Sunday, September 7, 2014

The line between illegal and criminal

I watched a few minutes of a PBS special on prohibition this evening. If I weren't so sleepy, I could have really gotten into it. I'd love to learn more about the history of prohibition. It is fascinating to me, and it reminds me of how common political cycles and processes really are. Lobbyists, monopolies, and sleazy but pricey campaign battles are all part of today's major political players and they were a big part of prohibition. And just like today, the country was deeply partisan about the issue.  Fear mongering was each side of the campaign's best friend. I love how history is always changing, yet always the same. Even immigration and welfare were a huge part of the debate and outcome.

I've expressed my thoughts on the legalization of marijuana before, and as proof that other people's opinions do impact my own thoughts and opinions, Tiff's comments have been on my mind all these years since (she sparked my interest in prohibition). Also, I thought Megan made a comment on that post about the importance of writing legislation that discourages bad behavior, but it must have been on another post (or in a private message). Either way, the opinions of those two friends have had an impact on my thoughts since.

Well regulated and discouraged but not criminal, is a simple summary of my final stance on things like marijuana, alcohol, and prostitution. Yes, I'm going to lump all those things together here. Like I said, it's a simple summary. I wish we could keep these behaviors illegal, but as long as illegal is tied directly to criminal I have a hard time jumping on board.

I'm all about tight regulations and super high taxes on these behaviors (did you know almost 70% of government revenue came from alcohol before prohibition, prohibition is actually what led us into income taxes -- that's crazy to me, but anyway). I just can not justify criminalizing any non-violent behavior. I recognize alcohol, marijuana, and prostitution as sin. I do. That might make me old fashioned and prudish, but God does not want us to have sex outside of marriage. He doesn't want us consuming mood altering substances that often lead to addiction. So I'm fine writing legislation that discourages those behaviors, but I don't think we do anyone in society any favors when we criminalize these behaviors.

Sins have natural consequences and, most importantly, they can be forgiven. Prison sentences should be reserved only for violent behaviors that harm others (that was actually part of Joseph Smith's Presidential campaign, but I felt this way before I knew that). And yes, I realize the behaviors I listed above can lead to violence against others, which is why I support legislation and regulation that discourages them, just not laws that criminalize them. Though I do support imprisoning those who are irresponsible and bring harm to others (drunk driving, date rape, domestic violence, etc) while participating in such sinful behaviors.

So in summary, I believe that if people choose reckless behaviors that merely harms themselves, the best thing society can do to counter those actions is to levy a heavy sin tax, hand out fines and fees, require expensive licenses, require safety courses and service hours; anything that doesn't increase our ridiculously high number of inmates.

But as a reminder of how gray I see the world (I may be linear, but I'm not black and white), I can't say this simple summary applies to all things I view as sin. I included prostitution in my list, but I can't include abortion, adultery, or romantic premarital sex. Though, as stated above, sex outside of marriage is a sin, I just don't know how congress could regulate that. And I don't really want Congress to try to. I'm pretty libertarian when it comes to Congress controlling people's behaviors. Also, I think Education and access to contraception are the best ways to counter our societies abortion problem (which exists as the natural result of our country's premarital sex problem).

I've made it pretty much impossible for either Conservative Christians or Liberals to agree with me on any of this (which I'm kind of proud of). I'm pretty much an island of isolation when it comes to my thoughts on sin and the legislation of them. But what do you think, dear reader, can you agree with me on any of this?  


Anonymous said...

Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves. Them to me is the individual, not the government. I always find it ironic how the religious right wants to govern "sin", but they don't want the government encroaching on any "other" rights. Can't have your cake and eat it too! Oh unless you are the Supreme Court or the Koch Brothers.

Megan said...

We should talk about this when I come visit! Legislation is definitely in the gray region!

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