ERIC Number: ED178439
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979-Aug
Traditional Versus Zero-Base Morality as a Basis for Law.
Sengstock, Mary C.
The paper examines the controversy over an appropriate philosophical basis for law and assesses attitudes about decriminalization of various behaviors based upon conviction about the function and objectives of the legal system. On one side of the controversy, proponents with a traditional view maintain that there is a strong connection between law and morality; for example, the view is expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Proponents of the second view, sometimes called zero-based morality, believe that law should be based on a limited contract between society and government. To assess the strength of popular support for a zero-base morality, researchers analyzed responses from surveys undertaken by the National Opinion Research Center from 1972-1977 regarding decriminalization of marijuana and abortion, pornography for adults, and support for the rights of homosexuals to teach college. It was hypothesized that support for zero-base morality regarding these behaviors would be stronger among groups who do not share Anglo-Protestant traditions, and that support for decriminalization of various behaviors would be highly intercorrelated. Analysis of data indicated that there is considerable intercorrelation of decriminalization of these behaviors but that, contrary to expectations, this support tends to come from powerful, wealthy, educated, and high status occupation groups in society. The conclusion is that there is considerable support for decriminalization of the behaviors analyzed and that this support comes mainly from individuals espousing zero-base morality as a basis for the legal system. (DB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented to the American Sociological Association (Boston, MA, August 1979)