Abraham Lincoln once said “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from Earth”. This quote implies that the government itself was made by the citizens by voting elected officials that will represent their sentiments. By the power vested in them, the government carries the responsibility to improve the welfare of the people. This will only be achieved by creating laws that will limit people’s freedom to maintain social order. Laws are enacted to protect people from being harmed by others. Everyday there are crimes committed, violence inflicted, and laws broken. Nobody can deny the fact that anywhere anytime; someone is always willing to inflict harm to others. All of these affect the society and the image of the country to the rest of the world. With the increasing crime rate and laws being broken, the government has all the right to be restrictive and invasive without infringing human rights.
Laws are set of rules enforced to govern behavior. It serves as a framework for the formation of spontaneous order of action (Hayek, 1978). It serves as an agent that protects a person from all relation it builds with other people. For example, contract laws regulate all transaction a person voluntarily enters with other parties. Laws also promote common good by creating laws that would encourage everyone’s cooperation. It also develops behaviors. Criminal laws define the crimes a person violates and the corresponding punishment for the crime committed. By giving punishment, people become mindful of their acts and it eventually becomes a habit. Laws also provide measures on dispute settlement. Without its existence, dispute extends and subsequently becomes a bigger problem.
One of the most important laws enacted is the regulation on Drugs. Drug policies are government policy that controls and regulates drugs considered dangerous particularly those that are addictive. In the FBI report on arrests made in 2013, the highest numbers of arrests were for drug abuse violations estimated at 1,501,043 arrests. With this information, there is no mistake that there is a need to impose laws to regulate abuse on drugs. Tracing back from history, Lindesmith argued that the increasing rate on abuse of drugs started when the use of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana were either criminalized or became a target in law enforcement processes (as cited in Traver, Gaylord, 1992). The regulation resulted to drug smuggling and people became dependent on production and use. Corruption also occurred. Some enforcers were funding the distribution. The prohibition on drugs increased the price of drugs (Barnett, 2009). Due to raise of price, it encouraged people to take risk just to give in to their addiction, rate of robbery and theft likewise increased. With these side effects of drug prohibition, it is safe to say that the move of the government is just right. The use of prohibited drugs could lead to more dangerous crimes that can be inflicted against other people such as murder and robbery. Drug influence could lead to rape and other form of violence, and a possibility of self-inflicted crimes. The government is not restrictive on passing laws regulating and prohibiting drugs as they were only protecting the greater majority of innocent citizens.
Mass shootings and homicide by firearms are increasing each year. Just recently fourteen people were killed and twenty-one injured in the mass shooting at San Bernardino, California. This year, there had been reported 312 mass shootings and 12, 424 deaths by firearms (Gun Violence Archive, 2015). These figures show that the country has a relaxed gun laws as compared to other developed countries. It is because there is a headstrong opposition regarding tightening of gun laws. Although the government has a well-structured gun laws such as restrictions on type of guns, who are allowed to purchase guns and background check there are still loopholes in the current laws. One of which is the private sales loophole, it happens when someone purchases a gun to a friend or family member, the background check is usually omitted (Lopez, 2015). Background checks are necessary in order to determine who are allowed to purchase guns, if a person is found to have a criminal record or mental illness, a dealer cannot sell a gun to that person. Another problem regarding the system on legally purchasing gun is that the resources for background checking is not fully available, they are underfunded and understaffed. Sometimes, because of this, a person can purchase a gun even without background checks because a request for records takes too much time. Anti-gun activists argues that there is a correlation with widespread ownership and violence rate, opposition on the other hand argues that more guns, less crimes. Each side actually have point however, yearly crimes related to firearms are increasing. With the implementation of tougher gun laws, purchase will be a lot harder and FBI’s background check department will be given enough funds to come up with a quicker respond to requests for background checks. Gun laws in the United States are definitely moderate and not restrictive. In fact a tougher gun law needs to be implemented. The argument that laws should focus more on the criminals and not the gun owners is not proper. Both issues on crime rates and gun ownership should be simultaneously acted upon because after all they are correlated with each other.
