Decriminalization: Is it for the Greater Good?
Does the decriminalization of an illegal action make that action morally and ethically correct? For the last several years, governments and politicians believed that decriminalization has the ability to turn a moral wrong into a righteous deed. Would this notion of magically turning a vice into a virtue by changing its legal status within the law have the potential to change the definition of the “greater good within a society"? If an action that previously violated the law becomes perfectly acceptable in a society through the process of legalization, should it then automatically be considered a moral good?
Twelve years ago, a popular movie took this idea of working for the “greater good” and explored how one’s definition of “greater good” can affect and shape society. Hot Fuzz is a movie that deals with how the “greater good” can be manipulated and redefined by a “ruling class” and its unconditional acceptance forced onto everyone else. The movie’s main character, Nicholas Angel, is reassigned to a sleepy little village in the British countryside called Sandford. The little village of Sandford has a very low crime rate but surprisingly large amounts of “accidents” occur daily within it. When Angel starts to get suspicious of the frequent rate of “accidents,” he finds himself at odds with the town’s ruling class, which turns out to be the community watch group. The term “accident” is used by the town’s community watch group to hide the truth behind all the mysterious deaths that occur within the town, in order to get away with murdering anyone who muddles with their utopian town. In order to keep the rest of the village in line, the community watch creates their own warped sense of the “greater good” that everyone must abide by or else face the consequences of another nasty “accident.”
Despite being fictitious, the community watch group’s definition of the “greater good” can be seen within today’s political world. These parallels begin to occur when an overly progressive government decides that they know what is best for their citizens. Since the government considers themselves “above” the members of their society, they create their own vision for the “greater good.” When abortion was legalized in 1969, Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s government enforced their idea of the “greater good” by selling abortion as a “woman’s right to choose” and as a greater degree of “freedom.” History repeated itself when Pierre’s son, Justin Trudeau, decriminalized and legalized euthanasia on June 6, 2016 and cannabis on October 17, 2018. Finally, this tactic was also used by the LGBT+ lobby when the American Psychiatric Association removed Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) on December 1, 2012. This opened the door to the LGBT+ lobby's idea of “gender as a social construct,” morphing “the greater good,” since one’s sex was no longer defined by his or her physical body.
If a moral wrong is examined through the decriminalization and legalization process, its legal standing in the law does not negate the overall wrongness of a moral vice. In reference to Hot Fuzz, if the town of Sandford decided to decriminalize and legalize murder in order to advance the ruling class’ notion of the “greater good,” murder would still be, within itself, ethically and morally wrong, as the pretense of murder would not have changed. Finally, the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, ethunasia, cannabis usage, and sexually perverse behaviour by governments does not negate the very immoral and unethical nature of these controversial deeds. If an action is fundamentally morally and ethically wrong, despite society making it legal for the sake of the “greater good,” it will continue to be wrong, while impeding the progress of the actual “greater good.”