Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Prohibition of what many people want: It never works

with 7 comments

As noted in a previous post, prohibition didn’t work even when the forces of prohibition were omnipotent and omniscient: God famously prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and that prohibition didn’t work, even though it was God Himself and there were only two people to keep an eye on. So how can mere humans expect to enforce prohibition of something many people want. It’s been tried and failed many times, and the failure is not merely that people can readily obtain the prohibited thing, but that the business of supplying it is a financial boon to criminals and quickly results in strong and prosperous criminal organizations—something that I think people in general do not want.

So instead of prohibiting things that many people want, the rational approach would be to regulate access to the prohibited thing, making it possible to legally obtain the thing at a competitive price, but with restrictions on who can purchase the thing, who can sell it, and where it may be used.

Alcohol is one famous example, tobacco another (even just overtaxing tobacco products leads to smuggling). Marijuana is another famous example, with the forces of prohibition stubbornly ignoring the total failure of the effort and its enormous cost (in human lives ruined and in public money wasted). Religion is another: when the Soviet Union tried to stamp out religion, it failed. Sex is another: the Catholic church forbids sexual activity for its priests and nuns, yet obviously that has failed and the church’s efforts to conceal the failure has stripped it of its moral authority (IMO).

And abortion: Those who wish to make all abortions illegal fail to recognize that enough people want—and feel that they need—abortions that any prohibition will fail: abortions will continue as a criminal activity. That’s not just a supposition, that’s how it has always worked in the past. It’s far better to face the fact that some things are not amenable to prohibition. (So this effort in Alaska to define the fœtus as a person in order to outlaw abortion is going to fail, one way or the other.)

Robbery is also prohibited, of course, and yet we have robberies. Yet the number of people who believe robbery should be legal is zero or close to it: we (as a people) do not want robbery, so when that prohibition is broken, we have the police go after those responsible. And because people in general don’t want robbery, robbers don’t have the tacit support of a major part of the populace, and so they are generally caught.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 9:56 am

7 Responses

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  1. The idea to keep abortion legal because it will still happen if it is illegal is… odd. Shall we make murder legal because it happens anyway?

    We have laws. And yet crimes still happen. It is about deterrance.


    30 November 2009 at 3:11 pm

  2. Sorry. I’m having to rewrite my comment. I discussed robbery in the post, but you can substitute murder.

    There’s a big difference between abortion (much support among the public, and when the need arises, the necessity is felt keenly enough that some abortion opponents change their mind when a member of their own family very much wants an abortion and the reasons seem valid to the family) and murder (virtually no support among the public).

    Actually, I’m surprised that you couldn’t figure this out, given the clues in the post itself.


    30 November 2009 at 3:31 pm

  3. What the public supports isn’t always right. Inter-racial marriage? (hey, that’s a pro gay marriage argument!)

    As for murder and abortion, I see petty differences and close similarities. If you’re uncertain of when life begins, why take the chance and kill it? For the convenience of another person?

    A responsible solution is easy access to birth control. If abortion #s do not go down after some time, then we have problems.


    30 November 2009 at 4:34 pm

  4. Good point re: inter-racial marriage.

    Access to birth control is not enough (and, oddly, forbidden by many who simultaneously oppose abortion: an illogical position). There must also be good (and realistic and factual) sex education so that they understand fully the issues and the options.


    30 November 2009 at 5:35 pm

  5. Something the Catholic Church misses. They will have people die from AIDS than for them to use a condom.


    30 November 2009 at 5:37 pm

  6. Well, to be fair, fundamentalist protestant churches have the same problem: they oppose realistic sex education and pin their hopes on abstinence education, which (of course) results in many unwanted and inappropriate pregnancies—and these people also oppose abortion. Often, of course, they will go ahead and get the abortion rather than have two minors have to get married and start a family when they are still children themselves.


    30 November 2009 at 5:56 pm

  7. The more I think about it, the more I think that interracial marriage is another example of what I’m talking about: an attempt to prohibit what so many people wanted that in time the prohibition fell. (The musical “Showboat” depicts some of the issues.)


    2 December 2009 at 4:56 am

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