If the citizens of a democratic nation begin to abuse the liberties they are afforded, at what point should a government take decisive action? Undoubtedly the US federal government exist to regulate society through law and guidance, and have a duty to protect the social fabric from the actions of individual citizens. So in instances where accepted laws or freedoms are being taken advantage of to the detriment of society, there is an argument that the government should take steps to change their rules of operation.
Creating a More Structured Social Environment
It should be said that changing laws to create a more structured social environment does not change the approach of a democracy. What it does is still empower citizens but in a far more considered way, and introduces an element of accountability for individuals and their actions. The act of restructuring the social element of the US would help to tackle many health and behavioral issues, notably those concerning smoking, obesity and anti-social conduct, and ultimately create a more productive and content generation of citizens.
Smoking is a relevant example, especially given the level of statistics and information that exist on its practice and consequences. Despite the fact that the decline in the number of high school children and adolescents who smoke has slowed in the last 3 years, and the eminent research that suggests that smoking addiction is more likely to develop during these formative years, most US states employ a minimum purchasing of 18. This, like the UK’s legislation that allows individuals older than 16 to buy cigarettes, is outdated and not reflective of the damage that smoking can do.
Put simply, laws are created to govern a given society during a specific time. It is imperative that these pieces of legislation are continually measured against any changes in social circumstance, taking into account relevant studies and recorded statistics. This way laws can be changed to suit their citizens and tackle any relevant social issues, and perform the best possible job in serving and protecting society. Without this laws can become passive or even divisive, and have little positive impacting in improving quality of life.
Dealing with Criminal Conduct
The same principle applies to criminal conduct, as this is a changeable concept which needs to be tackled on an individual basis. The US census and alternative studies are constantly revealing trends in criminal behavior and attitudes, revealing which crimes are prominent in which geographical areas, as well as providing an overview of where behavioral issues lie. This requires constant monitoring due to inevitable changes in social circumstance, which creates different individual situations and evoke varying aspects of criminal response.
For example, the online revolution introduced a new age of theft, encouraging fraudulent activity and brand new methodology of stealing. This, along with the birth of identity theft, created an entirely new and diverse threat to individual security, and required the introduction of new government measures to both protect society and punish those responsible. Similarly, the recent recession and gradual recovery has seen increases in aggravated theft and burglary along the southern state belt line, where poverty as taken hold and prompted an extreme anti-social reaction.
This kind of reactive law making not only applies to the types of crime that are prevalent in society. A keen attention also needs to be paid to those who perpetrate crime, especially in relation to which offences are being committed by which social demographic. For example, statistics suggest that violent crime is becoming more frequent amongst younger offenders, with teenagers and adolescent individuals of today far more likely to display trends in violent behavior than those of previous generation.
Moving With the Times
In terms of information we are fortunate with regards to the uncensored access that we have to online knowledge and resources. This can give clear direction on the most prominent health and social issues within the US and globally, and suggest which aspects of contemporary existence provide the most obvious threat to citizen safety. These exist for the benefit of society as a whole, not only to highlight relevant problems but also reveal trends that may gives us clues as to the issues of tomorrow.
It is an act of sheer negligence for the federal government to not respond to these behavioral trends, and one which could ultimately lead to a fractured society. Our social circumstances change at an unprecedented rate in the modern world, and this can render existing laws and legislation increasingly irrelevant and potentially divisive. There is nothing wrong with a democratic government taking control of the society that it governs, and changing its legislation where necessary to create a safer society.