Law and Morality

“Do you think you can separate law from morality?”

A defense lawyer was questioning me, “prospective juror no 64,” during voir dire.  That question produced bad gut feelings.

I felt that question was somehow wrong, but because I was a prospective juror in a court of law, (not of morality), I felt it was my duty to say I could.  I didn’t want to, and was relieved when I wasn’t chosen to serve.  That day, and from time to time thereafter,  I reconsidered that scene, remaining dissatisfied with my fantasy answers to the lawyer’s question.

A few years later I happily came upon the following line of reasoning:

1)  All morality can be summarized in one word—”reciprocity.”

2)  Reciprocity can be defined as, “put out what you want to take back.”

3)  Two rules derive logically from the moral principle of reciprocity.

1st rule  –  Perform all that you promise.

2nd rule – Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

4)  The above are the basic ideas underlying contract law and criminal/tort law, respectively.

5)  Therefore law derives from morality and cannot logically be separated.  Law is morality’s servant, providing application of the principle of reciprocity to specific situations.

Personal comments follow –

Laws passed in disregard of the principle of reciprocity may be called “Special Interest Laws.”

Said another way, such laws are “To-Hell-With-You-I-Want-What-I-Want-Laws.”

Each time the people permit passage of  Special Interest Laws, they get screwed.

Just now we need frameworks to help us make sense of all that’s happening in our world, and how to decide who has  better judgement, or a history of good, better, or best behavior.  Using the line of reasoning described above, it’s easy to gauge the morality of any act of a private person, of business, the government, the police, or the military.

Also, comes voting time, we’ll be less easily confused by all the slick professional psychological “manipulation of perception.”

Less comfortably for us, it enables facile evaluation of our own conduct.

What do you think?




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