Law denotes a framework of regulations imposed by an authorized institution to control human conduct. Interestingly, the law is an extensive area covering different categorizations, including public and private, civil and criminal, substantive and procedural, municipal and international, written and unwritten, and common and equity. For the longest time, some sections of humanity suffered unjust laws without knowing better. More recently, humanity interacted with many ideas allowing them to discover alternative courses of action concerning various issues, including laws. Although this sounds unruly, people should have permission for breaking the law if it is unjust.
Ending injustice justifies breaking the Law if it is Unjust
To begin with, the responsibility to end injustice would be enough justification to break the law if it is unjust. Societies organize themselves under a common authority to, among other goals, protect them and help them realize development in various areas, including the economy. Therefore, tasked with a responsibility to protect, authorities enact laws to govern the society. Laws are fundamentally enacted to promote social order, the absence of which would promote endless chaos. In MLK’s long response to the religious leaders’ criticisms, he gave various valid reasons in support of civil disobedience that may well support the position mentioned above. MLK argued that similarly, as every individual has an ethical responsibility to obey just laws, so do they have an ethical responsibility to disobey unjust laws (“Martin Luther King – Letter from the Birmingham jail,” n.d.). MLK made the above statements in response to the criticisms of the day for supporting disobedience to some laws. Essentially, MLK supported disobedience to unjust laws based on the responsibility to end injustice.
Possibility of flawed outcomes justifies breaking the law if it is Unjust
Also, being aware of law-making flaws gives leeway for promoting disobedience to unjust laws. A review of diverse literature on political processes informs the view that political procedures, especially law-making, may not always create only just laws. The process of law-making cannot be relied upon to produce just laws all the time (Alakbarova, 2019). Essentially, it is impossible to guarantee perfection in most procedures, including law-making processes. The above statements imply that political procedures, including law-making, may not always produce perfect outcomes. People need to come to terms with the above reality to realize that due to the inability to produce perfect outcomes in some procedures, for example, law-making or justice, unjust laws may exist. Therefore, in recognition of the above fact, the law may be broken based on reliable findings that a specific law is flawed.
Breaking the law if it is unjust does not undermine Law Enforcement
Admittedly, not everyone thinks that the law should be broken if it is unjust. Some people believe that allowing people to break laws purposely could lead to anarchy. However, this would not be the case as the law would still take its course regardless. An individual who decides to break an unjust law ought to do it openly, passionately, and with readiness to bear the consequences (“Martin Luther King – Letter from the Birmingham jail,” n.d.). For whoever breaks an unjust law intentionally and indeed submits to arrest does so for the common good of triggering the values of the community regarding the unjust law. It is important to note that having the right to protest unjust laws does not stop law enforcement from performing their duties. Knowing that law enforcement officials would still perform their duties as people champion their unique causes, people should break laws if they believe they are unjust.
Accordingly, various reasons would justify the breaking of unjust laws. First, the desire to end injustice would be one of such reasons for people to break unjust laws. Secondly, law-making is not a fault-free process; hence the process may produce faulty laws. Thirdly, breaking unjust laws does not undermine social order. Given the above considerations, people should break laws if they believe they are unjust. After all, people have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
Alakbarova, F. (2019). How To Deal With Unjust Laws: Justifiability Of Civil Disobedience. Wroclaw Review Of Law, Administration & Economics, 9(1), 75-85. https://doi.org/10.2478/wrlae-2019-0005
Martin Luther King – Letter from the Birmingham jail. (n.d.). School of Law | University of Missouri – Kansas City. https://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/mlkjail.html