The Moral Issue of Dual Citizenship
By Harrison Jargbah
Over the weekend, I attended a cook out at a friend’s place. As usual guys sit or stand in group to talk from personal to general issues. During this free discussion, I brought in the dual citizenship issue and expressed my support for adequate safeguards to ensure that Liberia does not become victim economically, where Liberian-Americans will work in Liberia and transfer all earnings to the States. A discussion colleague offered, Harrison, you cannot legislate behavior. I did not agree with his statement but put up no argument. I do know as a Christian, God gives us a framework within the context of the Ten Commandments to regulate our behaviors. Secondly, as a working adult, from Liberia to America, my employee handbook prescribes code of conduct, code of ethics, dress code, etc. Thirdly, as a motorist, traffic regulations – speed limits, seat belt, traffic signs are intended to ensure good behavior in the traffic. How are these behavior regulations different from the laws that will define a state’s expectation of its dual citizens? Based on the foregoing, I believe that that statement is far from reality but not something to consider lightly.
Therefore, I decided to search and find out what others have to say on this issue of behaviors and the laws. I love what I saw and thought to share it with the listserv, hoping that that will in a way inform some critical thinking as the dual citizenship bill is being introduced for discussion in the Liberian Legislature.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses the issue as follows:
“Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees”.
Additionally, on “You Cannot Legislate Morality!” Dr. Dave Miller wrote:” Human civilization is, in fact, grounded and dependent on the fundamental principle that human behavior can and must be regulated. Laws, by definition, regulate human behavior! Why do we have traffic laws? Why do we require people to drive their automobiles on the correct side of the road, stop at red traffic lights, or yield to pedestrians in crosswalks? Weren’t we told that we could not legislate human behavior? Why do we have laws governing the food industry’s handling of food for human consumption? I thought we could not legislate human behavior? Why do we have laws that make murder, stealing, and perjury in court illegal—if human morality cannot be legislated? The fact of the matter is that human behavior can and must be governed. The very fabric and functioning of society depends on it!”
Finally, Mark S. Putnam of the Global Ethics University said, “Our society is governed by the rule of law yet we manage to survive day-to-day, by and large, doing our own thing. There are laws against perjury and dishonest business practices, but not against the majority of fibs that we tell each day. There are rules regulating speech on the job but no rules against hurting someone's feelings. Even the morality of theft is up for debate. So, how can we tell what is right or wrong and what our moral obligations are when the ethical line seems unclear?” He further noted, “First, we need to understand that the saying, "We can't legislate morality!" is not really true.”Morality" (defined as right and wrong behavior) is the whole focus of our legal system. Our legal system legislates all kinds of morality. The laws regarding stealing, killing, defrauding, and misrepresenting all reflect "moral" values. If you're caught breaking these laws then you
will be punished despite your personal values. Thankfully, society legislates morality in ways that are generally advantageous to our safety and well-being.”
Harrison Welh Jargbah
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