Unjust laws in our society today
Civil Disobedience Quotes (62 quotes)
Should Unjust Laws Be Obeyed?
The laws underlying slavery or the Holocaust are obvious examples of extremely unjust laws. To dispute my six theses in any fundamental way, you have deny them for these notorious cases. To reject 4, for example, commits you to the view that it was morally impermissible for slaves to hide from runaway slave patrols. To deny 6, similarly, commits you to the view that the Nuremberg Trials were morally impermissible. Why bring this up now?
As my main candidates for “unjust laws of the last half a millennium,” I self- governing society, the government ought to keep its nose out of.
is it better to die
There are laws that we agree with, like those that protect our freedom as citizens to march, to peacefully protest, to worship freely and to keep and bear arms in our homes. And then there are laws that we believe to be morally bankrupt like those which once allowed for slaves, and kept women from having the right to vote. Those laws were eradicated. Wiped from the books, and changed to reflect the promise of America for all of her citizens, versus just some. Whatever the case, in America the law is the law. In America, we have three co-equal branches of government.
Legitimate political institutions sometimes produce clearly unjust laws. It is widely recognized, especially in the context of war, that agents of the state may not enforce political decisions that are very seriously unjust or are the decisions of illegitimate governments. But may agents of legitimate states enforce unjust, but not massively unjust, laws? In this paper, I respond to three defences of the view that it is permissible to enforce these unjust laws. Analogues of the Walzerian argument from patriotism, the Vitorian epistemic argument, and the proceduralist argument found in Rawls, Estlund, and others do not show that law enforcement is usually permitted to enforce unjust laws. Finally, I develop a proceduralist argument for the thesis that law enforcement is permitted to disregard unjust laws. I conclude by considering objections concerning the problem of optimizing society for justice and the problem of law enforcement agents with deplorable moral beliefs.