condoning, much less celebrating immoral life-styles. But what does morality have to do with the law?

There are a few laws left on the books that seem to have roots in morality rather than order-keeping. The one the comes to mind are the euthenasia laws. If I were a betting man I'd be willing to bet my entire student loan that the euthenasia laws will be struck down in my life time.

Can anyone else think of any laws that exist purely for morality reasons?

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