When Should You Not Follow The Law?

A system of laws, or rules that we all must follow, is one of the crowning achievements of our society. The law makes civilization possible, so that different people can work together to do more than any individual could manage on their own.

At the same time, there have been, and will continue to be, bad laws that have been enacted. Laws can be unfair, either intentionally or unintentionally. And if there is a bad law, good people cannot be expected to follow it.

Sometimes, even good laws are broken. It is a rare individual indeed who has not jaywalked at least once in their life, but the existence of crosswalks increase public safety. Speeding on the road is common, even though speed limits are in place for a very good reason — they save lives.

But how does someone determine which laws should and should not be followed? The law itself allows our civilization to function, and any sort of mass, consistent breaking of the law by a significant portion of the populace would cause society to break down. Conversely, blindly following unjust laws could also lead to to an unjust society.

As individuals, we have a duty to follow the laws that our peers have agreed upon. However, we also have a duty to stand up to injustice, even if that means breaking the law.

How can we determine which is which? When should you not follow the law? What should the consequences be for someone who breaks an unjust or unfair law? Should we only try and amend unfair laws, or is it important to break them when necessary? When is it necessary?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? When is a lie justified? What do you do that you shouldn’t? Where does authority come from?

Is Life Fair?

There are several clichés that suggest that if you simply apply yourself, things will work out in the end. Determination, hard work, and a little bit of confidence will lead to a positive outcome. The universe is a fair place.

The early bird gets the worm. Life is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. All in a day’s work. Luck is the residue of hard work and design.

Believing in these sayings would imply that the universe is a fair place. Good behavior will be rewarded, while bad behavior will be punished.

But is that true? There are instances where bad behavior is rewarded, and when good behavior is punished. History is filled with examples of violence, exploitation, bigotry, and greed. There are many historical (and current!) figures that have benefited from unethical behavior.

Of course, there are also many examples of people who have acted in the common good. There are also plenty of people who have been rewarded, both financially as well as with public adoration, for hard work or generosity.

So instead of a fair, just universe, wouldn’t that suggest that life is largely luck? Good and bad things can happen to good and bad people. Life is a series of random events, and trying to predict what will happen in the future is tremendously difficult.

Or maybe the universe does indeed reward grit and determination. Not in every single case, surely, but perhaps as a general rule. Clichés become clichés for a reason — they may very well be good rules to follow.

Or to ask a simple question: Is life fair?

Related questions: Is it a cruel world? How has luck shaped your life? Is it fair to judge the past with morals of today?


What Do You Think About Facebook?

Facebook is one of the most influential companies of the last several decades. It has obviously been very successful in growing viewership, but there is plenty of controversy surrounding it as well.

Do you think it is overall a benefit or a detriment to society?

Share why if you wish.