Vice, Morality, and the Law

Wed. Sept, 9, 2009, The Larry Lawrence Bar, 295 Grand St b/t Havemeyer and Roebling, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

7:30 pm

What should humans be allowed to do, and what should they be prevented from doing? Besides the obvious rule against killing people who piss you off, how far should the law restrict our personal freedoms to drink, use drugs, prostitute ourselves, get married, vote, practice medicine or religion, or any number of things we might come up with?

Legalizing weed is a trending topic. Lots of people use it, despite its being illegal, and there is clearly a profit to be made by regulating and taxing it. But at what cost?

Should tobacco, whose use can be directly linked to over 5 million deaths per year (worldwide; in the US it’s 400,000), be outlawed?

If causing mass death is our gauge, maybe we shouldn’t let so many people drive. Forty thousand Americans die on the road each year.

Of course, we all know that Prohibition didn’t work out too well – but what about the prohibition of heroin? Hasn’t that done us well?

Then there’s religion. Americans used to pray in school, or so I’ve heard, until the Supreme Court said that wasn’t cool. More recently, a federal appeals court ruled that it was totally cool for a guy to sacrifice goats in his house as part of a “complex ritual for ordaining priests”.

What else can you think of – what should be made legal/illegal and why?

UPDATE: Forgot all about prostitution, the top example of an illegal activity that just won’t go away. NPR did a great debate, “Is It Wrong to Pay for Sex?”, which I heartily recommend everyone listen to (about 50min). On a related note, the Economist recently made a case for looser restrictions on how we treat pedophiles (Megan’s laws, sex offender registries).

And organ sales. People need kidneys; other people have kidneys to spare. Should we be selling our organs? The New Yorker did a story on people who felt motivated to donate their kidneys to total strangers, for nothing. There is also an audio interview with the author.

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