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reason drives us not law
Law does not Drive us, reason does
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 live,
propagate, and to dominate. If humanity was left without any other parameters,
this natural state of existence would govern its behavior. Fortunately there are
Parameters, and they are laws. (Mosier)
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 constitution.
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
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Nonviolence, Social philosophy, Civil disobedience, Community organizing, Jurisprudence
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