San Diego Law Review

Document Type

Legal Moralism


The topic of the legal enforcement of morals, understood as the “question of the legitimacy of ‘vice crimes’ or ‘victimless crimes,’” is a special facet of the more general issue of the limits of the law. It is the subject of the long-standing debate as to whether law—all law—can be used as a support for moral conceptions as such, or, more generally, whether there are limits on the use of law to enforce morality, as when it is claimed that the law must remain neutral as between different views of the good, be they religious or otherwise. Whether understood in this more general manner, or in the context of the legitimacy of vice crimes, the issue of legal enforcement of morality is one of the most significant problems in legal theory and one of the most unrelenting challenges the law poses to liberal theory.