Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

"Illegal" Does Not Always Mean "Wrong"

So Michael Phelps, US Olympic hero, got caught smoking pot. So what? Well, I've seen quite a few people get apoplectic about this -- though I expect the reaction would have been much worse if he were a black athlete. The most disturbing part, though, is that apparently many people believe "illegal" is a synonym for "wrong". It's not. Get that out of your system. Remember how it used to be illegal in the USA for interracial couples to marry? We still have plenty of laws on the books which will eventually be overturned because they're forbidding behavior which isn't wrong. The trick is to identify them, not to blindly label everything as "wrong" merely because it's illegal.

Of course, it's true that illegal behavior is usually "wrong" behavior, but for a journalist to assert that illegal behavior is automatically wrong behavior is like a mathematician pointing out that vaginal and anal sex are topologically equivalent: it's true if you start with the right set of assumptions, but that doesn't mean those are the assumptions which matter.

Update: seems that the analogy might be stronger than I thought. As has been pointed out to me, anal and vaginal sex are not topologically equivalent since one is a dimple and the other is the topological equivalent of the hole in the torus. Therefore, even if you think "illegal" means "wrong", a quick internet posting to will catch you out. :)
Tags: politics
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