Do you have a right to behave badly? Most people probably would answer “no” to that question even if, in their heart of hearts, they feel quite differently. And, by all counts today, Americans do feel differently.
There is no constitutional right to bad behavior. In fact, the United States Constitution exists, in large part, to keep bad behavior in check at the federal levels of government. The same goes for state constitutions and a whole raft of state and local laws. Laws exist because of bad behavior – not to encourage it but to discourage it. A free society requires order, meaning good behavior, and a free society cannot long endure a culture of bad behavior – it can’t afford it, neither can it naturally counter it. There are no neutral corners in a free society where bad behavior simply vanishes because men all of a sudden become angels.
The need for law and order has been such a fundamental part of America since its founding that calls for less law and order have sounded irresponsible – until now. The exponential growth of government in our lives has justified a choir of imprudent overreaction.
Rather than shore up old ways, these modern voices are calling for even less law and order. I believe the call for less law and order today has more to do with the changing definitions of “bad behavior” than it does it anything else. You hear it all of the time, “Who gets to decide what’s bad behavior?” – as if these decisions are something new to the world. When what’s new to the world is changing values.