Break old laws for better ones?

In today’s class, we talked about gay marriage and the rightness of making it legal. Similar ideas could also be in Why ‘I have Nothing to Hide’, which is required to read.

In the article the author pointed out that’ state of Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage this year’, and then he said ‘sodomy laws had effectively made homosexuality itself completely illegal in that state until 2001′. Thus he gave out the questions that if the laws were perfect and 100% followed, then how could people still try homosexual relationship if they followed the law, which indicated the law is strictly correct?

The deduction he gave us seemed to be correct and reasonable, just as what we talked in class, and put old laws on the board of being broken. But what i wanted to point out here is that, long before the laws were made, homosexuality or same-sex relationship has been recorded objectively in history.

In ancient China, same-sex love was recorded around 600 BCE and described as “brokeback” while Japanese called it “shudo or nanshoku” and “This same-sex love culture gave rise to strong traditions of painting and literature documenting and celebrating such relationships.”

And in European , there are also many discussions about same-sex relationship, what i found was from Plato and Aristotle. And particularly, Aristotle pointed out that “barbarians like the Celts accorded it a special honour (2.6.6), while the Cretans used it to regulate the population”. And this could explain why countries like Russia tried to make gay marriage illegal as their population is decreasing each year.

Thus, my point here is that since gay relationship has been recorded way before the law was made. So we cannot say that we “secretly break the law to know about it ” and thus make better laws. Particular cases like homosexuality is not a good example.

Furthermore, from my point of view, we cannot label most of the laws good or bad laws as they all sever to regulate our societies and try meet the expectations of most or certain group of people. Because to me, laws are just some modified moralities written in paper as for most of the time we cannot come to an agreement of our moralities or ethics. We don’t know the principles we using is the one most accepted by people or the correct when we evaluate actions, thus we need a unified principle for this, which is law.

So when a new law comes out, it’s not the case that the old one is broken and new one replace it. It’s because people’s attitudes have changed, so we have the new one.

6 Responses to Break old laws for better ones?

  1. youstolemycouch.

    You make some really good points. I think the problem is that you are not accounting for what I am going to call a “generational decay” in knowledge. For most of my ancestors were hunter/foragers. They acquired massive amounts of knowledge, theory and ideas about hunting and foraging. But, no matter how much my ancestors knew, I am in no way qualified to have a debate about the merits of hunting versus the merits of foraging. Along the same line, it doesn’t matter what the Greeks or Celts thought if there is no one alive today who has those experiences.

    • I am not sure whether I got your point there. It seems like what you are talking about is that because we haven’t experienced both ways of life and not sure what they will do to the future. If so, you did make some good points there. As we don’t know something, we may make bad laws for them.

      However, there is a logic problem here: if you don’t know about homosexuality, how come there is law about homosexuality?

      So I think the problem is still about the law wasn’t made perfect at the first time. And since almost nothing could be totally perfect, we could only correct them time by time. In your case, it would be your ancestors hunts more when hunting is easier, and forage more when foraging gives them more benefit.

      • youstolemycouch.

        So in your post you talk about how in the distant past, different civilizations have experimented with homosexuality. Specifically ancient China and ancient Greece.

        In more recent history we have made laws that state homosexuality is illegal, see Russia and Minnesota.

        The point I was trying to make is that if we make our judgements solely based on the experiences of the past generation, we will be basing them on incomplete information that has decayed over time. There need to be modern people who are experimenting with these taboos to give use better insight on which to base our judgements.

  2. That’s right. The way she/he explained his point of view is really good and correct according to what or how I think things should be. When people change their attitude or their way of thinking and behaving, that’s when the laws makers adopt new laws trying to satisfy their desires and expectations. I think they shouldn’t say that they break old laws to make better ones, as she/he said, law for homosexuality can not be labeled a good one by everybody, maybe this law will be called good by the one whose expectations are satisfied.

