The Corner

Rewarding Law-Breaking

One other point Jonah’s correspondent makes is unquestionably true: It would be silly to object to the legalization of previously illegal acts on the ground that legalization would “reward law-breaking.” If someone proposes to end a prohibition and, at the same time, to stop trying to punish those who flouted it when it was on the books, the objection to rewarding law-breaking would be legitimate–but not always dispositive. If, on the other hand, having broken the law will now entitle you to some kind of preferential treatment–if, for example, as critics of Bush’s illegal-amnesty plan say, people who came here illegally will be in a better position in some respects than people who waited abroad to get here legally–then the objection seems fairly strong.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.