I’ve heard it said that one has a moral duty to disobey unjust laws. How can this be?
For example, I believe that society would be better off in the long run if illicit drugs and prostitution were legalized and regulated. Now, in order for civil disobedience to have any chance of working, certain conditions must be met:
The public must be aware of your actions (If a tree falls down in the middle of a forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a noise?)
You must be able to get the public to see you as an innocent wictim. (Pretty easy for folks like Gandhi and Rosa Parks, but much harder for drug users and johns.)
The government must be aware that the people see them as the real criminals. (see #1)
The government must actually care what the public thinks (If you’re under the jurisdiction of someone like the Taliban, the Chinese government, or Rudy Guliani who see citizens as subordinates and don’t care what anyone else thinks, you’re SOL)
So what do you think? I personally believe that it makes much more sense to say that:
a. One does not have a moral obligation to obey the law simplay becaise it’s there.
b. One has an obligation do use any justifiable means possible to get unjust laws changed, but there’s no reason one should feel compelled to engage in civil disobedience in situations where it can’t make things any better.
That actually makes more sense. I’m against the war on drugs but I’m not going to start smoking crack or even coming into posession of it. Why? Because if I’m caught then at the very least my short term welfare will be seriously damaged and thus far the courts of the land have upheld most drug laws.
I agree Robo. It seems true a priori that no one is under obligation to follow laws society has set, regardless of how you value them within your moral framework; as such, one is also not under any obligation to go against laws either (it seems any other analysis is inconsistent).
That said, I do believe everyone should break victimless crimes if they feel any urge to at all (to wit: drugs, prostitution, etc). Not habitually, but at least once in an effort to better empathize with those who do break it for whatever reason. If I ever ran across a prostitute you can bet I would give it a whirl (and miraculously I never have, even though I have visited or lived in cities where they are at least present—I think I am fundamentally unable to distinguish a prostitute from a regular person… is there a moral truth there too? :p).
But, hell, I’m not going to tell you what to do, so I’m also not going to tell you what not to do. If you feel no obligation to smoke crack (ugh) then I have a hard time finding a reason to. As an ex-user of some illegal drugs even I didn’t feel any urges to smoke crack.
I do feel that many stand to benefit from an LSD or other hallucinogenic experience, however, by at least a single use. There is nothing quite so philosophically intriguing as being required to doubt one’s senses.
If, as a citizen, you feel compelled to protest the prosecution of consenting adults for “victimless crimes” there are other ways to do this than through active participation in said crime. If you are in the position to, hire someone with a drug record (provided, of course, you feel they are capable/competent). Write to your congressman or state representitive condemning the ridiculous laws passed in recent years barring drug offenders from benefiting from grants/federal aid for higher education. Consider supporting the organization of prostitution, as in Las Vagas, including benefits for sex workers. Refuse to allow your children to participate in the blatantly persecutorial program that is D.A.R.E…etc. etc.
I don’t believe that prostitution should be illegal, however, I also have no desire to actually become a prostitute. That’s my choice. After all, isn’t the whole point of our disgust with these laws that it takes choices out of the hands of those whose lives will be directly affected by the consequences of those choices? It seems a little illogical to suggest that by doing things we would normally choose to avoid, we are somehow supporting those who are asking only for the right to do those things without persecution. The whole point is “To each his own”. If your ‘own’ doesn’t normally include smoking crack, you tend to contradict the principle behind your protest by feeling obligated to fire one up.
So you support the use of (now) illegal drugs. Good for you. That doesn’t mean that you’re required to consume them through some sort of moralist attitude that if you don’t, you’re not truly in support of it.
I support the legalization of prositution. I support the legalization of marijuana. I do NOT support the legalization of harder drugs. That doesn’t mean that I have to have slept with a hooker or smoked a doobie in order to form my beliefs.
The reverse is also true. I could have smoked crack or shot heroin in the past and still not support its legalization today.
Anyway, my point is that your supporting the legalization of something doesn’t mean you have to be in favor of doing it yourself.
Enderw–really? I have ALWAYS been under the impression that it was. Has the law changed recently? Or is it one of those where it’s not legal, just not specifically illegal?
I am remembering a documentary I saw about brothels out there recently…Is it only outside city limits that it is legalized? Grrrr. I’m feeling whooshed, please elaborate.
I believe re: Nevada prostitution, only counties having fewer than X population are allowed to enact legalization. Presumably, this was just to keep Las Vegas and Reno out. Most of the “famous” brothels in Nevada are out in the middle of nowhere, and you drive out (or if you’re wealthy, they fly you out) to 'em.
Clark and Washoe counties prohibit the humpty-for-hire, but Lyon county (just over the hill and down the road from the Carson City landfill) and Nye county (a leasurly 40 min. drive from Vegas) are goin’ full bore! The Mustang Ranch was just outside Reno.
I suggest a visit to the fine establishments in Mound House, Nevada. 3 houses, no waiting!