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Friday, August 30, 2013

Law vs. "Might Makes Right"

Suppose two people have a dispute and fail to reach a compromise. If there is a legal system where they live, they can go to court and let a judge decide. If the losing side fails to do what the judge orders, the police & others will see that it is enforced. This enforcement can include fines, imprisonment, and possibly injury or death depending on how vigorously the loser resists.

Take the same situation in a place that has no legal system. If two people have a dispute and fail to reach a compromise, they and their allies will fight it out until the weaker side gives up.

In both cases, might makes right. Although courts involve less bloodshed than feuding, the principle in both is the same. Courts are just a way to settle disputes with as little violence as possible. Courts aren't morally superior, just more efficient.

In a similar way, so many things get decided on the basis of popularity. Every election, Supreme Court decision, jury verdict, Nobel Prize, most wars- all were decided on the basis of which side had more supporters.

But if popularity is taken as the sole measure of what is right and wrong, this leads to the absurd idea that what is right merely depends on which side is the most popular.

This is the reason why it's important to find principles which are always true. If the principles on which the laws are based are right, the laws will be right. Otherwise, all that's left is might makes right.

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