Two Treatises of Government
Would you like to be declared insane and have your brain pickled and studied by scientists? Do you find it pleasant to be laughed at? Do you relish the thought of being struck down by a falling tree? Do you like hurting others? Would you like to be hurt yourself? Would you like to set a bad example for coming generations? Would you like to ruin your country? Would you like to have to face trouble alone? Would you like those who are stronger than you to always triumph over you? Would you like to spend the rest of your life in jail?
Would you like to lose all of your rights? Would it thrill you to be beaten to death? Do you relish losing your soul? A person who answers, “Yes! ” to all of these questions should consider breaking the law. Meanwhile, one who answers “No! ” to any of them ought to think twice before doing so. That is not to say breaking the law is not appealing or, in some cases, understandable. The allurement is powerfully portrayed in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, where, the protagonist, Bud Fox, finds that if he breaks the law, he can become powerful and wealthy.
He can also secure the companionship of beautiful women and live on the posh side of the city. If he does not break the law, he will have to live as a relatively poor man, scrimping, saving and fighting in order to try to make life better for himself. When faced with these choices, Fox chooses to break the law. Why shouldn’t he? Stone offers a few reasons why not, and he is by no means the first thinker to consider the question. Philosophers from Plato to Lincoln have weighed in on the question. So have the writers of many religious texts. Each makes a convincing argument for abiding by the law.
These are not merely abstract ideas, but are backed up by daily news stories. In Wall Street, Fox learns that his choice is not so clear cut. By breaking the law and passing on information about his father’s company to Wall Street legend Gordon Gekko, Fox puts the company in jeopardy. He hurts his father as Gekko takes control of the company and begins to restructure it. While a person might be willing to risk his own neck to break the law, hurting others might be distasteful. It is to Fox, who turns against Gekko to save his father’s company – yet his illegal dealings land him in jail.
Perhaps, then, the most obvious reason a person ought not to break the law, is because it could land him in prison. Living life in prison, however, is not the only negative consequence of law breaking. Indeed, in 1878, when anarchist cook Giovanni Passannante attempted to kill the Italian King Umbarto I, he was charged with insanity and imprisoned until he died. Then, his brain was pickled and studied by scientists. Though the brain ought to be in Naples, it has been in the Crime Museum at Rome until recently. Now, it is being carted out (United Press International, 2007).
Another reason, then, that it is important for one to obey the law, is that breaking it causes people to doubt your ability to reason and function normally. Breaking the law also damages one’s credibility. A person charged with fraud, for instance, is hard for neighbors to trust. When neighbors cannot trust a person, they are less likely do business or even engage in social events with that person. In addition to lack of trust, comes lack of respect. While some lawbreakers might hope to become famous for cunning and success, most probably do not hope to be ridiculed.
Yet, recently anarchy and anarchists have become the butt of theater humor. One successful comedy that is now running is entitled, “The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. ” Its plot is the same as its title, but it is a comedy. It is not the only play which pokes fun at anarchists. Another, called “A Mouthfulla Sacco & Vanzetti”, pokes fun at two anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti, who were killed via the electric chair after being accused and found guilty of two clerks. Those who break the law are often made fun of (Mizell, 2004). Bonnie and Clyde, for instance, are often used for entertainment purposes.
Breaking the law can also make a person lose his jobs. Shoplifters, for instance, are not often retained in retail stores. Meanwhile, politicians like Eliot Spitzer who break the very laws they push others to follow, often end up being forced to resign. Sometimes, even the fact that a person condones breaking the law is enough to warrant a firing. Indeed, according to The America’s Intelligence Wire, David Graeber, an anarchist professor at Yale was asked to take a yearlong sabbatical and then leave the university. Many suggest that this is because of his political affiliation (Apuzzo, 2005).
