There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”
~ Ayn Rand
“We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it.”
~ Émile Durkheim
Hello and welcome to Week 1! This week, as we reflect on what is the nature of crime, consider – how does a crime become a crime? Who decides? How do new crimes get created? And when culture and society change, how and when does a crime stop being a crime? As an example:
Think about new crimes that exist today that our founding fathers never dreamed of, and then consider crimes that were crimes back then (like having an ice cream soda, or shopping, on Sunday) – but are no longer – or crimes that are on the books today, but maybe should be removed.
For example, think of some things that are illegal today that were not 100 years ago – like being able to purchase over-the-counter morphine. Or 13-year-old girls being able to get married without parental consent.
On the other side, has anyone heard of people being prosecuted for committing adultery recently? (Other than in the military. It happened in NY just a few years ago in 2010: Woman Charged with Adultery to Challenge New York Law
And then there are laws that perhaps go too far – at least 13 states require sex offender registration for public urination, according to Human Rights Watch’s comprehensive review of sex offender laws in 2007.
So here is your challenge this week: think about the key differences between criminal law and moral law, and how laws have changed over the last 200 or so years in the US.
From the e-Activity, here is where your research comes into play – provide one (1) specific example where the criminal law system legislated (or is legislating) conduct or morality. Discuss how or why that law was passed or is being considered for passage.
In your reply responses to another student, consider Durkheim’s words, “We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it.” Regarding the law your fellow student has presented, was it necessary or good for society at that point in time that the law was passed? Was it ever overturned? If not, should it be?
Note: an exemplary score will include an original post of at least 150 words, with a well-written response to at least one other student.