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GRE Issue 65: Every Individual In A Society Has A Responsibility To Obey Just Laws And To Disobey And Resist Unjust Laws - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: “Every individual in a society has a responsibility to obey just laws and to disobey and resist unjust laws. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim. In developing and supporting your position, be sure to address the most compelling reasons and/or examples that could be used to challenge your position.”
The statement claims that every individual in a society has a responsibility to obey just laws and to disobey and resist unjust laws. In some cases, every individual should obey just laws as well as resisting unjust one. On the one hand, observing just laws helps society keep harmony. On the other hand, resisting unjust ones prevent government from becoming totalitarian. However, in some cases, though the recommendation mentioned above is well intentioned, it is unrealistic and infeasible to perform this suggestion. After all, the answers to whether a law is just or not depend on different people.
Obeying just laws is beneficial to social stability since if everyone does not violate righteous regulations, each one in society is likely to lead a happy and peaceful life. For instance, imagine a nation in which every single one of citizens acts in accordance with just laws. As a result, there is every likelihood that in such society, no robbery, no burglary and no murder exists, which shows a harmonious atmosphere. Also, it is necessary for citizens to resist biased laws in order to prevent the government from becoming corrupt or autocratic. Some unfair laws made by government authorities are for the sake of satisfying their own interests. The laws of ancient Rome are an excellent example of this point. Their laws stipulate that if a slave kills his/her master, he/she must suffer severe torture and be executed finally. In contrast, if a master or aristocrat kills his/her slave, he/she would receive no punishment. Apart from that, compared to slaves having few inherent rights, the aristocrats enjoy all rights, ranging from receiving education to voting rights under their codes. Under this circumstance, it is incumbent on slaves to resist these unfair laws so as to pursue equality. Therefore, resisting unjust laws is every individual’s responsibility.
However, one may argue that the question about what justice really means is somewhat subjective. Because of different religions, genders, beliefs, cultures and classes, everyone may have distinct opinion about justice. Admittedly, it is true that some laws, especially the ones regulating robbery or murder, are considered just laws by a majority of people, some laws with respect to same-sex marriage or abortion are controversial simply because different people may give opposite answers to whether these laws are just. For instance, in China, the government authorities think that the law concerning abortion is just largely because with the help of this law, the birth rate has reduced rapidly, which has prevented Chinese population from increasing dramatically. Also, in their points of view, right of life comes into being after birth. On contrary, abortion is illegal because no one has the right to deprive children of the right of life from the American government’s perspective. Therefore, under different circumstances, a just law may become unjust. Consequently, some people obey this law while others try to resist it, which makes the recommendation become infeasible and unrealistic.
In conclusion, in some cases, individuals should have a responsibilities to obey just laws and disobey unjust ones if a majority of people have the same opinion. Nevertheless, when it comes to controversial laws, the recommendation becomes unrealistic.
In your first argument, you deal with fairly banal or obvious examples, which I think limits the possible complexity of the argument, and that's unfortunate because complexity is what one should aim for. You claim that people should obey just laws, because that leads to peace, and resist unjust laws, because that inhibits the formation of totalitarian governments. You do introduce some complexity with your second argument, where you note that some laws are considered just by some and unjust by others. Your only comment on this circumstance, however, is that it makes the recommendation unrealistic. That's not a very helpful guide to me if I'm a doctor in a country where abortion is illegal (abortion is actually legal in the United States, by the way), think the law is unjust, and so wonder whether I have a responsibility to resist that law and help women who want abortions. In the same way, the claim that the recommendation is unrealistic would not help me if I were opposed to abortion and so tried to resist the law, unjust in my view, permitting abortions by, say, staging an illegal occupation of an abortion clinic.
Everytime we act in a manner that is subject to ethical judgement, we are involved to some extent in a dilemma; every time I devote myself to one course of action, I must sacrifice some other course of action; I'm writing this review instead of playing with my child! What I think you need to find are examples that elucidate this problem. Your essay claims that one should always obey uncontroversially just laws. But there must be cases where being responsible with respect to the law means being irresponsible with respect to some other duty. For instance, I should certainly, out of respect for the law, not steal; but what if I steal in the course of an emergency in order to protect myself or others from harm. In many jurisdictions the law is essentially suspended in cases of necessity or emergency, so the point may be often technically moot, but what I want to suggest nonetheless is that the interesting cases arise when there is a conflict of duties, as opposed to a single duty that is so unproblematic to perform, from an ethical standpoint, that the performing of it goes without saying.