Monday, July 16, 2007

I Hate Stupid Laws

Nate Nelson has a post over at Redstate about the latest hate crime law Congress is trying to pass. The bill is unconstitutional on its face, being an attempt to intrude Federal power into State and local matters. Nate does a good job of listing the reasons why it's such a bad bill, and why hate crimes laws are so bad in general.

But Nate misses the point of hate crime legislation. It isn't to punish those who commit the crimes per se, even though that is how the laws are written. The purpose of hate crime legislation is to legislate morality.

The illogic of passing laws with the expressed purpose of punishing people who break other laws is transparent. If the haters in question were going to obey the new law, they would have obeyed the old one.

It's a truism that 'you can't legislate morality', but of course the law does affect morality. What you cannot do is pass a law and expect a given person to be moral because of it. What you can expect is for society as a whole to tend to internalize as moral what the law says. How many politicians excuse or even justify their behavior with "I have done nothing illegal"? And so for ordinary folks, as well, especially the young and the shallow.

Hate crime laws put the people on notice that the government doesn't like people being picked on for their skin color, religion, etc. The biggest problem is their failure to generalize: if you're going to have hate crime laws, make it double-extra-illegal to victimize someone based on their group membership, period, and quit trying to make lists. Everyone would be covered equally by the law, then.

But that would not fulfill the other purpose, which is to let Democrats act like they're doing something to advance the cause of their current crop of victims.

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