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The Suburbanite
  • Can we legislate behavior? For the common good, we should try

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  • I would like to reply to the June 3 column “Cafés cultivate our love of risky business,” which concludes with the following: “You can’t legislate behavior” in relation to gambling at Internet cafés. Such a conclusion raises profound questions.
    What is the purpose of law?
    One purpose of law is to advance the common good. For example, texting and driving is now illegal in Ohio. Why? Do I have the right to text whomever I want, whenever I want? Yes. But texting while driving is now illegal because of its documented consequences: I am more likely to cause an accident and hurt myself or someone else in spite of my own commitment to drive responsibly.
    Beyond my rights, society has documented that texting while driving is so detrimental to myself and others that it is now against the law.
    Can society force me to stop texting while driving? No. Can society reduce harm to myself and others by penalizing me when I do? Yes.
    Should Internet gambling remain illegal, even if people still do it? In Ohio we’ve said yes, through our Legislature, that Internet gambling is still illegal because of what happens to individual and collective well-being when it isn’t.
    What about more profound issues?
    Take slavery. The South argued that each state can and should make its own decision — “states’ rights.” The abolitionists said that the American system of slavery was so absolutely immoral that it needed to abolished, even if by force. The rest is history.
    Take age-of-consent laws. Should we legislate against sexual activity between adults and minors? There are those who say we should not — “Individual rights,” so to speak. Think Roman Polanski. That’s what’s coming, unless we legislate behavior.
    Can you legislate behavior? Given human nature, I’d say we need to.
    PASTOR DAVID R. KIMBERLY,
    PERRY TOWNSHIP