"Why shouldn't you run with scissors?" - Resting My Case on the Law
Updated: Mar 7, 2018
If we imagine a world without laws, there is only one word to describe it – mayhem. It is the type of world where slavery is legal, where chaos reigns and where human rights are just a fragment of one’s imagination. However, throughout your life, it is inevitable that you will question the rules that you follow – “Never run with scissors”, your teacher may say, but why should you follow such instructions? What obligation do you truly have? In my eyes, every human being has an obligation to obey the law. In the words of President Lincoln, the government is “of the people, by the people, for the people” and law, which is free of corruption and discrimination, is for us and we have a duty to obey it. In this article, I will explore the idea of law with you, why democratic societies make use of it and what ultimately will be its downfall.
Similar to the Lord of the Flies, individuals who decide to reject the existing standards, without any plausible replacement, end up with a defective society. Their society has no ethical foundation, so they become followers and when their ideas are not defended, they strike out with hatred and cruelty. Later on, the realisation floods over them that the rules which had once protected them, are no longer there. In our world, there is no better example than 1930s Germany, a nation cultured into barbarism. Some argue how a situation such as this arose, but Hitler himself said, “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think”.
There is increasing necessity for codified rules and regulations. Our societies are turning more complex, with relations and interaction between humans becoming more frequent and usual and what is arising is the inevitable requirement of marking a difference between what is perceived as right and what is wrong – without such marking, there would be pure anarchy. No longer would our society be recognisable, as there is nothing to keep them ordered and on track towards a more civilised goal.
The design of law has been one of the most important aspects of human’s social and political life, as the control of our attitudes and actions, in order to not violate basic principles of ‘co-existence’, which are the basis for a cultivated society. The origins of the law can be traced back to the times of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who declared that, “The rule of law is better than the rule of any individual”, but why? While we do not put responsibility on the citizens of the world on an individual level, we put faith in the same people to govern our states? It is almost contradictory. Although, it could be argued that, while the impartial judiciary, a democratic legislature and an accountable executive all rule over our lives, the organs of the state are the creatures who are created and bound by such law, an independent legal progression, for example, and the vibrant civil society who inform and support their progress.
The next question that may arise is “What should law be?” and the utilitarian answer is that law “commands, backed by threat of sanctions, from a sovereign, to whom people have a habit of obedience.” There we see the rise of the topic of habit. The reason the majority of the public do what their state says they should is because we are all ultimately creatures of habit. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau argues, law reflects essentially the moral and unchangeable laws of nature – which includes following our own nature.
In order for law to make the greatest impact, it is essential that no-one is above it and none, who might have committed a crime, can escape a trial, a view which is echoed by Dicey and Lord Bingham. However, in despotic and aristocratic states, many laws do not seem to have the strength to put on trial the ruling elite, and the powerful are easily able to ‘dodge the metaphorical bullet’. Therefore, if there will ever be the downfall of the law, it will be in, however paradoxical, the anarchy-avoiding statutes, themselves, allowing the rise of anarchy.
“Why shouldn’t you run with scissor?” you may ask. Well, it is because they say you cannot.