Laws are entirely voluntary

I was just thinking this morning that laws are entirely voluntary. I mean, it's actually impossible to force someone to do something — you can coerce them, but if they are unwilling, then they won't do like you want.

Think of it this way: it's not the law that guides behavior, law just measures common morality and codifies it. So it wasn't that people looked around at the chaos of everyone killing one another for fun and said, "hey, maybe we should make a law that says that people shouldn't kill one another", but rather that people were mostly not killing one another and someone thought it would be a good idea to write that down. The contrapositive is also true. So if someone made a law that nobody ordinarily does, then nobody would follow it. If New York made a law that said you had to cut off the little finger on your left hand, I guarantee that nobody would follow it.

Law tries to be precise to ensure that it's clear what's being asked for, but what about something like driving faster than the posted speed limit. It's very clear but almost nobody obeys it. So why not make it "everyone must drive responsibly"? Well, that's not specific enough and the law would be bestowed with very little authority by being subjective.

I guess therein lies the thing that people like so much about them: authority. It makes people feel their ideas are validated if the ideas are formally agreed to be "correct". It's like a trump-card of cheap debate, "well, it's the law". Unfortunately, it's also a very weak argument. I mean, can you imagine a presidential debate where one candidate says, "well, it must be true because it's the law". On second thought, please avoid imagining that because we're not far from that being a valid debate tactic. [Rather, imagine that both candidates get to have TAZERS.] My point is that one should be able to argue the validity of their argument without the crutch of the law — in other words, law itself has no place in debate about a law. It's simply a populist argument — argumentum ad populum as they say.

And when the authority of the law gets too big for its britches, there's always civil disobedience — which, in the context of this discussion, is simply the recognition that what I'm saying is true: laws are entirely voluntary.  And civil disobedience is most effective against laws that are irrelevant to one group (often a majority [and through typo, came out as "mojority", which seems like an awesome word itself]) but directly effect restricted behavior of another group, especially  when that restricted behavior itself has no effect on the first group.

But what is it I'm supposed to say on the Internets about this kind of thing? IANAL or something?

1,724 total views, 1 views today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *