There are a lot of things people like to believe that are patently absurd if you think about it.  Much of the Obama Administration was based on making nonsensical declarations – we can’t just drill our way out of an energy shortage, it would take a magic wand to bring back manufacturing jobs, 2 percent growth is the “new normal,” etc. – all delivered in a somber, imperious tone that made them sound like unassailable fact. One of the most common pieces of false conventional wisdom is that “the government can’t legislate morality!” 

But of course, they do it all the time.  We have millions of laws, just to enforce society’s consensus of what’s morally right or wrong. Liberals used to protest this, and now they’re the chief generators of morality laws, usually bans on everything they find morally offensive, including smoking, using racist words (or the “wrong” pronoun), giving someone a plastic straw, etc. etc. etc. Each law comes with loopholes that someone will try to exploit, so government adds more laws. Plus police, courts and jails, because some people will always insist on doing the wrong thing anyway.  All to legislate morality.

Self-government requires self-discipline, self-respect, and respect for others.  When people don’t follow an accepted standard moral code, government keeps passing new laws to try to force them to, which creates bigger government and more expense for everybody.  Maybe the national debt wouldn’t be sky high now if our behavior standards hadn’t sunk so low. 

How much do people’s bad personal choices end up costing all the rest of us?  You might be surprised at the size of the bill.  When I left the governor’s office in Arkansas, we had more than 13,000 inmates in the Department of Corrections.  Just keeping them locked up cost taxpayers more than $220 million a year.  That’s more than it would have cost to send 13,000 kids to any college in the state, all expenses paid.  If every prison inmate had just lived a moral life and stayed out of trouble, the taxpayers could have enjoyed a $220 million tax cut.  Or the money might have been used to improve roads and services that benefit everyone. 

From the left, I’d always hear that we should spend more money on prisoners or else turn more of them loose.  From the right, I’d hear that we should lock up more people and eliminate parole while cutting the prison budget.  Both were unrealistic.  But hardly anyone wanted to talk about the real problem: the lack of morality that led to all those people being locked up in the first place. 

And what about juvenile offenders?  Every kid placed into our Division of Youth Services cost taxpayers up to $80,000 a year.  If they’d all had stable, nurturing homes and been taught to be obedient, responsible and moral, it would’ve saved the taxpayers of just that one state $80 million a year.  Imagine how many parks we could have built for all kids to enjoy, or how many books we could’ve bought for school libraries, if we could’ve freed up $80 million a year in the state budget.

A lot of kids get into trouble because of peer pressure.  They think breaking the rules makes them look cool to their friends.  So kids, when someone you know starts acting up, instead of rewarding them with your admiration, please tell them instead, “That’s not cool!  Thanks for costing us our parks and turning our generation into tax slaves, jerk!” 

Hey, as long as kids are going to be vulnerable to peer pressure, why not use its power for good?   

 

 

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Follow-up: Reader responses to Joe Biden commentary

Comments 1-25 of 30

  • John R Wardlaw

    07/05/2019 12:13 PM

    Hi Mike,
    Appreciate your articles and read them every day. With this article, I agree the lack of individual responsibility costs us dearly as a nation. However, I can't believe that there will be any improvement in national morality without a philosophical change in national thinking. We need spiritual revival. The churches are in such an emaciated state. Christians are not the shining light they once were in the nation. Surely it was that Christian influence which once existed that is accountable for the exceptionalism that has been claimed for the nation. We need the powerful Spirit filled preaching that once came from the pulpits of the land and effected both Christians and the populace at large in common grace. I just can't see us pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, human nature being what it is. Surely, the present need is much prayer and solid biblical teaching.

  • Rich Luhrs

    07/04/2019 03:04 PM

    Mike,

    Your commentary is mostly right, but omits a key component. In order for morality to become more commonplace, our education of the young has to be strong on educating morality. Unfortunately, this is not the case in our public schools. Quite the opposite; our schools' curricula are increasingly opposing morality (at least as traditionally defined) in order to be more "culturally sensitive". That sensitivity increasingly favors immoral standards, so we are raising generations that have increasingly less sensitivity to morality. No wonder we are increasingly immoral as a society (and not just the US; it's across the western world).

    Add to that the desensitization that first-person shooter gaming does for a generation that indulges for hours each day, and the result is a foregone conclusion. Add to that the number of college professors advocating violence (supporting Antifa, for instance) as a remedy for voices they find "intolerable" (so much for the tolerance of the left!).

    A century ago, it was parents' responsibility to pass on a moral code to the young. Some did it better than others, but it seems that it was generally more competently done than it is today, partly because those in the public school system have no ownership of the outcome, so ideology trumps outcome (so to speak).

    I don't see how this trend gets reversed in today's society, but reverse it we must! As long as liberal/socialist/progressive/communist ideology owns the educational system (and it does -- just check out the ratio of self-described liberals/conservatives in any college faculty) we will continue to have a worsening moral basis in society.

  • robert waters

    07/04/2019 09:01 AM

    Excellent article on morality. I've heard people say, as you pointed out, "you can't legislate morality." Your article is the only one that I've seen that ably addresses the statement. I'll be sharing it. Keep up the good work.

  • A. Jane Puckett

    07/04/2019 08:26 AM

    How true, how true. Live a moral life But wait you can't mention that to young people in the government schools.!!!!! That is why good education with truth about our country and God is soooo important.

  • Brenda Womble

    07/04/2019 08:22 AM

    Facts speak for themselves. I see no way anyone could argue with this commentary, but I am certain someone will. Love your words of wisdom.

  • Marie Schaefer

    07/04/2019 07:46 AM

    This is the greatest post I've read in a long time..I feel we are all born with somewhat of a conscience...where it goes from there depends on what we see as children at home. Morals..manners...sounds so simple

  • keith nuhn

    07/04/2019 12:44 AM

    Right On!

  • Sue Inge

    07/03/2019 10:01 PM

    ?? You are right Mike. Trouble is in the heart of man. People need the Lord. This nation has removed God from everything it can. That’s the problem.

  • sam knight

    07/03/2019 08:51 PM

    "Righteousness exalts any nation, but sin is a reproach to all!" so says the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon. Ours started that way in 1789 in Federal Hall on Wall Street NYC as our first president was elected by electoral of the 13 colonies now know as United States of America--then it went around the corner to the nearest church to be dedicated to God--the church still stands even though the tree in front was obliterated by falling debris for falling WTC. But our nation does not subscribe to be a Christian nation even though Lincoln rededicated it 80 years later to regroup the states after the uncivil war.

  • Maxine Oswalt

    07/03/2019 07:20 PM

    Come Lord Jesus
    Think its time for a cleansing

  • Edna Berniece (Murphy) Evans

    07/03/2019 07:02 PM

    i DO BELIEVE THAT OUR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP HAS TAKEN OVER THE STUPID ACTIONS OF BARACK OBAMA AND MADE A HUGE MUD PIE AND DROPPED IT INTO THE OCEAN!!! Donald BEGAN AT THE BOTTOM AND HAS REACHED TO THE TOP!!! OUR NATION HAS MORE PEOPLE WORKING THAN EVER BEFORE!!

    Many of us, during the Obama years, developed into real leaders and continued regardless of
    him. With a high school education and knowledge of computers, I was the manager of General
    Telephone Company of Kentucky's COMPUTERIZED DIRECTORY CONTROL. My salary was more
    than my husband made with his Master's Degree that I paid for.

    This Friday, our new Hytrol System is supposed to be delivered. This summer, so far, has been very hot for us. I like to go out on the 80 plus foot deck on the front of the house, especially in the afternoons when the sun is going down in the west. My daughter and her husband are there now.

    I must prepare for our Wednesday evening church message.

    Sincerely,

    Berniece Evans

  • william fuhrer

    07/03/2019 06:57 PM

    Chris Christie was commenting on the debates saying that he had the unenviable position of being seated between Santorum and Mike Huckabee. From the solid way you think through issues it is easy to see why he said that. KEEP SPEAKING THE TRUTH

  • Cynthia Pacheco

    07/03/2019 06:18 PM

    As far I can see, the present lack of morality started with the "sexual revolution" which hijacked the women's movement and with the "hippy generation" who are people in power today. Both parents started working so they can keep up with the Joneses and who's watching the kids? Instead of love and attention, the kids get things. No wonder we are in such a mess!

