Is Morality The Source For All Law

For some individuals such an argument is true, all law must reflect the morality of those who enacted them. The problem with that assertion is it states the assertion incorrectly. This leads to a circular argument. A moral code (I don’t care which culture or country) is the source of all legislation (in that culture or country) and therefore reflect that moral code or is a moral expression of that code. Then a law that would allow the ownership of slaves, that is, human beings who have been pressed into servitude would reflect a particular moral code. Well, no, you say, because if we take the ten commandments under advisement as our particular moral code, then you is committing theft of another man’s freedom. So does that mean that the expression of justice practiced here the the United States where those who are judged guilty of some offence and thus deprived of the freedom of movement, placed into confinement against their will (I’ve never know anyone who went to jail willingly), is wrong, we are stealing that individuals freedom? Well, no, er, see, the individual must be punished and, ah, ah….That is the problem with literal arguments. But, see, I’m a christian and believe in god’s will and….Vengeance is mine, sayeth the lord for I am above the law or the moral code I gave Moses. Yeah, we get it. When you’re god you can justify anything you want.

It seems that mankind has spent a considerable number of years, eons, really, enacting unjust laws based on no appreciable moral code. Yes, it’s good to be the king until they invent the guillotine. Nowadays our court systems just don’t have that fear of god they used to. Perhaps we should try to link any proposed legislation to our moral code. Except that is a problem, we don’t all seem to agree on the same set of morals and what morals we do use seem to be based on the lowest common denominator (or denomination, if you’re religious). Maybe that is why we tend to have a lowered expectation that justice will be done in any particular case. Some of the religious will assert that we have lost our “faith” in god and thus our moral codes no longer reflect the good/right versus wrong/evil knowledge that a godly moral code gives one. They may be right but I would not care to live under their idea of what laws reflect god’s moral code. I fear they would leave something to be desired in the translation and execution. I mean, you never expect the spanish Inquisition until it arrives at your doorstep.


Perhaps we need to rewrite our moral code so we can truly know this right from wrong thing.  Oh god, you want to call in the lawyers.  If memory serves, it was the Jesuits who are the lawyers and drew up the rules for the Inquisition in the Catholic church.  Never trust a lawyer to give you an honest account of his morals, let alone anyone else’s.  Well, couldn’t we adopt the golden rule?  Which one, he who has the gold makes the rules?  Oh, that one, yeah, ah, do unto others before they do unto you.  No, that doesn’t sound right.  Yes, my childhood religious training is coming back.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Ok, that sounds about right.  So where’s my money?  I gave to churches, bums, charities, the whole lot.  Where’s my money?  What, I’m been to litteral?  It’s just a general guide?  So, how do we use it?  I mean, how does it work?  What’s the formula, you know, how do I plug in the numbers and crank out the answer?  Oh, that’s not how I am suppose to do it.  Then how do I know I’m doing it right?  Oh, use my best judgment.  Isn’t that a little too vague?  This problem of defining and using morals is a real bitch.  No, Stephen Hawking, philosophy is not dead.   This is not something you scientists can solve using a pencil, piece of paper, and a slide rule.  And no, AI (artificial intelligence) won’t help, either.


It seems to me that we are stuck, morality is the collective possession (what an idea) of a culture, a group of individuals.  Morals are a part of each culture, they help to make up its identity.  I would believe that seven or possibly eight of the ten commandments from the Old Testament are endemic to all cultures.  But there are a few additions in each culture and sometimes are applied differently of in different order of importance.  We may believe in honesty as the best policy but we have our exceptions to that rule.  That is the gravity of culture, no one individual can change it, it takes a lot of individuals working in concert to make any permanent change and even that change is likely to be a very small one.  We like predictability, we like a sense of reliability, within reason, of course.  Change causes stress and a society and too much change and stress will disintegrate.  As a rule, societies can take a fair amount of bending and stretching before they either snap back or blow apart.  You see, there are no quick fixes in society and yet we always hope for one or two or three or four…


