Law/Justice

Alleged Repercussions and the Law

By Walter Block, LewRockwell.Com

Sorry, I’m concocting a new phrase, since I can’t think of one that accurately, easily and in shorthand depicts a phenomenon I want to address. The new phrase is “Leads To-ism.” This is meant to refer to a mode of thinking that is far too powerful and very harmful. It is the view that if X leads to Y, and Y is properly illegal, then not only should Y continue to remain against the law, but so, now, should X be legally prohibited.

There are numerous examples that illustrate this way of thinking. Drinking alcohol leads to drunken driving. The latter is properly banned, since it constitutes a threat against innocent motorists and pedestrians; therefore, the prohibition of alcohol is justified.

Pornography leads to rape. The latter is properly banned, since it is a per se rights violation; therefore, the prohibition of dirty pictures and licentious stories would be justified.

Hate speech leads to assault and battery, and even murder. There is no doubt that assault and battery, and murder and other such grievous crimes are properly banned. Therefore, hate speech should also be prohibited by law.

Gambling leads to family breakup and poverty. Impoverishment and broken families are obviously problematic. They, in turn, lead to other types of social disarray, such as crime, homelessness and imprisonment. Therefore, gambling should be made illegal.

It would be possible to almost endlessly extend these examples. We might include overeating, not studying, not listening to your parents, not showing respect to elders, etc., etc.

So, is it justified in prohibiting by law acts that are not themselves per se rights violations, on the ground that they can and sometimes, do, lead to real crimes?

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