I wanted to point out an interesting article at the Baltimore Sun on legalizing prostitution. The author makes a fairly good case, at least from a utilitarian point of view, that prostitution should be allowed simply because fighting it is a waste of time:
...Legalizing prostitution would not be a moral endorsement of paid sex, any more than the First Amendment is a moral endorsement of supermarket tabloids. It would just be a recognition of the right of adults to make their own choices about sins of the flesh - and of the eternal futility of trying to stop them.
Before he continues his crackdown, Mayor Daley might reflect on the wisdom of one mayor of New Orleans. "You can make prostitution illegal in Louisiana," he said, "but you can't make it unpopular."
The hat tip for this goes to Gadfly's Muse, who argues, in part:
The purpose of law and law enforcement is not the prevention of crime. It is ultimately not for any specific measurable effect that it may or may not achieve....
When it comes to law enforcement, we need to remember that the purpose of law is to punish unrighteousness, not to prevent it. It is not the presence of a victim that makes an action unrighteous and deserving of punishment. It is the action itself. Prostitution fits into this category as well as recreational drug use (some distinctions apply).
I do believe that there is a correlation between right laws and a resultant condition of diminished law-breaking. But that correlation does not reside in the coercive force of the law being applied in such a way that it "prevents" future crime. The correlation resides in the alignment of social righteousness with the outlines of the eternal truth about righteousness that is independent of all pragmatic considerations. The restraint of future crime is a by-product not the end of either law-keeping or law-making itself.
So here's a question for discussion: What's your take on this argument? Is the role of the law, and the government, primarily just to try and keep people from hurting one another as much as practical? Or is it to confirm and uphold a real, universal standard of right and wrong? Or is it something else?
I'll tell you my own take: I think that the law is to testify to what is right and wrong, not primarily because it will work to compel people to obey, but because this is what the law is supposed to do. In other words, the law should be an agent to point out what's right, and what's wrong. This may also promote an orderly society, and so on -- but the government's primary function, in my opinion, is to punish evil and reward good.
I'm sure there are many on here who will disagree with me on that, and the purpose of this post isn't to provide a defense of my stance, but rather to ask for your thoughts, so please comment. I may post more on this in the near future, either of my own thoughts, or some of your comments on the subject. If you post on this, put your link in the comments or trackbacks and I may link to it if I do a follow-up.
And please refrain as much as possible from shouting warnings of "Theocracy!", unless you're prepared to provide solid evidence to back it up.