    I like the way you mentioned about “generation decay”. Can we call this a generation decay or “The moral decay of today’s generation”?. I think according to my point of view that’s how it should be called because I don’t even think this is a civil right issue, maybe a moral debauchery on a wide range of issue turning normal things to abnormal stuff.

    So, giving an example of your ancestors hunting and foraging, this may not match with what the one was talking about new laws adopted because new behaviors are adopted too. Our ancestors used what they had to make life. They were hunting and foraging because that was the only way to produce and survive, no other choice was there. But Homosexuality is another case where people have normal way to do things, but they want a different way, not normal way, unbelievable WAY…!! But it is what it is, all laws must be there to regulate whoever is alive, lets wait and see…history will tell us the upcoming next.

    • First, thanks for explaining my ideas to @youstolemycouch, what you mentioned is basically what I want to say there.

      However, I cannot fully agree with your idea about homosexuality. Indeed, it seems not a normal way for some of us (at least, you and me I believe), but I don’t think we should treat it like something that is against or opposite to us, or that unbelievable. It really is a way of life for some of the people out there, and I think that’s their choice of life. And so they surely have the right to live their own life and not get interrupted. However, if they try to persuade those people either are not able to make decisions for themselves or have no trends to be homosexual, that’s just rude and should be punished. Just like we don’t have to tell them which way is more common, they cannot propagate that to others.

      By the way, sorry for my messed ID and I am a he.

  3. Great discussion.

    Let me see if I can summarize what I think is going on here. First, we have the article by Moxie Marlinspike. Marlinspike’s basic claim is that it would be a mistake to give up too much of our privacy protection. He gives a couple of arguments to support that claim. One of his arguments is something like this:

    We shouldn’t give up our privacy protection, because sometimes we need to be able to break the law (and not get caught). Without some privacy protections we may not be able to break the law. But why would we want to break the law? Because breaking the law is one way we might be able to move toward better laws. Suppose some action X is outlawed. How can we know whether we should change that law? How can we know whether it might be better to make X legal? We might need to try X to find out whether it is any good, and this would require breaking the law.

    Here is a simple way to put Marlinspike’s point, in a single sentence: We sometimes need the ability to break the law in private, in order to gain the knowledge required to know whether we should change the law.

    I thought kimlym made a really interesting point about this. Kimlyn noted that Marlinspike’s example was about sodomy laws. Consider a state that has outlawed sodomy. How can we know if this law should be overturned? Marlinspike says that without trying sodomy (breaking the law), we can never know. Kymlyn disagrees. He points out that there is another way of having some knowledge about sodomy: We can look to the past. Since the practice was common at other points in history, we can use our knowledge of history to find out about sodomy laws. And this would not require privately breaking any laws.

    (Furthermore — kymlyn, correct me if I am wrong — I think your point was not necessarily that sodomy is good or bad. The point was that it was not the best example for Marlinspike’s argument. In the case of sodomy, we do have a way of knowing about the activity without trying it.)

    Okay, so far, so good. I think I understand kimlyn’s counter-argument to Marlinspike. But youstolemycouch has an objection to kymlyn. I think the objection is this: Not all knowledge is equally helpful. Yes, it may be true that our ancestors many years ago engaged in some practice. But what we can learn from this is not first-hand knowledge. It’s not even second-hand or third-hand. When knowledge is passed down over generations, it loses some of its vividness and accuracy. (This, I think, is what youstolemycouch meant by ‘generational decay’. Is that correct, youstolemycouch? It’s a nice phrase.) This sort of ancestral knowledge is no substitute for real, first-hand knowledge. So, then, maybe Marlinspike’s example of sodomy was not such a poor example after all. We may know how it was done by previous generations, but that wouldn’t provide as much knowledge as first-hand experience.

    So, who is right — kymlyn or youstolemycouch? I am not sure. Right now, my thought is that it will depend on the particular law in question. For some laws, learning about our ancestors may give us enough knowledge to inform us about how we should change the laws. For other laws, it may not be enough just to learn history. We may need to try breaking the law — as a sort of experiment — to see whether the law ought to be changed.