Changes in Moral Customs and Laws

Archive Report

Striking changes in American moral standards are now finding expression in law. Recent judicial opinions have tended to support the view that personal morality—particularly sexual morality—is none of the law's business. The legal definition of obscenity, moreover, has narrowed to the point where it may soon apply only to hardcore pornography. Whether this trend toward permissiveness is a good thing or a bad thing has been sharply debated. One school of thought holds the view that laws on morality are unenforceable and probably unconstitutional. Another school argues that removal of legal restraints on moral behavior tacitly encourages immorality.

Innumerable speakers and writers have pointed out that American morals have strayed far from the Puritan ethic, which stressed austerity, frugality and sexual asceticism. Malcolm Muggeridge, former ...

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