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GRE Issue 21: Laws Should Be Flexible - With A Free Essay Review
Laws should be flexible enough to take account of various circumstances, times, and places.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
Laws should be flexible, from my perspective, to take account of various factors, such as circumstance, time and place. Flexible laws can help judge and jury make just verdict since a plausible accusation seems reasonable under one circumstance but irrational under another one. However, unduly flexible laws must be avoided because it may lead criminals, especially those with fortune and authority, to escape deserved punishment.
It goes without saying that laws should be flexible to take account of various circumstances for the sake of making unbiased determinations. For instance, if a man murders another person, in most cases, he is likely to be charged with second-degree murder. However, taking some factors into account may exonerate criminals or reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter. Maybe finding the victim raping his wife motivates this man to kill the victim, or maybe the victim is burgling his house and trying to beat the man into coma. Under these circumstances, the culprit might receive less serious punishment. Juvenile delinquency is another example of this point. Due to the lack of maturity, the young adults who violate the laws can be charged with lesser crimes compared to adults. This feasible action not only punishes these youngsters so as to prevent them from wrongdoings, but also affords them a chance to rehabilitate themselves. Otherwise, if the laws are too rigid, people who kill someone unintentionally when fighting with robbers or thieves are expected to receive undeserved punishment and juveniles may spend their lives in the prison even though they become mature enough to understand what really good behaviors are. Therefore, flexible laws make great contributions to both justice and society.
Admittedly, laws should be flexible to some extent, but excessive flexibility of laws will have a negative influence on society. As mentioned above, laws should take account of various factors, but it does not mean factors such as power and fortune of someone should also be taken into account. On one hand, everyone is equal to some extent regardless of whether one is rich or powerful. If people can escape punishment only because they can pay large amounts of money to court or they hold a high position in government authorities, corruption and immorality will pervade in such society. On the other hand, the society is likely to become unstable as poor people cannot get equal treatment and may become rebellious.
Apart from that, being too flexible, when it comes to laws, is a little bit unrealistic and unnecessary. For instance, laws must have some characteristics of gravity and stability. If it is too flexible, the codes of laws will lose a sense of authority and lawyers can hardly refer to codes for the purpose of confirmation. Sometimes, it is needless for laws to include all circumstances partly because these circumstances make cases little different.
In conclusion, laws should be flexible in order to give some freedom for jury and judge to make a right verdict. However, too much flexibility of laws seems infeasible and unnecessary since laws will become less authoritative and biased decisions may be made.
In your second paragraph you argue that laws should be flexible enough to take account of various circumstances, and give as an example a man killing an assailant or a burglar. I understand your point here, but I don't think it is a very good example, if only because you seem not to be talking about flexibility of specific laws but the existence of different laws covering specific cases. The man who kills an assailant is not someone who has murdered a person but who, in light of the circumstances, is charged with a lesser crime than murder. Instead, ideally, he is charged with a lesser crime because he is only considered possibly guilty of that crime. Similarly, in many jurisdictions, it is not against the law to protect one's property with lethal force. In most jurisdictions it is not against the law to protect one's life with lethal force. If one is not accused of a crime in the case of self-defence, then one has not benefitted from the flexibility of the law because the law has not been broken.
I should admit that I don't really like this prompt because I think it is a little too vague with respect to what flexibility of laws means. The problem at the root of the prompt is clear enough, however. Laws need to be fairly general in scope, since they have to cover many cases. You can have many different laws for many different cases, but you can't have a law for every specific case, since the number of possible cases is infinite and the number of laws will always be relatively small. So I suppose it is possible to argue that the law as such tends to be more flexible the more specific laws there are, but I suspect that for the purposes of this prompt one should think about flexibility with respect to how a judge determines whether a specific law applies or with respect to how a breach of law should be punished.
Concerning the latter, the difficulty is that if judges have flexibility with respect to how a convicted criminal is punished (i.e., if the law is flexible in that it does not mandate a specific punishment) then you have the good outcome that the judge can take account of circumstances (stealing food in times of emergency might be less severely punished than stealing at other times) but the unfortunate outcome that the judge, if his hands are not tied by the law, might let his personal prejudices determine in some part how a crime is punished. You argue that laws should not be so flexible as to take account of the "power" and "fortune" of the accused; if that were the case, corruption would ensue. Again, I understand the point, but it is obviously difficult to have the kind of flexibility we might want and avoid the kind of flexibility that we do not. I think you rightly identify the kind of outcomes that we want, but I don't think your essay acknowledges the difficulty of achieving that.