The Law and Morality

"There oughta be a law against that!"

"But that's illegal. He's a lawbreaker!"

We've all heard these accusatory non-arguments. They carry no weight, but their continual popularity necessitates a response.

Legality does not define morality. Obedience to the law is not inherently virtuous. So-called "Lawmakers" have no inherent moral authority. Violating of their arbitrary edicts is not an ipso facto crime. Appeal to legality is a fallacious appeal to authority.

The most obvious historical refutation for those in the US is the Underground Railroad, which was run by "lawbreakers" to aid other "lawbreakers." Meanwhile, slavery was "legal" and even supported by the Constitution under fugitive slave clause of Article 4, Section 2. This should be sufficient to illustrate the concept beyond reasonable doubt.


One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all.” - Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail

"When your response to everything that is wrong with the world is to say, 'there ought to be a law,' you are saying that you hold freedom very cheap." - Thomas Sowell

The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense. - Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

A demand for a new law is a demand that harm be done to those who violate it. A law is fundamentally just an opinion at gunpoint. Opinions contrary to reason and evidence are irrelevant, but incredibly dangerous when imposed anyway. We celebrate those who broke bad laws in the past, but remember that many were robbed, kidnapped, or murdered under color of law for doing so. Breaking an unjust law can carry risk, but remember that there is no moral failing in it. The moral failing is in outsourcing your aggression through political trespass against your neighbors.

Author's note: This is a re-post of an article from my Steemit account. I apologize if my Russian tags are in error, since I am relying on Google Chrome to translate the Russian text in the trending topics list for me.

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Jacob T.
Bad Quaker, market anarchist, librarian, gamer

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