If we were to examine every law passed by congress and approved by the president, we would be reading a lot of laws, well over ten thousand of them and many that conflict.  I am not talking about appropriations, or spend bills that have the force of law, I am talking about criminal law.  A good many legal scholars assert that each day as we, the people, bot individually and severally break one of more of these federal laws.  The complexity of our legal system is such that we are a nation of criminals without knowing and yet what do the courts tell us?  Ignorance of the law is no excuse.  If law is such the ignorance of it is no excuse for breaking it and if the basis for law, as a few claim, is our moral code, then how is such a thing possible?  I can understand that if many of these tresspasses against the people of the United States of America had a moral basis for their enactment, but how did we arrive at such a state where we unwittingly commit one or more crimes on a daily basis if all our laws have a moral basis?  Were you ever pulled over by the police while driving your vehicle?  What, usually, is the first quote they utter?  Do you know why I pulled you over?  If you were exceeding the legal posted speed then you already know why you were pulled over.  If you say “NO”, the you are lying to the police officer and that is a criminal act.  Good old false witness will get you every time.  On the other hand, that policeman is investigating a crime, well a misdemeanor, but still a crime.  Did he read you your rights about the right to keep silent and the right to an attorney?  You think for a minute, that’s not a crime?  The rule in law is that he will read you your rights.  You are in his custody, you cannot leave until he says you may go.  that writing you a ticket is charging you with a crime.   What part of the moral code has the policeman broken?  Ah, not easy to tell, is it?  Not everything is black and white, pardon the pun.  Now think upon this case.  You love the color purple and think it goes really neat with yellow.  So you paint your house purple with yellow trim.  A city inspector comes to your door and says you are not allowed to paint your house purple with yellow trim.  Is there a law against that, you might ask.  Well, no he says but your color scheme is deemed an eyesore.  The neighbors have complained that you have created an eyesore.  So what law or laws have been broken here and just how would they apply to the community moral code?  Then we have communities that have enacted child endangerment codes.  But the codes are usually vague in many areas of behavior.  It now seems that if your son or daughter is walking a couple of blocks to a community park and they are under the age of thirteen and unaccompanied, you are guilty of child endangerment.  And what part of the moral code does this refer back to you say?  It the belief by the department that children under the age of thirteen must be supervised at all times, even when you and they are sleeping.


We see more and more of these nanny state laws being put into place every day.  You must wear a helmet on your head while operating a bicycle.  That is part of the vehicle code.  You know, I really expect to see the return of those laws we took off the books years ago that made suicide a felony.  What’s the charge, officer?  Attempted suicide, you’ll get the chair for this.  It’s illegal for a store to sell beer before noon on a Sunday.  Sort of a half way blue law.  And by the way, there are still states that have blue laws.  It was all about keeping the Sabbath holy whether you were a believer or not.  And then when you try to point out the inconsistency in their logic you get crazy answers.  You get reasoning such as: Whether subconsciously, inadvertently, or otherwise with or without knowing it, all laws have their roots in moral terms.  I’ve never seen a law that had  consciousness, inadvertently or not.  I would argue that the overwhelming complexity of our legal system has severed some of those ties to a moral code.  So much so that our legal system has lost much of its soundness, integrity, and reason.  I think the other great problem in relying on a sweeping belief that all law is based on some sort of moral code is that we tend to fall victim to our our laziness in deciding for ourselves what our collective moral code ought to be.  We become too easily manipulated, too trusting that others have our best interests in mind.  I think the United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goals come under that heading.  Who would be against ending all forms of poverty and hunger.  Let the “brightest minds” deliver their answers, don’t ask questions, just live with it.  Funny, the depression stricken nations of europe felt that same way.  Germany and austria weren’t the only ones to let someone else take charge.  The Italians were fascist years before Hitler came to power and the French were split in their ambitions of political world power.  In hard times people look for saviors and seldom ask questions.  don’t ask, don’t question, just follow.  that is the road to serfdom and destruction.  Morals are general, never specific.  They take on values of religion, politics, economics, and even science.  We fail to understand at our individual and collective risk.


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