  • rodney Burke

    07/03/2019 05:39 PM

    What the left doesn't want. Families that have obedient children. Yep if we could go back to the 50s for a while. we might get rid of liberals as they would not fit into society. So Mike, how do you feel about lifers? Should we support those who are not fit to live in our society? Another unnecessary burden on us. If they are not fit to be in our society why are they locked up costing money that can be better spent?

  • joseph orsini PhD

    07/03/2019 05:23 PM

    Census not determining citizenship is a HUGE victory for the Dems. Hard to believe the Judiciary prohibited it!

  • Laurie Giesler

    07/03/2019 03:57 PM

    The only way to save this nation is for people to realize that God exists and His rules are GOOD! This is why horse thieves were hung. Not many places to keep them. Now, we have a ‘prison system’. And, selfish, self-centered ‘me, first’ society which is unBiblical.

  • Lucia A. Hunter

    07/03/2019 03:14 PM

    So True Governor Huckabee. When people push away God, the giver of light, knowlege, love and life, they end up with darkness, ignorance, hate and death! People need to rethink the ten commandments and see that they were given by a loving God to act as guardrails to protect us and keep us from falling over the cliff! Moral Values come from God. Even the so-called-athiests have some moral code they live by, and if you explore further, that code comes from God! The old saying is so true: "People need the Lord!"

  • Elizabeth Crouse

    07/03/2019 03:06 PM

    Alabama has a black hole called prisons. My Dad was a warden. Back then the inmates worked. Now it is cheaper to buy that produce, so they did away with all the inmate jobs like working on farms, dairy, cotton mill, etc so they have time to kill each other. Sad

  • Jerry Korba

    07/03/2019 02:44 PM

    Mike Your content is on the mark, bullseye; I pointed Morallity toward Congress and the waste of money it is today. Just a little thought about morality I look at Nike and it's moral view of America and I understand the position they take against her. Look at where the products they sell come from; can you say Asia that means China Vietnam Thailand ect. you may now start to get the picture if you really think these countries like us think for just a minute if we were a socialist regime; how many products are being sold to Venezuela? people is it starting to sink in yet? Venezuela can not feed the people think they will put Nike shoes on their feet or a Nike shirt on their back Goodwill will send them used Nike products that's the way they get those products The market there is zero How much influence does China have with Nike? More than the United States? It really looks like it. Forget about Koppernick he is just a tool to offend people China is the one you need to pay attention too. China is pulling Nike's strings. Can you say 50% Tariffs on Nike Products coming from China or Asia who needs Nike? Slap the Tariffs on I bet the flag goes back on the shoes in a hurry>>>>> Money Money Money is more important than Patriotism!!!!!!!!!

  • Carl Smith

    07/03/2019 02:13 PM

    If I didn't know better I would think you just made a Perfect reason for keeping Margaret Sangers planned executions at birth a Good Thing! When I comment that Morality cannot be Legislated I make reference to Prohibition being an attack on the Constitution, as a Failed Exercise. When Government Bureaucracies grow to start making LAW without Congressional Consent, ASSUMING, making law was UNDERSTOOD to be part of their job is on par with an UN-Elected Judge just ASSUMING it's part of his/her job to Do what the Elected representatives don't have the Courage to do.

  • Charles Simmons

    07/03/2019 01:52 PM

    Only traditional Americans are expected to demonstrate disciplined restraint in their behavior. Democrats expect to enjoy consequence-free behavior, all as funded by traditional Americans.

  • Arie Scholten

    07/03/2019 01:45 PM

    I always heard that sin is attractive. Since we are created in the image of God we would like to play God in our own lives and take to liberty to take the road to self indulgence instead of making others more important than ourselves. That breaks down society and more laws won’t take away the fact that many of us if not most are gamblers I believe we won’t get caught

  • Chris Maiorana

    07/03/2019 01:14 PM

    test

  • Megan Harpring

    07/03/2019 12:55 PM

    Amazing facts that make you think! On the other hand very sad to think of what we could have. Keep em coming, governor

  • Hal Perkins

    07/03/2019 12:52 PM

    T hank you for your continuous efforts to bring understanding and wisdom into the open.