[MCAT] Law and Morality

All laws derive from the moral code of a majority of the people.

Describe a specific situation in which a law might not derive from the moral code of the majority. Discuss what you think determines when the moral code of the majority is the basis of law.

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Laws are a set of generally accepted rules that the citizens feel obligated, and not obliged, to obey. These laws carry consequences when disobeyed, but the citizens share a general appreciation of these laws and these punishments. A gunman’s order, for example, is not law because his hostages are obliged by force, and they do not agree that these orders are appreciable or appropriate. Since it is a requirement for laws to be generally, it follows that the majority of the people have to accept these laws as morally good. Laws that are do not satisfy this requirement should be revised or revoked, in a just system.

However, in a real judicial system, some laws are derived from a principal that is distant from any moral code of a majority of the people. For example, when a country engages in an unsupported war when the majority of the people feel morally against the acts of destruction of other countries, certain laws may require that these citizens pay extra taxes to fund the war effort. It may be argued that these laws derived from the moral code of nationalism when they were created, but such a historic derivation lands little justification in laws that govern the lives of people today.

Moreover, laws in an totalitarian country may be even more clearly devoid of links to the moral code of its people. Laws that require citizens to support the luxurious lives of the rulers, suppress the freedom of press and violate human rights may not fit the idealized definition of law, but in systems where these laws cannot be challenged, their authority holds.

Whether or not laws derive from the moral code of the people depends on whether the people are empowered to make and change laws accordingly. In countries where angry citizens can express their moral judgment against a war and pressure the government into revising the laws that rule against their moral code, the laws may indeed derive from – and kept in check with – the moral code of the majority of the people. On the other hand, in countries where the majority of the people is obliged to obey the ruling of a minority, the judicial system may merely be a tool for manipulating the people. Without democracy, civil rights, and balance of power in the government, there is no garantee that the laws would be morally acceptable to the people that they are designed to rule.

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