Yale’s treatment of Graeber is quite tame. Indeed, according to the Zambian Post, President Mwanawasa declared that he would put anyone who voiced anarchistic views into cages. Indeed, he said the following (Moonze, 2004): If you think you can promote anarchy and violence, then I will ensure that you are caged. I make this solemn pledge the same way I swore on the Bible to protect this country. If men do not follow laws, then there are no standards and chaos ensues. Imagine trying to drive in a city where no one obeyed traffic lights or signs.
Driving would either become impossible or horribly dangerous. If restaurants ignored FDA warnings, the food they served might cause sickness, in turn, causing the establishment to lose business. People are more likely to eat at a place they know is regulated, rather than a place with random levels of cleanliness. Indeed, breaking the law is often just not safe. For instance in September of 2008, two women attempted to act as midwives while their friend gave childbirth. They used advanced tools and wore scrubs, but ended up killing their friend.
Their intentions were good, to help a friend be more comfortable and to avoid doctors that she did not want to see – but the result was horrific (Lyons, 2008). While these are all superficial reasons to refrain from lawbreaking, there are deeper incentives. There are times when law-breaking is obviously the wrong thing to do. The pre-meditated murder of an innocent is seen by most Americans as wrong reprehensible. Yet, the lynching of a murderer by private citizens might seem just to some, although it is against the law. In a case like this, is it alright to break the law? Abraham Lincoln thought not.
In Missisippi, men had begun lynching gamblers, then blacks who they suspected of uprisings, then whites who they suspected helped the blacks they suspected, and finally strangers from other cities, Indeed, Lincoln said the following: Dead men were seen literally dangling from the boughs of trees upon every road side; and in numbers almost sufficient, to rival the native Spanish moss of the country, as a drapery of the forest. While according to Lincoln, citizens might feel as if they are doing right, they, by taking matters into their own hands, risk hurting the innocent. His solution for this is reverence toward the law.
He asked that Americans all pledge their lives and honor toward it and that they teach their children that breaking the law was “trampling on the blood of his father” and that it furthermore ruined men’s character and threatened the freedom of their children. To Lincoln, therefore, people ought to keep the statutes of the law to ensure that innocent people are not harmed, confusion does not break out, parents are honored and children go free (Lincoln, 2004). Thomas Hobbes suggests that to live without law is to live in a state in which men are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
” Without governments, men have rights to everything and passions for everything. They constantly war against one another and thus need governments to civilize them and protect them. If the world is as Hobbes suggests and man’s nature is, indeed, so brutish, then breaking the law would mean risking losing the protection that keeps a person safe from such ugliness (Hobbes, 2006). John Locke agrees with Hobbes that men, in their state of nature, need governments. Locke believes that men earn property with their labor and thus gain the right to it.
Yet, when a person labors for an object, a stronger man can always take it away. If men are left to solve disputes for themselves, they will always be biased towards themselves and thus they cannot judge fairly. Governments, then, are go-betweens that protect men from one another. He argues that men are under a social contract that says that they will abide by the laws of the government, if the government will protect them. If a person stops abiding by the law, he breaks his half of the contract and the government is no long obligated to afford that man the protection he would otherwise have.
Breaking the law, then, can mean giving up protection. It might very well mean having to face all of one’s problems alone. It might mean always losing to someone who is more powerful (Locke, 1690). Having that kind of protection might come in handy for someone who speaks out against following the law. Indeed, in 2000, anarchist Slavomir Tesarek was beaten down by an officer in plain clothes, when he (Tesarek) engaged in protests at an IMF meeting. Because the anarchists used rods, cobblestones and Molotov Cocktails to attack police officers, the officers fought back using tear gas, water cannons, and truncheons.
While the anarchists were armed, they were no match for the stronger police. Therefore, if a person wants to be safe, breaking the law may not be his best option (Times, 2003). Perhaps the greatest damage one can do to oneself when breaking the law, is losing ones soul. In Plato’s Crito, Socrates has been condemned to death. His wealthy friend Crito bribes the prison guard to come see him. Crito begs Socrates not to let himself be executed. He offers to pay the way for Socrates’ escape. But Socrates argues that he would rather have a good life than a long life.
