Law Does Not Drive Us, Reason Does

English 111
February 21, 1997

Is an individual ever morally justified in breaking a man made law? I
firmly believe the answer to this question is yes. If the question was stated
as, is an individual ever legally justified in breaking a man made law I would
have to say no. There are several reasons that have made me believe that it is
morally justifiable in breaking the law; however the most convincing comes from
Dr. Martin Luther King in his letter from a Birmingham Jail. " We can never
forget what that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal..." (Classic
Arguments 668). King went on in his letter to say that it would be against man
made law to help a jew in Nazi Germany. What King said in his letter has to
make a person think that not all laws are good for the group in society and
morality is a justifiable excuse in breaking the law.
Those who oppose my view on this question may be quick to ask me how
come we go by law and not morality in society. Last year at St. Louis
University I had a roommate with the complete opposite view on this question.
He explained himself this way:

Human nature consists of three basic components. These are to
propagate, and to dominate. If humanity was left without any
parameters, this natural state of existence would govern its
behavior. Fortunately there are parameters, and they are laws.

What this basically says is that laws are made up to maintain order, monitor
actions, and work for the best interest of society as a whole. If their were no
laws chaos and anarchy would be widespread. This is why society has set up
governments. To maintain order and to gives us safety.
All of the above sounds good to me; however I have written a term paper
on international politics that points out where our own government has broken
its own laws. The first is the Congressional order allowing Federal
Investigators to take into custody fugitives of American laws no matter where
they are apprehended on this planet. The second example is the raid on Panama
during George Busch\'s presidency that involved the invasion of a Nicaraguan
ambassadors home. Both of these violate the laws of sovereignty, jurisdiction,
and extraterritoriality (Huston). It is very easy to show that these two acts
of the U.S. government are in complete contradiction to our very own
So now it easy to say that laws sometimes need to be broken for the good
of the masses. When Dr. King wrote that he would aid the Jews even though he
would be braking the law and be open about, he was making the point that yes it
was morally justifiable to break the law. This is where it becomes really
tricky and philosophical. How does a person say what is morally right or
morally wrong. Morals can be best described as choosing right from wrong or
easier said a morals is simple yet complicated reason. The Universe as a whole
must follow reason, but the catch is that each individual is slightly different
in that each individual perceives his or hers own universe and reason
differently (Sandesara 2). That is the tricky part of morals, we just can not
say that this is wrong or that is right because everyone will see it differently.

When Dr. King said that he would aid a Jew in Nazi Germany, he said
knowing that he would be breaking German law. He would be doing it because it
is right and in the best interests of the masses and not the man made laws.
Some would call Dr. King\'s actions as civil disobedience. What actually Dr.
King would be doing is helping and giving comfort to victims of an unjust and
wrongful law. Can there be any wrongdoing in that; especially since it is in
the publics best interest?
In conclusion I must say that what Dr. King said he would have done is
honorable. To put this simply Dr. King would have done what is right for
society. Helping a Jew in Nazi Germany or aiding a Christian in communist
Russia is reasonable and in the best interest of society as a whole. The only
group that would find objection are those who look to maintain power through the
laws that they themselves make up and expect everyone else to follow.
Plato felt that we have a debt to society and its laws, which impart we do
but do