Why do you follow laws?

Uncertain's picture

Just a few questions I thought I'd throw out there -

What makes a valid law?

Why do people follow laws? (Separate question if you think about it - this is concerned with reasons for action and not matters of obligation)


swimmerguy's picture

Well, how I've always thought of it...

In Health class, we always looked at reasons not to do drugs. And one of them was "it's illegal".
I thought to myself well, ideally, there shouldn't be anything you don't do JUST because it's illegal...

If they made murdering legal, so instead of going to prison you get ice cream, I wouldn't care. I still wouldn't murder anyone, I don't care how much ice cream I get. I think it's wrong.
And so, I think that ideally, I would never have to have knowledge of what laws were. I would just not do the things I consider wrong, and hopefully the laws coincide.
If all of a sudden they made, say, eating strawberries illegal, would I follow it?
Well, for one, no matter how righteous I am, no matter how law-abiding I feel, the police, courts, and prison scare the living shit out of me. I'm terrified of them.
So, I don't think eating strawberries is wrong, or doing drugs, but I will still feel less inclined to do them if they're illegal, not saying I wouldn't, but I would be less likely to, and be more careful if I did.

So, there are reasons I don't do drugs. I would never do meth, because I think it's nasty, and I don't want to do that kind of crap.
I don't smoke anything, because that damages the lungs I need for swimming. Mostly it's because drugs do have negative effects, even if they are demonized, and that would screw up my current life.
But, maybe, when I'm in college or something, I might try a joint or two. I don't want to actually be dependent, but I might try it.
So, I don't do drugs now because I don't want to, but I might lightly try them later, if I feel they don't hurt my life.
No law involved in that plan.
But still, I'd be more scared, because prison terrifies me, but I'm also furious that it is a law, but there's nothing I can do it, so I accept it like all other crap in life.

No one escapes from life alive

swimmerguy's picture


Double post.

Uncertain's picture

"well, ideally, there

"well, ideally, there shouldn't be anything you don't do JUST because it's illegal..."

If you're interested Chad, there's actually a big movement in jurisprudence called legal positivism that focuses on just that. The most sophisticated form was developed by a guy called HLA. Hart. His views would likely contrast yours, which seems quite similar to Natural Law (recognising valid laws by some external standard - ie. personal values, human rights, religion etc.)

MacAvity's picture

Laws exist (or should - many

Laws exist (or should - many legal laws seem to have been made without this in mind) to protect those who cannot protect themselves. This applies to legal laws (that sounds weird, maybe I should say government laws instead), cultural laws, religious laws, inner-moral-compass laws, et cetera. When a law is broken, the breaker is punished - either by being legally deprived of life, liberty, property, or some other right, by his own guilt, by being shunned by society, by the fear of hell (or possibly hell itself), or some other way of which I'm not thinking now. The knowledge that this punishment exists prevents people from breaking laws, usually, and so everyone is a bit safer than he would otherwise be. This is an extremely simplified (to the point of obvious, really) description, but... well, I find the subject fascinating but my mind's not really on it right now... anyway...

Basically, I won't obey laws if I know I won't be punished (either by myself or by anyone else) for doing so.