Let me tell you a story about a young man, Justice Holmes. Justice was a well- known American jurist, whose sole interest in the law was to know what would happen to him, if he was caught breaking it. Whenever it was in his interest to commit a crime, rather, if he realizes that he could get away with it or that the resulting penalties were mild, he would break the law cheerfully. Wonderful right? Before you pass judgement on Justice Holmes, I need to ask you this question, ‘do you obey the law’?
Why should we obey the law? We are to obey the law not necessarily because of the person issuing the law but for the common good of the others because, your actions / inactions have a resulting effect in the lives of those near or far from you. In addition, the only way of co-operating effectively in many areas of common life, is to follow the dictates of someone in authority which will unify the efforts of everybody. It is also important to note that, your disobedience to the law, not just displays your level of selfishness but it is also unfair to the citizens who make effort of complying with the law as they take the benefits of their compliance but avoid the reciprocal burden.
From my little research, I was able to get the opinion of some people on why they don’t obey the law. One of the comments I got was that, ‘some laws are unjust’? Really? How then can we define an unjust law? In simple terms, an unjust law is a law that defies the principle of fairness and It will be unfair to comply with it. Your obligation to obey a given law, lies in the fact that by doing so, you will promote the common good of others.
Basis for which a law can be said to be unjust:
- You must be morally certain that the said law is unjust.
- For it to be justified to disobey a law on the basis of it being unjust, the injustice of the law, must be SUBSTANTIAL. In actual sense, no law, rule or human in itself, is perfect, so there is slight room for imperfection but it should not be on the high side
- Also ask for the opinion of reliable people before you make your conclusion that a said law is ‘unjust’.
- In a community, great good can be attained and great harm can be averted only by general co-operation. A reasonable person, who values the well- being of that community, will be ready to play his / her part in that general co-operation.
- Co-operation can only be effective, if the individuals who wish to co-operate follow the directions of a central authority, which are usually conveyed by means of laws.
- An ethical person who is fair and interested in the well-being of others, should make it a point of duty, to always obey the law.