Fair Labor Standards Act was enforced by the Department of Labor to set the minimum wage and overtime pay standards. It requires employers to keep records of time worked and allotted pay to employees. It also sets limits on child labor and provisions on protection of teen workers. The issue whether to increase the minimum wage has always been a center of debate among the employers, the public, and the government. Some argues that increase in minimum wage would decrease employment rate. In fact there had been studies linking these two. “The main finding of economic theory and empirical research over the past 70 years is that minimum wage increases tend to reduce employment (Wilson, 2012, p.6)”. For example, with the order from the government to increase wages, the employers would make adjustments to meet with the imposed rate. Such adjustment includes cost cutting, reducing hiring, and reducing benefits. Another argument is that low-skilled workers have the tendency to be replaced by high-skilled workers (Wilson, 2012). Increase in minimum wage does not reduce poverty, instead increases due to unemployment. Burkhauser and Sabia said that even if employees from poor household work increase in wage does not affect them because mostly workers from poor families are already paid above the required minimum wage (as cited in Wilson, 2012). On the other hand, government argues that increase in minimum wage does not affect employment but instead workers will have higher pays, lower worker turnovers, and better performance. Workers will be more passionate with their jobs. True that there are adjustments that has to be made but this will pass on to the consumers. They also argued that increase in minimum wage does not promote poverty. It actually increases the family’s income and they have more money to spend for their families. With these arguments from the anti and pro-wage increase, the government is not restrictive with the laws regarding minimum wages. The scope of beneficiaries of the increase in minimum wage is wider than that of its negative effects. For example, US Department of Labor said that 89% of those who will benefit in the increase of minimum wage are actually ages 20 and older. Employment is not affected by the increase but instead it opens growth, provides additional earnings plus a survey last July 2015 found out that small businesses supports increase in wages because it will benefit their employees.
Marriage laws in the US include the fundamental right to marry and divorce and annulment laws. The government’s take on marriage laws depends on the issue. As regards to who can contract marriage, the government is not restrictive on it. There was a time when the government became restrictive as to who has the right to enter into marriage. For example, Anti-miscegenation laws prohibited relationship between whites and “non-whites” for the protection of whites including inheritance of property and legitimacy of the couple’s children (Critchlow and Vandermeer, 2012). It was declared unconstitutional in California State in 1948 and the rest of the states followed a year later. Now, interracial marriages are legal in the country. Another example is the issue on same-sex marriage. It was only this year when the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry. This however caused lot oppositions both from conservatives and the general public who values the real meaning of marriage and that is the union between man and woman alone. The government obviously values marriage. Now, anyone can enter into a valid marriage regardless of race and sexual orientation. As much as they value it, they also value the lasting relationship of a husband and wife. Although the “no-fault” divorce law or the provision that marriage can be terminated solely upon the ground of irreconcilable differences that caused breakdown of marriage has become a widespread and the rate of divorce became overwhelming, the government is still restrictive on how marriage can be dissolved (Wardle and Nolan, 2011). According to the National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends, the rate of divorce and annulment has decreased from 4.0% in year 2000 to 3.2% in 2014. Dissolution of marriage is still based on formal requisites rather than the substance. Also, polygamous marriage and bigamous marriage is illegal in US.
These laws are just regulating the extent of freedom a person has, they do not limit liberties. Imagine a world where everyone is free to just do anything, chaotic, right? A person who knows his limits and values the relationship he has with the people around him and the society, does not have to worry about these laws imposed. After all the rationale behind imposition of laws is that everyone is good and will not harm anyone for personal interest. The government is not invasive either. They also have limitations on their exercise of powers. They cannot enact laws and punish people without due process. They are prohibited to interfere with people’s rights such as association and expression.
Barnett, Randy E. (2009). The Harmful Effects of Drug Prohibition. Georgetown University Law Center.
Critchlow, Donald T., Vandermeer, Philip R. (2012). The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political and Legal History. Volume 1. Oxford University Press.
Federal Bureau of Investigations (2013). Crime in the United States 2013 : Persons Arrested.
Hayek, F.A. (1978). Law, Legislation and Liberty. Volume 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Lopez, German (2015). How Gun Control Works in America, compared with other four rich countries. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/
National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends. 23 November 2015. CDC/NHCS National Vitals Statistics System. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm
Traver Harold H. , Gaylord, Mark S. (1992). Drugs, Law and the State. Transactions Publisher
2015 Toll of Gun Violence. Gun Violence Archive. http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/
United States Department of Labor. Minimum Wage Myth Buster. Retrieved from www.dol.gov
Wardle, Lynn D, Nolan Laurence C. (2011). Family Law in the USA. The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International.