Who actually cares about the law?

Besides lawyers, I suppose?

This thread is inspired by the burning trash thread, where the OP seemed to think something was morally wrong that was merely (to me) counter to some arcane clause in some regulation somewhere.

There are some laws I follow just because it is too much of a pain in the ass to work around them. Like – I don’t know – registering my car, or paying taxes. A very few laws I actively avoid getting caught breaking. Like smoking marijuana – or when I was younger – underage drinking.

But I have to say, honestly, I couldn’t give a shit less either way about most laws. I have a moral system that guides my actions; for the most important things it lines up nicely with the legal system. Don’t kill, rape or beat people or steal or destroy their property, etc. When it doesn’t line up so nicely – who cares? Half the time the law is just wrong. Unintended consequences and whatnot.

I am honestly perplexed by people who are shocked when I break a law, any law. Or people who actively research laws just to find out (and report) if somebody else is breaking them.

So am I the only one with a rampant disregard for pointless rules and authority? Can anyone actually defend the “letter of the law”-type mentality?

I am someone who abides by laws if there is a lot of hassle in not doing so, and if not doing so would make me an asshole.

In other words I live by the general rule - don’t be an asshole.

Living in a Crown Dependency that mirrors Britain/England’s laws I am of the opinion that many of them are designed for assholes, and for people who, without laws, would be a danger to society.

ETA: Being a Manager means you end up imposing rules because certain weak links/lowest common denominators behave in such that rules are required.

The laws weren’t designed for people like you. They were designed for the people who might consider murdering, raping, beating and/or robbing you (not necessarily in that order). If you were to encounter one of those people, you would certainly care about the law and law enforcement. In other words, laws are for people who’s “moral system” differs significantly from society at large.

Most laws that affect us day to day are mostly for safety or they are “stop being a jerk” laws. For example stopping at a red light.
Regarding being a manager, one reason I have to impose the rules on what are supposed to be educated, intelligent professionals is that many of them are idiots. They show up late, miss work, do their job half assed, ring up exhorbitant expenses, write shitty unprofessional emails, dress like slobs, grabass while they should be working, get drunk at company functions, and basically just do everything possible to convince me that they aren’t educated, intelligent, professionals.

So since they apparently didn’t enter the workforce with any clue as to how they are supposed to act at work, they have to be specifically told.

How do you know when the law is wrong? Speaking of unintended consequences, do you always know what the consequences of a particular action would be, should you disregard the law and do that action?

I care very deeply about the idea of the rule of law - that society has a set of rules that are meant to regulate how people (and other entities) are supposed to treat each other.

It’s not just that the law is supposed to prevent, or punish, those people who lack a moral compass, it’s also that the law is supposed IMNSHO to provide a way to seek recompense or restitution for wrongs without letting those wronged simply choose what that recompense should be. I don’t want John Doe to feel he has the right to shoot Fred Smith because Fred ran a red light and killed John’s daughter, Jane.

With certain issues I will look up what the local laws might be, pest control, for example, because I know that the law is often a bit counter-intuitive, and assuming that what seems common sense to me would be legal is often an invitation to fines or at least court battles.

This isn’t to say that I believe that all laws have the same equality. Some laws I do break because I disagree so strongly with the law, other laws I feel are poorly thought out, and I lobby my representatives to have changed. I feel no great respect for any particular individual law, but if the law needs to be changed for the most part it’s worth the hassle to using the methods enshrined in our system to establish that change, rather than simply flouting the law.

Because the rule of law is, IMNSHO, at the root of what allows large groups of people to live together in relative peace and prosperity.

So Bruno comes by your house one evening to steal your stereo, and after you surprise him in the act he knocks you semi-conscious, ties you up, and prepares to violate your body – because he likes doing that. But Bruno’s in a bit of philosophical mood, and after seeing your computer screen showing this OP, he realizes you wrote it and he shares with you that he doesn’t really care about law either. He admits that his moral system doesn’t line up with the legal system even as much as yours does, but, he points out, essentially you and he are the same: living strictly by your own moral code and not some external one. As he brings out the KY jelly and prepares himself, he observes wryly that his view – that the strong can and should do as they please – actually probably has a longer history of acceptance by human beings than some silly stautory prohibition agaionst theft and forced sexual congress.

What might your rejoinder be for Bruno?

(Attributed to Cornelius Vanderbilt: “law, what do I care about the law…hain’t I the power?”)
J.P. Morgan: “I hire a lawyer to find out how to do what I want to do”!

I had a friend once who didn’t touch alcohol until the day he turned 21. Not a glass of wine with dinner or a sip of beer. Shortly after his 21st, he stocked a classy home bar and learned to enjoy wine. Nothing against alcohol prior to his 21st, just that it was illegal to purchase and therefore consuming was intrinsically wrong, too.

He’s now a cop.

Well, what is there to say? Obviously, DrCube would prefer that Bruno’s personal moral system did not condone rape, and he would be even happier if it did not condone stealing other people’s stereos either. But it does, and right now Bruno has the upper hand. So the fact that this story takes place in a country where the general population has decided that rape is wrong, is not of much help to poor DrCube right now. It would be much better for him if Bruno’s personal morals (or sexual preferences) did not support rape, even if this event took place in a jurisdiction where it was legal.

