The Immorality of Disobeying Morally-Unrelated Laws

It’s fairly easy to identify laws that don’t necessarily pertain to a “moral wrong.” Parking tickets, J-walking, rolling through a stop sign, to name a few. However, while these laws do not seem to be inherently moral, it could still be true that a violation of such laws is a moral wrong. Legal violations can be judged on grounds that are not necessarily in the morality of the law itself, but the morality of obeying the law. Although the legal system does frequently act to morally guide the public, it is primarily in place to maintain order and promote the common good. So while breaking some laws may not be morally bad, they could disrupt society in some way that is undesirable, and the violation itself could be a moral wrong.

Firstly, some legal violations may seem inconsequential or harmless, but if one considered the consequences if everyone violated the law, things may seem a little different. If everyone suddenly decided to flaunt the use of crosswalks and simply cross the road whenever they pleased, imagine the chaos that would ensue. Although on an individual basis j-walking seems like the most pathetic legal violation, it is only so because people obey it the vast majority of the time. To violate this law is unfair to all the other citizens who are obeying it to promote a common good.

Additionally, as citizens, we are not always aware of the consequences of our legal violations. Parking violations do not typically seem like moral errors, but perhaps paying for parking leads to funding for the local government. One individual not paying for parking may not have a visible impact, but the funding resulting from the parking cost could be for a newer, safer play structure for a local park. While I may see my flaunting of this law as simply risking my own chance at getting a parking ticket, I’m actually depriving other citizens of potential benefits from their paying for parking. This violation is not only unfair to the citizens that are paying, but could also lead to a child getting hurt on the old play structure. Although this is a specific example, such a situation could be clearly true. We are certainly not always aware of consequences like these, therefore every time a citizen breaks a law they are risking unforeseen consequences, and are clearly being inconsiderate to the well being of their fellow citizens.

Similarly, some violations of laws may not seem morally wrong most of the time, but there can be certain circumstances that could make such a violation morally wrong. It may seem ridiculous to stop at a stop sign if no other vehicle is present, however the rule is in place to prevent accidents to other vehicles or pedestrians. If one gets in the habit of not stopping at a certain stop sign near their house for example, they may not typically pay close attention to the road when approaching it. One day, there may be a pedestrian present that is not visibly obvious. What was once an inconsequential violation may have become a serious moral wrong. Therefore, even if it is safe or un-disruptive to violate a law 99% of the time, the willingness of that citizen to risk the 1% chance of hurting another individual for the sake of a small inconvenience to themselves is clearly morally wrong.

So although some laws may not seem to be based on moral wrongs, the violation of them could be morally wrong. It is morally wrong to disrupt society, deprive others of benefits they deserve, or risk the lives of others for one’s own convenience. These moral wrongs were not evident within the law itself, but clearly exist. Therefore, while every law may not seem “morally wrong”, the violation of laws is to risk any of these circumstances and is consequently a moral violation as well.


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