Monday, March 08, 2004
Light posting this week?
In the meantime, I'm looking to capitalize on the power of distributed meat-computing.
Lots of people say that it's wrong to break the law, but very few people say why. I've been trying to figure it out. Here are the best reasons I can come up with. Tell me whether any of them are right. While you're at it, feel free to insult one another in comment form.
Nine reasons not to break the law
1. Some laws prohibit immoral acts. When an act is itself wrongful, committing it would be wrong even if it were not against the law. Murders, for example, fall into this category.
2. The law is superior to the individual, and so the breaking of law is illegitimate disobedience of proper authority. (There is some ambiguity here. Does the superiority have to do with the status of law as such, or does it depend upon the authority of the person or institution which established the law?)
3. The institution of law creates conditions from which the individual benefits, and the violation of law is thus contrary to duties of reciprocity.
4. The institution of law exists only because people have agreed to be governed by it. But those agreements have the same status as a promise, and so a breach of the law is a violation of the duty to abide by one's promises.
5. Each of us has a prudential duty to look out for our own well-being. The breaking of law is an unnecessary risk, and so is a violation of our personal prudential duty.
6. The institution of law creates conditions from which all citizens benefit. Each of us has a duty not to harm our fellow citizens. Although some violations of law do no immediate harm, the breaking of law tends to undermine the institution of law. Damage to that institution is a violation of our duty not to harm our fellows.
7. Each of us ought to act according to the best reasons. The law is the codification of the behaviors which society judges to be most reasonable.
8. Societies ought to be organized democratically, because that kind of organizational structure strikes the best balance between the interests of each. In such a society, the law represents the best estimate of the proper balance and establishes a moral equilibrium. Violation of law violates that equilibrium, and is wrong for that reason.
9. The institution of law is constitutive of a way of life and is not separable from customs and other regulative social practices. So the laws create the conditions within which individuals are able to function and flourish and influence the values that individuals accept and pursue. Violation of law is thus a violation of shared values.