12/7 Daily Show: Immorality vs Economy

I saw this clip on today’s Daily Show. A student asked Obama at a rally: Have you looked into legalizing drugs or say prostitution to help stimulate the economy?

Imho, if the greater good is saving the country, I think a little legal marijuana or legalized prostitution would be the lesser evil.

Should morality be an obstacle where the overall health of your country is in the balance?

Eh, I suspect most people here don’t think of marijuana or prostitution as particularly immoral, so I’m not sure they’re a great example for examining whether we should legalize something immoral to assist the economy. If you think letting people smoke weed isn’t a problem in any case, then asking whether we should legalize it to allow for increased revenue is kind of a no-brainer.

How about dog-fighting? It might generate some economic activity, but is something that (judging from the recent uproar regarding that football player), is something most people find immoral.

That’s a difficult question to answer as posed, because I daresay many Dopers would hold the opinion that prohibition of marijuana and prostitution is immoral. It’s also difficult to answer because there is likely to be a great reluctance on the Board to prohibit any activity solely because it is immoral. (Solely being a key term; murder for hire is more than just immoral.) Also note that revocation because of changed mores is different.

Or maybe it’s just me.

I think there are many compelling reasons to legalize marijuana and prostitution that carry significantly more weight than revenue creation.

But more to the question: IMHO, a state that relaxes standards based solely (or primarily) on pecuniary gain is not a healthy state. Among other things, there is a wide gray area between completely victimless and victim-full crimes, and a state that would barter along that spectrum has untoward incentives to move the line further along.

I agree with what’s already been posted. The activities given aren’t that immoral (if at all), so that’s why you don’t tend to think allowing them would be that big a deal. The more immoral an action seems, the less you think you can justify it.


Morality is the thing that holds a culture together. Without a common morality a culture doesn’t have jack. It’s a population of what? Economic interests?

It doesn’t even matter what particular form that morality takes, it just has to be shared. To put it another way, destroying a nation’s sense of morality will destroy the country itself.

As an aside, the United States has 5% of the world’s population and 23.6% of the world’s prison population.

Housing one prisoner costs a state between $18,000 and $31,000 annually, $33 per day for the average prisoner and $100 per day for an elderly prisoner.

In 2002, about 10.4% of all black males in the United States between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison, compared to 2.4% of Hispanic males and 1.3% of white males - but don’t worry about that last point when a good-looking American chick is left rotting by the flawed Italian justice system.

Well first, although I favor legalizing all vices, I don’t see how they’d stimulate the economy. It would make the economy LOOK better, since what is currently underground would be part of the official statistics(hookers would count as employed and marijuana production would be measured by the Dept. of Commerce and added to GDP statistics).

You’d be able to tax and regulate the stuff, so that would help the gov’ts bottom line, and you’d probably end up with a larger domestic marijuana crop instead of stuff grown in Canada and Mexico, so it would create some jobs that way. And as Pretty Vacant suggests, we would probably end up with fewer prisoners (which would save the States $, though also eliminate some jobs), or maybe we’d just put more non-drug offenders in jail for longer to make up the difference.

PrettyVacant, please try to address the subject at hand. I don’t like irrelevant nonsensical diatribes.

I remember hearing this . . . almost verbatim . . . back in the 60s. It was always said by someone in the wrong generation to join the party. And nobody (except some Fundies) has ever defined what this “common morality” is; it doesn’t exist and never did.

I think you are misunderstanding me. My point is that a nation is not defined by its economic interests, but rather its culture. When I look at the basic question of the OP, I see a disconnect in the logic of how societies work.

“Should morality be an obstacle where the overall health of your country is in the balance?”

Of course it should be an obstacle. No society can give up its common values and remain a society. That’s basic sociology.

Monkey, did I misread something or are you saying that pot n’ prostitution are immoral and therefore justly illegal?

Or are you saying that because “it doesn’t even matter what particular form that morality takes, it just has to be shared,” then even though you think pot/prostitution isn’t immoral per se, it’s good to have the laws on the book because it somehow binds us together?

If I’m wrong on both counts, could you help the OP out and provide a few examples what you’re talking about – examples of enforced laws (with non-trivial sanctions) that are strictly based on morality?

Per Simplicio, I’m not sure dog fighting counts. There is a distinct anthropomorphizing of pooches (and many mammals), so though it gets all higgly piggly (animal testing is ok?), there’s still a sense of a “victim” in the dogs. We prevent cruelty to animals that are in our care in ways in which we don’t prevent cruelty to plants (or maybe that’s why there’s a prohibition on pot smoking, burning those poor leaves!), based, I presume, largely on perceived sentience.

You misread. Believe me, buddy, I am no stranger to the bong.

I won’t cite any laws that are strictly based on morality, because that’s contradictory to what I’m trying to say. We are hairless apes and we think we make laws to govern ourselves, but, if we’re honest about it, all we do is stick with our troop. It’s the unspoken laws that matter. The social, ethical, and moral unspoken laws are the the ones that make a society distinct. A people distinct. A nation distinct. And for the purposes of this thread, a country distinct.

One more time>>>>

Of course it should.

Well, now I’m confused (and no, the Graphix is still on the mantle :slight_smile: ).

The OP was about repealing laws, not about foregoing all morality. I don’t think anyone here has said that we should/shouldn’t completely give up societal constraints. Which is why I don’t understand: "I won’t cite any laws that are strictly based on morality, because that’s contradictory to what I’m trying to say. "

Or are you really a starving artist in disguise and think we were better off in the more conformist-minded fifties?
Could gay marriage fit the OP? An ostensibly victimless act between two loving, consenting adults. It’s a bit reverse, in that it’s not a crime to be gay, but it’s (largely) not legal to get married. The root of the law, as I understand it, rests completely with the majority’s (at least in New York and California, and majority only in the sense of majority of people who voted on the issue) sense of morality.

I daresay that the state would see significant economic benefits to legalizing marriage, from licenses to wedding-related businesses to a more stable family population. But (and I know this is about to be a bizarre question), is it moral for someone who opposes gay marriage on moral grounds (put aside general disagreement) to vote to allow it in order to bring in more income into the state and save it from economic collapse? Oh shit, what if doing so would bring in money to fund an after school program designed to keep kids off drugs and away from prostitution!

Got a cite for that?


It’s from Wiki (so take that with however much salt you want).

Here’s the wiki reference:
Walmsley, Roy (2007). “World Prison Population List. 7th edition” (PDF). International Centre for Prison Studies. School of Law, King’s College London. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/law/research/icps/downloads/world-prison-pop-seventh.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-06.

ETA: Relevant quote from the PDF:

The math works. Blech.

Regarding the over-representation of blacks:


We need to define our terms here. You seem to be equating “culture,” “values” and “morality.” Obviously there’s some overlap, but I have a hard time thinking of morality on a national level as being the same thing as morality on a personal level. Yes, we have a common culture (containing many subcultures) and certain values (that don’t necessarily need to be shared by every citizen). But an overall national code of ethics is something that I don’t see.

But the United States doesn’t have a shared morality. Case in point, some people think pot and prostitution are immoral, some don’t. Similarly, some people think abortion is immoral, some don’t. Some people think hunting is immoral, some don’t. Some think gambling is immoral, some don’t.

It seems to me there are fewer issues that everyone agrees than issues that people disagree on the morality of.