Yes Mrs. Robinson, You Can Legislate Morality
About the only thing that you can legislate is morality. Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not steal. These are moral codes that are obviously subjects of legislation. The question is whose morality will be legislated.
Chris Wright in his excellent work, Old Testament Ethics and the People of God, makes the point that law should criminalize only such things as are moral minimum standard of conduct for a moral and righteous culture. Those things which are morally superior should be left to conscience, the family and church. We do not want to live in a culture where it is permissible to kill and steal. God has given each man and woman the right to life, liberty and property. These things must be protected and the law must criminalize the violation of those rights.
But we must distinguish between basic morality and a desire for particular conduct. A problem arises when we seek to legislate our desires. When we legislate “equal pay for equal work,” how do we do that? Who defines equal pay? Shouldn’t it be the employer and the employee? Only those to parties are competent to determine what is equal pay for equal work. If one of the parties to the transaction is not satisfied there is equal pay, that party is prompted to not engage in the transaction. How can government place a value on every component of the market place? It cannot. It has no ability to judge value within a commercial context.
There is a further problem when government begins to legislate desires. When a desire requires financial support, that financial support must be taken from somewhere. Obamacare is a disastrous attempt to provide affordable health care to all. The problem is that that disaster comes at an awful price in taxes and penalties. These taxes and penalties become a violation of the very right government exists to protect, the right to property.
Morality must be legislated, but it must be legislated in a way that guards the rights of men without doing violation to the rights of men. Only by criminalizing only violations of basic God given rights can we be sure of not violating those God given rights. Everything else must be left to the family and the church.