Morality and Law
Within the realms of human behavior, both morality and law serve to control the actions of individuals and to maintain order within the community. On the one hand, law accomplishes this by a threat of sanctions to the people who disobey the rules. On the other, morality involves incentives where bad acts result in feelings of guilt, and good actions lead to feelings of virtuousness and praise. Ideally, morality and laws will always overlap. For instance, prostitution, gambling, and underage drinking among other issues stemming from moral issues are universally condemned as immoral. Nonetheless, the ultimate question remains are these laws based on moral issues effective, are they even supposed to be laws in the society, or they should only remain to be moral values?
Are the Laws Effective?
Morality is a set of deeply rooted and widely shared values that hold together a community. On the other hand, laws are systems of rules created to regulate the behavior of the society through social and governmental institutions. Essentially, and in most cases, when laws are drafted, they are based on the competing assertions of right and wrong, which forms the basis for morality. Arguably, the effectiveness of moral issues overlapping into law can be argued from the point of value-based approaches when punishing offenders. Ideally, the public as Feld & Bishop (2012) noted, the public has a negative view on the potential of rehabilitation and preventing criminal behavior. Rather, they tend to focus on the development of values as a deterrence to offenses. The argument is that an alternative model to preventing people from breaking the law is by introducing a self-regulatory model where values inherently motivate individual’s behavior. This means people develop internalized feelings about their obligations to obey the rules set by authorities in power by following moral principles. Precisely, because these values are held firmly in the community as their own, then individuals are motivated to adhere to them irrespective of punishments or rewards. Ultimately, we can argue that people are more likely to obey the rules when they feel that they are consistent with their moral values. Consequently, moral values prevent criminal behavior especially when the offense stems from moral issues.
Should these laws be made into legislation?
Ideally, critics and supporters of morality have had a common debate over the legislation of morality. Perhaps one of the long-standing counter-claims is the assertion that every morality must be legislated. The people who are pro-legislating morality cite examples such as murder and theft as laws that exist to protect the safety of the public (Carlan, Nored, & Downey (2016). The rules are not enacted out of a particular religious belief or moral sin. Laws as Carlan et al. note, reflects the moral standards of a civilized society that holds the principles of doing what is right and preventing some wrongs in the community. Unfortunately, some critics have argued that by inextricably bounding up morality in the legal system, it serves to create inequalities in the society by upholding the desires of one part of the community. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the fact that laws reflect the values and interests of the community. In fact, all legal systems are laden with values, and the rights and duties set out in the legal framework are supported by ethical-approaches during the decision-making process. Thus, we cannot do away with moral issues overlapping the legal system; neither can they be just moral norms.
Carlan, P. E., Nored, L. S., & Downey, R. A. (2016). A brief introduction to criminal law. Burlington, Massachusetts : Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Feld, B. C., & Bishop, D. M. (2012). The Oxford handbook of juvenile crime and juvenile justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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