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Unjust Laws and Civil Disobedience Essay


The existence of laws is an integral part of providing the proper functioning of any society. The laws are created by the members of the society when the necessity for regulating particular behavior occurs. All people have subjective opinions and personal interests, which influence their decisions. Therefore, people are predisposed to make mistakes. The creation of laws is also influenced by the subjective views of the individuals involved in its creation. It leads to the occurrence of mistakes made while designing the laws. Such a situation results in the possibility of the creation of legislation, which does not reflect the real attitudes of society towards certain aspects of everyday life. Such laws can be defined as unjust ones.

They put a threat on the successful functioning of the society instead of promoting justice. Unjust laws raise a number of questions about our understanding of the laws and the responsibility to follow them (Edlin 1). The common ways of opposing unjust laws are the protest and civil disobedience (Carbonara, Parisi, and Wangenheim 1). Such behavior, naturally, causes certain penalties enacted by the country. I consider accepting the unjust penalties enacted by the state a part of the activity that promotes the awareness of the injustice of certain laws and regard it as the demonstration of the person’s respect to the country.

In my opinion, the person who is not willing to follow the unjust laws should understand the consequences of the violation of the laws and face them with full respect to the legislative system. Martin Luther King, Jr, in the letter dated 16 April 1963, stated, “One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly” (9). Therefore, the person breaking the unjust law should not hide from the penalty. If the individual violates the law considered unjust, he/she should not break the law that puts the penalty for violation of another law. Otherwise, such a person can be considered a constant lawbreaker instead of being regarded as a thoughtful opponent to the unjust laws.

The violation of unjust laws can be considered a public demonstration of the certain civil position of the person. To make this demonstration effective for promoting the consciousness of other members of the society and encouraging them to take a similar civil position, the person demonstrating distrust of the certain law should, at the same time, show full respect and love for the country. The patriot should be thankful for all the advantages provided for him by the state. The person considered a real patriot of his/her country by most of the compatriots is able to find support in striving for disclosure of the injustice of certain laws.

Therefore, the readiness to accept penalties contributes to creating a reputation of a dutiful citizen who cares for the country and respects it. The person with the reputation of a dutiful citizen is more likely to attract attention and deserve the trust of compatriots. Therefore, he/she is more likely to cause positive changes in society. Socrates points to the necessity of being a good citizen claiming, “You must do what the city and the homeland orders, or convince her by appealing to what is naturally just” (Plato Crito 8). He also states, “It is not holy to use force against one’s mother or father, and it is so much worse to do so against one’s homeland” (Plato Crito 8). I agree with such a position and consider using force inappropriately. Instead, the person who cares for the destiny of the state should show the dissatisfaction with the certain law in a deliberate way, without disobeying more laws and showing disrespect to the whole country.

Only the positive image of the person willing to demonstrate the injustice of the particular law can contribute to raising the consciousness of other people. The actions of this person should be well weighed and show a good example instead of becoming a subject of reproach. The readiness to accept even the most severe penalty for conscious breaking of the law is demonstrated by Socrates (Plato The Apology 39). He does not refuse to express his attitude to certain laws but is willing to accept the sentence for breaking them. I think he is an example of a person who is interested in being a cause of changes in the laws and behaves like a worthy citizen of the state. Such behavior creates positive feedback in society and arouses the consciousness of the community over the injustice of certain laws.

Seeking justice is one of the primary priorities of every human being, as Socrates said, “Whether there is just, there is also holy” (Plato Euthyphro 14). However, the actions taken for exposing unjust laws should be well-considered and aimed at showing maximum respect to the legal system itself. Therefore, accepting the penalties enacted by the country for breaking unjust laws should be considered a vital part of actions aimed at demonstrating the injustice of these laws and causing positive changes in the legislative system and the whole society.

Works Cited

Carbonara, Emanuela, Francesco Parisi, and Georg von Wangenheim. 2009. Web.

Edlin, Douglas. Judges and Unjust Laws: Common Law Constitutionalism and the Foundations of Judicial Review, Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2008. Print.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1963. TS. Web.

Plato. . 2007-2012. Web.

—. Euthyphro. 2010. Web.

—. . n.d. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Unjust Laws and Civil Disobedience." May 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/unjust-laws-and-civil-disobedience/.

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