The only way in which your hypothetical forms an answer to the OP, is if we imagine a Bruno who believes that stealing stereos and raping the homeowners is morally OK, but who refrains from doing those things because they are illegal. That kind of person is probably extremely rare in reality, however.

To clarify: undoubtedly, there are people who would steal / rape / murder if they thought they could get away with it, but who are kept in check by their fear of the strong arm of the law. Against those people, the law is useful – but only when the law matches the would-be victim’s moral expectations. If I don’t mind my neighbour smoking pot, I am not helped by anti-drug laws; likewise, if I am horribly offended by something in the local newspaper, I’m out of luck if I live in a place where the restrictions on free speech are not as strict as I would like them to be.

So, from the point of view of somebody who might be a victim of other people’s lawbreaking, it is obviously helpful if you live in a place where the law matches your own morals. But the OP is about why you would obey the law yourself, if you do not see a moral/ethical reason for it and if you believe you can get away with it without getting caught.

Right, the OP is not asking, “what is the point of laws?” Although occasionally they may be annoying, most people understand that a society regulated by laws is going to be a better place to live than one without.

What DrCube is asking, I think, is, do you feel that things are intrinsically amoral just because they are against the law? Murder, rape, and theft, for instance, most people feel are bad, and they would feel they were bad regardless of the laws on the matter. On the other hand, most people don’t feel that building an Tudor-style chimney on your house in a Colonial neighborhood is an evil act, even though it may be against local regulations. Most people don’t even necessarily feel that underage drinking is a particularly heinous act, although they may accept that it should be minimized as much as possible.

Just because you don’t see the point doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

In fact, assuming that a law is pointless and refusing to obey it on principle is actually quite short-sighted and likely to end badly for you one way or the other.

Oh, and to actually answer the OP’s question:

I do consider obeying the law a good thing in itself; for example, I will usually keep to the speed limit and wait for red lights, even when the road is clearly empty and there is no police officer or camera in sight. However, if the stakes are higher, in the sense that I have more to lose by obeying a law I don’t agree with, or more to gain by disobeying it, I might go ahead and violate it anyway – but only, of course, if I honestly believe that I’m not actually harming anybody.

So I guess my moral system is based on a scoring system, where any action which is against the law starts out with a penalty against it, but if I believe the consequences of that action to be strongly positive for me and not too negative for anybody else, it may still end up with a positive score.

“Thanks for bringing the KY”?

In (relative) seriousness, why aren’t we asking the OP why he believes that his “innate” morality is generally so closely aligned with the law? In other words, maybe growing up in a lawful society formed his internal moral compass such that he generally agrees with and abides by the law.

Yes, some laws are made to be broken. Some laws are made to protect children, feeble minded people, and those with no common sense.
Here in Maine, and now most of the US, firecrackers are illegal. Will that stop me from lighting them off on the 4th of July or whenever I decide I’d like? No. Why do I think this is a stupid law? Well, for instance, I can discharge a firearm on my property, and regularly do so (target practice). However, if I set off one firecracker at my house, I can be cited. Sure, that makes sense.

I think an important thing to remember is that there are many many people who would do immoral things if it weren’t against the law. Not to go off against corporations, but some/many businesses would have no problem doing immoral things in order to make a buck, and the law attempts to prevent that.

I do think we have the moral responsibility to follow the law. Because in a democracy, the law represents the consensus of what we as a society expect of ourselves.

You do have a responsibility to follow the law, for the most part.

People can live together in happy, productive societies because of their acceptance of these rules. The law gives us much needed clarity on issues of moral ambiguity, and, perhaps most importantly, a level of consistency.

Break the law, certainly, if you disagree with it reasonably. Thoreau would back you completely. But don’t do it just because you’re too lazy to help sustain the system.

I must admit that I certainly have a rampant disregard for pointless rules and authority. To be blunt, my justification is my belief that I am smarter than the vast majority of people who make laws. I have a strong respect for other people and property rights, but I recognize other people don’t, so if everyone took my view, we’d have problems. That being said, in the next few months there’s a very good chance I will (off the top of my head):
-drink a beer while riding in a car
-drink a beer while walking down the street
-drink a beer in a bar after 2
-light off fireworks
-make illegal U-turns

I also reserve the right to:
-smoke pot
-allow a stripper to grab me during a lap dance
-go to Cuba

I don’t care one bit about the law in regards to any of these items, and if I’m caught, I would view the punishment as an annoying cost of doing business.

It is noteworthy that in traffic laws, one’s assessment of how risky it is to do such things is based on situations where everybody else IS following the rules. Your estimate that you can safely make that U-turn is based on the assumption that the car in the opposite lane isn’t suddenly going to ingnore the red light. And vice versa: his estimate that he is in such a hurry that he can ignore that red light is basid on the assumption that you aren’t suddenly going to make that U-turn.

I don’t have a cite, but I think a lot of really bad accidents happen when two drivers both take a risk, that in itself is reasonable, but it leads to fatal consequences when added with the other drivers risktaking, or the other guy’s diminished attention due to drinking a beer or talking on his cellphone.