Comments on a blog on Ecademy

My father believed that you must obey the laws of the land because if society didn't we'd have (gasp) Anarchy. And if you believe the law is wrong then you should work to get it changed not simply break it. But there's a problem. The law is frequently wrong in that it doesn't match with society's general consensus of what is right. And voting every 5 years for somebody who will go ahead and do what they feel like in between is a pretty blunt instrument for getting laws changed. And lobbying for change is also pretty blunt and ineffective. And in lots of societies neither of these options are even possible. So sometimes mass civil disobedience is the only way to effect change.

My own belief is almost buddhist. It starts from a determination to follow right thought and right action and to take responsibility for the consequences. That leads to a system of ethics. Which is then a basis for strategies in playing what is just one big game. Now if you don't play by the rules of the game then every so often you will get caught, you will go to jail, you will not pass go and you will not collect 200 pounds. So if the law of the land doesn't match up with your system of ethics, then you should go ahead and break it as long as you accept that the keepers of the rules may punish you. And they have a bigger stick than you do.

There's an interesting aside here about the courts. If a law is unjust then the court can decide to go against it. That means that a jury is not bound to measure guilt purely against the letter of the law. They can acquit if they feel that the defendant is guilty of the letter of the law but that the law is wrong. And the judge can choose to impose no sentence even if the jury find guilty. And this works alll the way up the court system to the House of Lords. This has actually been one of the most effective ways over the years of getting misguided legislation changed.

Again as an aside different communities have different approaches to this. Northern Europe (and the USA) tends more towards my father's view that the law is sacred and must be enforced. Southern Europe takes more of a view that the government (at all levels) is in the business of making laws and is not very good at it. So let them do what they do and if it doesn't work, simply ignore it. And there is a very loose and fairly arbitrary pact between the populace and the enforcers of the law (the police) about what gets followed and what is ignored. Even though this leads to selective and arbitrary enforcement, I prefer this approach. It's only recognition of what actually happens in N European countries which is equally selective and abitrary about which rules are enforced strongly and which are effectively ignored.

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[ 18-Sep-05 9:36am ] [ ]