How does society control undesired behaviors by means other than laws?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a number of ways in which societies control undesirable behaviors without passing laws to prohibit them.  Let us look at three major ways in which this is possible.

First, without actually prohibiting the bad behaviors, governments can take action to discourage those behaviors or encourage good behaviors.  Governments can tax or regulate bad behaviors to make them less attractive to people.  For example, the US taxes cigarettes heavily, in part as a way to reduce smoking.  In addition, governments can subsidize or otherwise encourage good behavior.  They can, for example, offer subsidies on “green” cars to encourage people not to buy gas guzzlers.

Second, there is socialization.  This is not something government does.  Instead, it is how society teaches young people how they are expected to behave.  By teaching people the “right” way to behave, society discourages bad behaviors. 

Finally, there is what could be called peer pressure.  One way to discourage bad behavior is for members of society to shame or ridicule or otherwise pressure people who engage in such behaviors.  For example, neighbors might criticize someone who mistreats their animals.  By doing this, they put pressure on the people to stop their undesirable behaviors.