GRE Issue Essay 90
There are two types of laws: just and unjust. Every individual in a society has a responsibility to obey just laws and, even more importantly, to disobey and resist unjust laws.
The author of the statement has divided laws into two broad categories: just and unjust. This division is not correct. Any one individual cannot decide whether laws are just or unjust. It is subjective to personal interests. Hence, it is wrong to say that one should obey just laws and disobey unjust laws.
It is difficult to identify just and unjust laws. Many people have tried to define them. For example, Martin Luther King said that a law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority. While as per Thoreau, policies of the State should never be put above the individual’s needs. It is true that one is accountable to obey just laws; similarly, one has the moral responsibility to speak against unjust laws. However, it would be an extreme statement that one should disobey unjust laws. Anyways, laws are based on majority vote and cannot always suit everyone in different situations. Unjust laws do exist, but there is a proper way to reform them.
This issue is not a straightforward issue. The fairness of any law depends on one’s personal value system. This is especially true when it comes to personal freedoms. Consider, for example, the controversial issue of abortion. Individuals with particular religious beliefs tend to view laws allowing mothers an abortion choice as unjust, while individuals with other value systems might view such laws as just. Similarly, some people might find some laws unjust because of their personal interests. For example, law that limits the emission of harmful substances from the factories protects people from the harmful hazards of these things. However, a factory might find this law unjust, as he has to install expensive filters to dispose of the harmful gases and chemicals from its waste. In this case, laws protecting the residents` health are more important than the profit of the local factory.
Laws are made to keep societies in order. We should obey the laws if they are just, in order to ensure the stability of the society. However, if the law conflicts with people’s moral values or beliefs, people should take direct action against it and make it amended through legislature. Every country has a certain system to amend laws. Hence, people should approach the proper channel to reform the laws, which they think are unjust. However, there are certain events in history, which involve civil disobedience against certain laws that were not acceptable to the general public. For example, Martin Luther King fought for American African rights against color discrimination. He was jailed for his civil disobedience movement, but today American people are thankful for his efforts. Similarly, in India, Mahatma Gandhi used civil disobedience against the British Empire for the rights of Indians and got successful in getting freedom for India. However, these are the examples where people fought for the nation’s interest.
Finally, we can say that laws are to maintain peace and harmony in the society. Justice can be achieved more effectively by helping people to reach a mutual understanding of justice instead of revolts. Radical actions such as resistance or disobedience are rarely justified merely by one’s subjective viewpoint or personal interests.