Legal Question in Education Law in Pennsylvania

--definition of law

What is the purpose of having laws in our society today?

--We need law in society because if there weren't any then people would go on killing sprees, and do all kinds of other things. The purpose is to control the citizens.

--We need laws and means to enforce them because we are on earth, not in Heaven.

--You have to understand that the law means nothing. The fact that a group of people write words on paper does not change reality or human behavior.

Asked on 10/13/13, 11:58 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Definition of law:

1. the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision.

2. any written or positive rule or collection of rules prescribed under the authority of the state or nation, as by the people in its constitution. Compare bylaw, statute law.

3. the controlling influence of such rules; the condition of society brought about by their observance: maintaining law and order.

4 a system or collection of such rules.

5. the department of knowledge concerned with these rules; jurisprudence: to study law.

What is the purpose of having laws in our society today? The protection of life, liberty and property rights, not to control citizens. The law, in its purest altruistic sense, is to protect my rights from harm by you or anyone else and vice-a-versa.

We do not need laws to prevent people from going on a killing spree. We have laws against murder and last time I checked, these laws have not stopped anyone from killing. Murders occur for all kinds of reasons. The presence or absence of laws does not make murder more or less likely.

I disagree with your assertion that we need laws because we are on Earth not in Heaven. As Madison said in the Federalist Papers, "the more like angels we are the less laws we need" or something like that which gives rise to your thesis. That is false. We need laws because our society is ordered stupidly. There are lots of societies (indigenous tribes) - they have no legal system and no books of laws and no prisons. They seem to get along just fine without them. They do not need laws because there is little crime. Everyone looks out for one another and a stupid act of one could endanger the tribe as a whole. And any punishment would be either expulsion from the tribe or death. Expulsion from a tribe would lead to death.

So why do we need them? We do not organize ourselves into tribes but in huge cities. We are no longer connected to one another. Many of us do not even know or see our neighbor let alone know someone across town. When people lose the connection, they lose a part of their humanity and it then becomes far easier for people to commit crimes against one another. So we need laws, as I stated, to protect the rights to life, liberty and property of people from harm inflicted by other people

I would agree with you that laws do not change human behavior. If you believe in the Old Testament, Moses went up on Mt. Sinai and wrote a detailed list of laws/commandments (not just 10) for how to live. Even the Israelites could not comply with that. If you believe in the New Testament, Jesus tried to simplify this code of laws down to one very simple commandment to love another. If you think about it, this would encompass a whole range of crimes - if humans truly acted out of love, there would be no murder, theft, rate, arson or other offenses. However, even those who profess to be good Christians have no problem killing, torturing or imprisoning Muslims or anyone who does not share their faith (see the Inquisition and the Burning Times when Europe went after women for witchcraft). So this has not worked either.

Unfortunately, it would require a whole revamping of our society and a major shift in the way we think and how we do things to change. And this is not going to happen any time oon.

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Answered on 10/20/13, 10:24 pm

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