Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Morality and Law

Doug Wilson has an excellent post on the distinction between morality and legality.

Here is an excerpt that I found very helpful:

"A crime occurs when someone does something that the larger society disapproves of, and is willing to express that disapproval by making the person conform to the demand by main force, or to makes others conform to it by making this offending fellow an example for the sake of deterrence. This penalty might be flogging, fines, imprisonment, or execution -- whatever it takes to get the person to submit to the coercion, or to get others to submit to it in advance after they see what just happened to the guy we made a big example out of.

Because this is a weighty matter, no thinking Christian ought to put up with any forms of coercion for which there is not ample scriptural justification. We force lawless men to refrain from murder and rape, and we can justify this use of force easily from the pages of Scripture (1 Tim. 1:9). We do this because there are some for whom nothing but force will work.

But when a society starts treating everyone like this, far from restraining lawlessness, the government is in the process of creating it. No faster way to create widespread contempt for law exists than to create ubiquitous and silly laws."

I think Wilson has a great point that the law should serve the best interest of the people by restraining evil doers, rather than creating law breakers, as it does in so many ways. I don't want to put words into Wilson's mouth, but an arbitrary speed limit is an example of a law that creates law breakers. Men like Ron Paul that our "drug war" does the same thing, and I think he has a point.

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