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By developing military weapons that can hurt a large percentage of people if deployed, what the country is doing is the exact opposite of what it is required to do. If I am not getting the benefits I expect, this means I can disobey the law if the moral need to do so arises.
Gratitude then becomes a vague term. I am grateful to the state for something such as property on which I live, rights that I have had, access to education and healthcare I have enjoyed. In exchange for these, I am expected to obey the law. Fair enough! But if obedience of law hurts my rights or rights of some other person, should I still follow the law? This is the question that we need to ask ourselves. There is more than one case where we might actually end up hurting the moral rights of someone while obeying the law. For example a sick woman who is in critical condition needs to be taken to the hospital but we realize that the law does not permit breaking the signal in a state of hurry. In case I break the signal to get that woman to the hospital in time without endangering the lives of anyone else, am I committing an offence? Isn't disobedience of law in such cases a more desirable moral solution that obeying the law. Rawls puts it in these words:
shall assume, as requiring no argument, that there is, at least in a society such as ours, a moral obligation to obey the law, although it may, of course, be overridden in certain cases by other more stringent obligations. (Rawls 1964, p. 3)
There are thinkers who claim that obedience of law is directly connected with the concept of fair play. If I follow the law and you benefit, then you must follow the law so I can benefit. Important among these thinkers was Hart who claimed:
when a number of persons con! duct any joint enterprise according to rules and thus restrict their liberty, those who have submitted to these restrictions when required have a right to a similar submission from those who have benefitted by their submission. (Hart 1955, p. 185).
The concept of fair play is undoubtedly interesting but lacks power to influence or convince us of its validity. If the only reason I should follow the law is so others can benefit, can we also argue that I am allowed to disobey the law if I know others would benefit. The exchange of benefits is the key in this argument. So if the means to achieve this end turns out to be different, do they have a solid argument against my actions? As mentioned in the case of signal violation- if I decided not to break the signal even if it results in the death of the sick woman, how is that benefiting the woman? The woman is obviously one of those who expect exchange of benefits then why should I let her die when she is clearly the more deserving person because of her immediate need than all those vague faces out there that are not expecting an immediate return from me.
Disobedience of law is never desirable but there are times when this is the morally correct thing to do since we cannot always buy the claim that the law represent "the moral judgment of the majority and its sense of justice." While most laws are created in strict moral framework, what we fail to understand is the variability of moral situations. There are so many occasions where our moral duty to disobey becomes overwhelming powerful compared to our natural duty to obey the law. These are the situations, which cannot be clearly outlined in the law, but it is important to provide for expectations when the basis of an exceptional action was grounded in morality.
Rawls, J., 'Legal obligations and the duty of fair play,' S. Hook ed., Law and Philosophy (New York: N.Y.U. Pr., 1963)
Hart, H. 'Are there any natural rights,' Philosophical Review 64 (1955)
Ross, W. The Right and the Good (Ox! ford:…[continue]
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