Furthermore, Socrates points out, that if men disregard the law continually, their city will fall apart. “Do you imagine,” he asks Crito, “a State that can subsist and not be overthrown , in which the decisions of the law have no power, but are set aside and overthrown by individuals? ” Crito cannot. Socrates also points out that if he escapes, his philosophies on justice will become meaningless. People will see that he speaks of justice and following the law, but breaks the law himself. They will, he says, taunt his children because of it.
Therefore, in order to leave behind agood legacy and an example for one’s children, it is best, at least according to Socrates, to follow the law – even when one does not find that law fair. Socrates also points out that it would be better to die and do the will of God than to damage his soul (Plato, 360 B. C. E. ). Judaism and Christianity argue much the same thing. In the Torah, for instance, David has the opportunity to kill King Saul who has been trying to take his life, but the law commands men not to kill the king God has anointed, therefore, he does not.
Indeed, he kills the man who claims to have killed King Saul, in accordance with the law. Meanwhile, in the New Testament, Peter urges Christians to follow the laws exactly, even if it means martyrdom. Because Christians did as he asked, many were martyred, but as Romans watched them behaving in model ways, they would sometimes convert themselves. Therefore, following the law is a good way to win friends and influence people. One need not be religious to appreciate the impact of those who stay true to their principles, even to the death.
Soldiers obey orders every day that put their lives in danger, but they do it to protect their country. If none of the aforementioned problems with breaking the law are enough to make it unattractive, perhaps the fact that, as the old adage says, “crime doesn’t pay” means something. Stories of “stupid criminals” abound and are used for the public’s entertainment. For instance, in Pasadena Maryland, a few thieves stole candy bars from a gas station convenience store. As they left, they littered, leaving a trail behind that allowed police to catch them. Another criminal planned on breaking into a restaurant safe.
He hid in the ceiling until the coast was clear, then came to crack the safe, but realized that he didn’t know how. Therefore, he logged on to an office computer to try to look up how to do it. It took so much time that managers were able to catch him in the act (Deffner, 2008). In short, one should follow the law, because it is the smartest course of action. It fulfills ones obligations to society and secure the protection of one’s government. It helps keep others from being injured. It helps a person keep the good opinion of his family and friends and to leave behind a legacy and an example for his children.
It promotes order and keeps countries stable and in operation. It helps men stay free and prevents the accidental deaths of innocent men and woman – like the woman with the fake midwives and the strangers in Mississippi. It keeps men from assembling against a person. It keeps men and women out of jail and in their homes where they belong. Futhermore, following the law helps prevent men from becoming the brunt of jokes and comedies. But perhaps most importantly, it keeps men from having their brains pickled and transported from place to place when they die. Works Cited
Apuzzo, M. (2005). Anarchist professor drops appeal, will leave Yale University. he America’s Intelligence Wire . Deffner, E. (2008). Stupid Criminals. National Geographic Kids. (379), 2627. Hobbes, T. (2006). Leviathan. Dover: Dover Publications, Incorporated. Lincoln, A. (2004). Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield Illinois. In M. M. Cuomo, H. Holzer, & G. Borrit, Lincoln on Democracy (p. 15). Bronx: Fordham University Press. Locke, J. (1690). Two Treatises of Government. London: Harvard University. Lyons, T. (2008). A law so bad it’s hard to break.
Sarasota Herald Tribune . Mizell, L. (2004, May 20). ANARCHISTS’ CASE PLAYED FOR LAUGHS. The News & Record . Moonze, L. (2004). I Will Cage Anarchists, Vows Levy. Asia Africa Intelligence Wire . Plato. (360 B. C. E. ). Crito. Retrieved Nov 11, 2008, from The Internet Classics Archive: http://classics. mit. edu/Plato/crito. html Times, T. F. (2003, December 9). State must apologise, pay to anarchist beaten at IMF riots. Europe Intelligence Wire . United Press International. (2007, March 28). Anarchist’s pickled brain headed home. UPI NewsTrack .Sample Essay of Custom-Writing