Friday, February 8, 2013
Malum Prohibitum, Malum In Se
Malum prohibitum is a Latin phrase that means "wrong because prohibited," it is distinguished from malum in se, "wrong in and of itself." In discussions about legalizing drugs inevitably someone will say "well why do we just legalize murder/rape/robbery? That would lower the number of arrests too." Virtually every human civilization has prohibitions against property crimes, where property is defined broadly so as to include one's own body. Thus stealing, murder and assault (including sexual assault) are all examples of mala in se (wrong and evil in themselves). By contrast, mala prohibita include prohibitions against social taboos. In my previous post I argued that drug abuse is only abuse in the sense that certain drugs are used in ways that are wrongful in custom, drug abuse is nothing more than drug use that lies outside cultural norms.