Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Rules of Breaking the Law

The government of the United States was put in place with the idea that governments can be and are flawed. The primary principle of the Declaration of Independence is that the government should exist to serve the people, and only has power if the people say it does. Therefore, it would be reasonable to say that breaking the law can sometimes be permissible, and even right. Our country’s founders broke laws when they rebelled against English rule; warranted law-breaking bears good results. Corruption in the government can create unjust laws; unjust laws should not be followed. Most importantly, how a person lives there life should be up to them, with reasonable regard for society; people make their own laws.

Many people would not hesitate to inform others that the United States is the best country in the world, perhaps even number one. While it certainly could have been true in the past, we are moving further and further away from the ideals that made it great. Having been born out of a revolution, our country was given the foresight to limit government’s control of its people. Early Americans did not see taxation as fair when they had no say in how the money was to be spent. It was clear by the Declaration of Independence that America felt its people deserved the right to their own lives, that they should not be forced to submit to a government without their best interests in mind. Their revolution not only broke laws, but overthrew the entire government. Thomas Jefferson credited the revolution with building a greater country, saying that for America to continue to prosper, it would need a revolution every 20 years. This would ensure people do not become complacent, as we are now. Questioning the government and disobeying laws that infringe on a person’s rights is far more patriotic than any sized flag would be. It is through this process that people think for themselves, about themselves and their fellow citizens. Good comes from this. People want to live their life, and laws are the agreement between the individual and society. The agreement is varying degrees of “I won’t kill you; you don’t kill me.” Laws that interfere with the individual, such as anti-sodomy laws, laws against voluntary euthanasia and laws against drug use, should not be obeyed on the basis that the government does not have the jurisdiction to control it. Anything citizens do to themselves is their choice. The government can only tell its people what they can’t do to others without consent. Obeying these laws gives the government authority it should never have.

Ultimately, it is fellow citizens who make the laws by which we are all obligated to live. This is a select few that, in theory, should have our best interests in mind. However, the political system has been horribly corrupted. Many politicians consider re-election hopes and financial contributions when writing laws. This can lead to serious problems. It can create laws designed to benefit certain industries. It can start wars for unspoken reasons. Corruption takes honesty out of the system, and that is the key to making it work right. Every politician elected to office is done so on the premise he or she should serve their constituents, that they should make laws and regulations that look after the wellbeing of all their citizens. When a politician has corporate backers, or its voter base and special interest groups, in mind as he or she passes a law, the law itself is unjust. The law was not created for the people, by the people. The politician is supposed to be the vessel by which the citizenry create government. If that politician is corrupt, then it is no longer a vessel of the citizenry, and therefore is not making laws for us, by us. The protest chant used in the days leading up to the Revolutionary War was “No taxation without representation.” Currently, many citizens of the United States are without representation. Their congressmen are working for political parties, special interest groups, corporations or their own ego. None of these represent us, and therefore the laws made in a manner of disregard for the populace should not be obeyed. Obeying these laws gives away our right to control our government.

No matter what country a person lives in, they should not obey any law for the sake of obeying the law. Each person is responsible for their own life. And each person only gets one, for a very short amount of time. The decision of what they make of it should be left to them. Now, of course, rampant disorder may be expected if there were no laws, and if people did not obey laws. Laws should exist, and they should be obeyed, but only if they fulfill the purpose of law itself. That purpose is to keep order and protect members of society from each other. There are laws against murder because people don’t want to be murdered. The same cannot be said for why we have laws against voluntary euthanasia. “There are laws against voluntary euthanasia because people don’t want to be voluntarily euthanized.” The sentence makes no sense because there is no basis for protecting someone from voluntary euthanasia. The government cannot make a law against voluntary rape, as that’s simply consensual sex, for the same reason. However, laws for order, such as traffic laws, should be followed to the best of one’s ability. They do, in fact, exist to protect the citizens. They protect from accidental harm and improve the efficiency of everyone. It is essentially the reverse principle that makes murder illegal. Order laws are based on the idea that we all give in to a few inconveniences to lessen the overall inconvenience to society, and potentially higher number of inconveniences to ourselves. When a law against robbery is made, it’s an agreement that a person won’t rob anyone because that same person would not want anyone to rob them. In areas such as traffic, the effect is that the person agrees to wait a while at a red light so others may go through quickly and safely, and in turn he or she will have that same privilege when the tables are turned. Obeying certain laws, those keeping order and protecting individuals, is a good thing, because the principle behind them is good. Obeying the law because it is a law says that the government is more important than the individual.

Ultimately, the decision about what laws to break, and which to follow, should be made by the individual. The basic principle of not harming or imposing anything onto anyone else without permission is the only principle that must be taken into consideration to live in a decent society. The laws should reflect this simplicity. Unjust laws, laws made for insidious reasons, and laws that exist only to exist are superfluous.