In recent months, a number of states have made it legal to use medical marijuana. And in the past month alone, an anti-immigration law in Arizona has made major headlines. It’s true that these and other laws were created with not only the best of intentions, but also for the good of the general public. But are these laws the right laws? That depends, in part on your personal respective.
We know from history that many laws were created to serve the common good — but as we also know, certain laws have proven to be disasterous, especially if some of us abuse and/or ignore it. For example, the Prohibition law that was passed in 1920 — forbidding the drinking and selling of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. — it was created with the best of intentions, because those who demanded it were concerned with the country’s moral situation. However, forcing an entire country not to do something that they enjoy via an amendment in the U.S. Constitution isn’t always a good idea — in Prohibition’s case, it resulted in hidden speakeasys, a growing disdain for the law, and a string of gangland executions that also brought about the deaths of innocent bystanders. By the time President Franklin Roosevelt signed the bill that would repeal Prohibition in 1933, even those who supported the law in the first place realized that it was a disaster — it wasn’t the first time that a law passed by U.S. politicians ticked off the country. And it wouldn’t be the rest.
Whether or not the medical marijuana and anti-immigration laws will be effective in the long run remains to be seen. But in looking forward to the future, we should look back to the past — if anything else, to not only remind ourselves that our government’s track record (and those of the world’s other governments) hasn’t been perfect, but also to remember what George Santayana once said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." And that applies to not only every past mistake — both big and small — that’s been made by all of the world’s governments, but also the history that they’ve helped to shape and affect generations.
May 12, 2010
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