Saturday, August 11, 2012

Law and morality

One concern I have with legalizing behaviors that I view as immoral is that I suspect there is a reciprocal relationship between law and morality. Changing values lead to new laws, and new laws cause a change in values.

Using GSS data, I looked at the strength of the relationship between: 1) illegal drug use and favoring marijuana legalization, and 2) one's view on homosexual sex and favoring gay marriage. Eta-squared for the first relationship is .057 which indicates moderate strength. The gamma statistic for the second relationship is .79 which is very strong. Supporting a law, of course, does not logically require that one is in favor of the behavior in question, but sociologically the two seem to move in tandem.


  1. Anonymous12:08 PM

    So, in a sense, the slippery slope is (somewhat) backed up by statistical data?

  2. Not really, although I think Ron is right as well. What you need to do is show cause and effect somehow. The GSS doesn't record individual respondents over time, so there's no way to see if, for example, people's opinion on gay marriage changed after sodomy laws were struck down, for example.

  3. The main evidence that the laws affect morality is the change in attitudes about race in the U.S. - the laws changed faster than people's attitudes (to the extent that there was violent resistance across the country), but the attitudes did change, rather than hardening.

  4. So, in a sense, the slippery slope is (somewhat) backed up by statistical data?


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