Why We Need Laws Essay

1492 words - 6 pages

The American Heritage Dictionary defines law as "a rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority." Since even the most primitive forms of life have been known to live by some "rule of conduct," by definition, law has existed before the dawn of the human race. However, no other species have adopted laws to fit their immediate needs more than humans. As groups of humans began living in larger and larger groups, competition for resources such as food, water, shelter, and even mating partners grew increasingly intense. Therefore, the leaders of these basic forms of society found it necessary to set guidelines for sharing and protecting these resources. As these societies grew in complexity, so did the need for laws. While in its nascent stage law primarily protected tangibles such as life, limb, and property, the scope of laws has grown to encompass moral values as well. However, these values often differed from society to society. With each passing year, more and more laws are coming into effect. Consequently, more and more people are growing incognizant of the laws that govern them. In effect, this ignorance of the law nullifies its effectiveness as a deterrent of crime. Therefore, modern law has taken a more passive role as a medium for holding people accountable for their actions.Voltaire once said that "a multitude of laws in a country is like a great number of physicians, a sign of weakness and malady." Historically, laws have been created in an attempt to correct perceived problems within a society. An epidemic of adultery must have occurred before laws forbidding such activity came into existence. Several affluent members of society must have been robbed before anti-theft laws were passed. Undoubtedly a number of politicians were shot and killed before gun-control laws were believed to be necessary. For the most part laws are created out of fear of becoming victimized. As illustrated in the preceding examples, most laws are designed specifically to address crimes in which the distinction between an offender and a victim is clear. However, laws against so-called "victimless" crimes suggest that its intent exceeds that of mere protection. For instance, according to California Penal Code 286, "sodomy is sexual conduct consisting of contact between the penis of one person and the anus of another person. Any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime of sodomy." Assuming that both persons involved in the "crime" of sodomy are consenting adults, the law is clearly protecting an imposed moral position rather than the rights of the parties involved. Simply speaking, such laws are created to push a predetermined ideology of morality upon the public as a whole.In the view of some, laws are mere extensions of what people already know to be morally correct. The Ten Commandments, perhaps one of the best examples of what is known and accepted to be fundamentally moral, supports this claim. The...

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