Legalization = condonation?

There was a point in time wherein the idea of arguing for the repeal of criminal sanctions for actions was laughable. After all, in a free country like the United States, why should we argue for something to be made legal? Shouldn’t the argument focus on why something should be outlawed?

Along these lines, conservatives and the Republican Party are *not*, repeat, NOT for small government and never have been. Enacting criminal laws means that people will end up in jail. There is a lot of cost to enforcing laws, from the arrest, to the trial and sentencing, to maintaining the prison population. Democrats want to take your money and redistribute it to people of lesser fortunes instead of helping them break their dependence on government handouts, or spend it on pointless, wasteful government programs. Republicans want to take your money so they can lock people up.

But I digress.

Whenever the argument regarding legalization of anything comes up, one of the first things that gets shouted in response is along the lines of this: if we legalize [insert ill here], we’re sending a signal to society that it’s okay to do that. The “legalization = condonation” argument is rather typical of social conservatives. Christian conservatives like to argue against the legalization of a lot of things and the criminalization of even more things by citing some odd reference to God, as if the criminal laws of the United States must reflect laws in the Bible or the United States will be utterly annihilated in a torrent of fire and brimstone reflective of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament.

The one thing that’s rather interesting about this as well is that conservatives say they are for personal liberty, yet they argue against the legalization or for the criminalization of many things using societal arguments. I’m sorry, but you cannot stand for personal liberty and use arguments scoped to society to argue for the enactment or continuation of criminal sanctions. When someone starts scoping their arguments to society at large, personal liberty will almost always be restricted in the name of “protecting society”. Rarely is this a good thing.

Now is legalizing something the same as condoning it? Hardly.

To understand this better, let’s first look at dictionary definition of “condone”, from Dictionary.com1:

–verb (used with object), -doned, -don·ing.

  1. to disregard or overlook (something illegal, objectionable, or the like).
  2. to give tacit approval to
  3. to pardon or forgive (an offense); excuse.

Let us first look at the first and third definitions in this list. By removing criminal sanctions, are we disregarding or overlooking that which was previously criminal? Hardly. Are we pardoning or forgiving it, excusing it? Look at the pro-life movement to see the answer to that question with regard to abortion.

However by removing criminal sanctions, are we giving “tacit approval” to that which was previously criminal? No. Again, one need look no further than those who call for bans on cigarettes, abortion, and all kinds of things which are, at least as of the time of this writing, legal.

Instead by removing criminal sanctions, the People, by way of the government, recognize that the proper course of action regarding certain actions is not the criminal process. Legalizing something does not mean you are going to sit by and let something continue to happen. It just means you won’t throw someone in jail for doing it.

Ask yourself this: should someone who smokes a joint at the end of the day before going to bed be thrown in jail? What about an unmarried man (or woman, for that matter) who solicits the services of a prostitute? Should they really be thrown in jail? Is that really the best course of action? Can you think of anything else that is currently illegal that just makes you go “why does the government even care”?

The government need not, and should not, be involved in all aspects of life and human behavior.

Along the same lines of the “legalization = condonation” argument is this: “You just want it legal so you can do it”. Aside from illicit substances, prostitution is one area where this argument tends to surface with the vigor capable of lifting a steamship. Arguments against the legalization of prostitution are, in most cases, absolutely shallow. For example, women calling for legalizing prostitution may be asked by men (predominantly) and women how much they would charge for sex or certain sex services. This is the “you want it legal so you can do it” argument at its highest level of disgust, because it presumes that women want prostitution to be legal so they can become prostitutes without fear of being arrested. While some might, it is highly unlikely that all women who want to see prostitution legal want to do it themselves.

The response to men calling for the legalization of prostitution is beyond insulting. I’ve personally been told that I want prostitution to be legal so I can “buy a woman”, “objectify women”, and the statements only get worse from there. The absolute worst, most shallow and disgusting argument I have ever heard is this: “so you want to pay a woman so you can rape her?” That’s right, there are people (both men and women) who think that prostitution is “consensual rape”. That’s right: consensual rape, consenting to rape. You can find some of these people on YouTube. Their arguments really are quite disgusting.

The one thing about the arguments against legalized prostitution is simply that people presume that no woman (or man) would ever want to do that, and any who do did not enter the trade of their own free will. Yet there are plenty of women (and men) who are in the sex trade — prostitution, pornography, and the like — because (and I know this may be hard to believe) they genuinely like it.

One person on YouTube has gone to greater lengths than really should be necessary to argue in favor of legalizing prostitution: xxxThePeachxxx. She’s created a three-part series of videos (embedded below) about prostitution and why it should be legal. I invite and recommend you watch all three if you’ve never seen them before as she is really quite thorough in her approach.

Now there are all kinds of things that are illegal today that really aren’t any of society’s or the government’s business. This includes, but is certainly not limited to:

  • adultery — oh yes, in some States you can be arrested for cheating on your spouse
  • fornication — apparently in some States it’s illegal to consent to sex if you’re not married
  • prostitution — fuck for free and you’re fine (presuming the absence of fornication laws), but as soon as money changes hands it’s a crime
  • sodomy2
  • recreational and medicinal use of illicit substances, such as marijuana
  • gambling (both online and offline)
  • purchasing various items on Sundays
  • “obscene” materials, including pornography and erotic literature

and the list can go on and on and on and on and on… Ask yourself this question: for the items on this list, is it really any of your business or the business of the government if I or anyone else, whether you know them or not, engages in these activities? Absolutely not.

Instead the only argument that can really be made for making these particular actions illegal is that “it’s better for society to criminalize them”. Give me a break.

You don’t have to approve of these actions to legalize them. Instead what you have to understand is the proper role of government. The government is not supposed to be in the business of handing down morality upon the people. Instead the government is supposed to be in the business of being out of everybody’s way so we can do what we want so long as we are not violating anyone else’s rights.

And be wary whenever someone says that a certain law should be passed “because it’s good for society”. This argument can be made for damn-near anything, and anyone who tries to make that kind of argument is, much more often than not, talking about enacting a law that will infringe on your liberties.

References   [ + ]

1. condone. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged.
2. This is not limited to homosexual penile-anal penetration between two men. Many States classify sodomy as any sexual act other than penile-vaginal penetration, such as oral sex and anal sex. In some States, such as the Commonwealth of Virginia, such acts may be punishable as a felony.