Law & Order: Episode 1

I recently came across this image on my twitter:


I don’t know who originally made it, or posted it, but I do have a an issue with its conclusion. The basic structure of the argument is that, if you don’t like something that a person is doing, then you don’t have to participate in it. To put it more broadly (and I think this is the essence of what the author intended), a society should be organized with limitless freedom to it’s population; not agreeing with a certain behavior or product, or service, does not give you the right to restrict it or eliminate it. Hence, “Don’t like Wal-Mart? Don’t shop in it.”

I will first start by immediately ignoring the obvious fallacy in the logic. If I were to follow the syllogism, I could just say, “Don’t like murderers? Then don’t talk to them.” Instead, I will delve deeper into the intention of this argument and try to come up with something that is worth more debating.

Based on current events, I believe this argument stems from a fear that government will unnecessarily infringe on an individual’s personal life, or that a particular group will make attempts to curtail certain behaviors, products or services based on their beliefs. This is clearly shown by the gun debate, or the legalization of marijuana. They are hotly contested issue where the question of liberty is at its center. Some of the frequently used arguments used by its proponents are that freedom must be protected at all costs, and should be held superior to any belief, opinion, individual, group, or state. The guaranteeing of freedom would protect the people from a descent into tyranny -a sentiment strongly felt by the founding fathers.

However, that is not all the founding fathers believed in.

You see, for any society to function, there cannot be unlimited freedom. There must be rules. There must be laws that govern the land; and if there are rules, there are, as courts imply, opinions. Opinions indeed, govern the land.

founding fathers

Not a single smile was given that day

Picture a soccer game. If I decided for myself how I wanted to play, I could pick up the football, run with it to the goal line, punch the referee, and do whatever I desired. But that wouldn’t be soccer! If I want to play soccer, I must abide by the rules of the game. Rules keep the game going and allow everyone to have a chance at fair game. So it is with society (or as Aristotle would call it, the state).

There must be set rules for the state to function properly and the community to live peacefully.

Having rules means that some people wouldn’t be happy. But it would be absurd to have a game whereby everyone could do as they desired. Thus, laws that maintain order are necessary in any state to maintain the community together and disputes to be resolved. Now, any sane person would agree to this argument. However, the issue remains as to what degree of law will be imposed on the people. If we put too much, we’ll end up with a tyrant, as Russia has shown. If there is too little, the situation could devolve into anarchy, as the French revolution dramatically demonstrated. We need “the right amount of laws.” How would we know what kind of laws are necessary? Can they be prevented from infringing on an individual’s rights? And how would that look like?

Stay tuned for the next episode of Law & Order.

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