why is law important in our society
What is a Law? DonБt run with scissors in your hand! DonБt drive your car on the sidewalk! Do not steal your neighborБs property! How many times a day does someone tell you what to do? How often do you have to stop yourself from doing what you want, because you know that this action is prohibited or wrong? In the United States, it seems like we have laws, rules, and regulations to oversee just about everything. We donБt always like these rules, since they often mean that someone is telling us what to do, or keeping us from doing what we want. Yet to live in a civil society, we must have some rules to follow. Who gets to make these rules? Where do they come from? What happens when we break them? These are the questions this page will seek to answer for you. aws are rules that bind all people living in a community. protect our general safety, and ensure our rights as citizens against abuses by other people, by organizations, and by the government itself. б We have laws to help provide for our general safety. б These exist at the local, state and national levels, and include things like:
We also have laws that protect our rights as citizens, and which include things like: It was thought even from classical times that law performed a fourth function в that of encouraging and helping people to do the right thing.
For example, (384 BC в 322 BC) argued that people needed the discipline of law to habituate them into doing the right thing, from which standpoint they could then appreciate why doing the right thing was the right thing to do. Up until the 20th century, this view of law was accepted by law makers, with the result that the UK legal system contained a large number of вmorals lawsв в that is, laws that were designed purely and simply to stop people acting immorally, according to the lights of on what counted as immoral behaviour.
However, in the 20th century, the propounded by John Stuart Mill in his book в в, according to which the law should not sanction people for acting immorally unless their conduct involved some harm to others, gained more and more popularity, and resulted in the abolition of large numbers of вmorals lawsв. These trends triggered what is now known as the over the extent to which it is legitimate for the law to enforce morality. Lord Devlin в at the time, a judge in the House of Lords, the highest court in the land в argued that law should enforce morality so as to preserve the cohesiveness of society. Professor H. L. A. Hart в at the time, the most famous legal philosopher in the world в based his position squarely on Millвs harm principle, though subject to the caveats that the law might legitimately prevent someone acting immorally if doing so involved harm to himself or would cause offence to others.
Hartвs views are set out in his widely read book в в. Hart is thought to have won the debate в but his concessions that it might be legitimate to make it illegal for someone to engage in immoral behaviour that will (i) harm himself or (ii) offend others, seem to make little sense. The same point can be made about those вmorals lawsв that survived the 20th century cull: if law does not have a role to play in encouraging us to do the right thing, why is it illegal to have sex in public, or to have sex with animals, or to dig up dead bodies, or to take hallucinogenic drugs, or to help someone kill themselves?
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