Is breaking the law ever acceptable?

         According to Ayn Rand, a Russian American Philosopher in the twentieth century, “One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” Indeed, the government passes an inordinate number of laws such that it is grinding to avoid committing crimes at all. Some may argue that breaking the law should be equivalent to committing a crime, which is considered immoral and intolerable. However, looking to the quote by Rand, laws are dictated by governments, who are humans; who have tendencies of erring; who may not have passed down completely righteous or practical laws to begin with. Also, looking to the Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens shipwreck case of cannibalism and one may just understand the concept that not every situation has a crystal clear answer of either being ethically right or wrong even in the eyes of the law. The law sets the rules, but not always morality. As a result, instances where individuals are forced to commit theft because of a necessity, where people resort to suicide because of their lives’ devastation or continual suffering, where heroes take up the courage to engage in civil disobedience for their moral standing, should not be ridiculed but be sympathised with.

      Some may say that breaking the law by committing any sort of petty crime should always be intolerable as it is against the law. Laws are passed by the government for a reason, with good intentions for the welfare of the nation most of the time. If one commits any crime, whether small or large scale, that person should be punished based on a lawful reasoning. An instance of a petty crime would be theft, which is unlawful because it is going against the consent of the other party who owns the property. To steal is to take an object without any permission from the owner and without any intention of returning item, to pass off as one’s own, which is against the law. The reason behind the law: to promote democracy. People who paid for an item should possess the item; individuals who worked hard enough for the money to purchase an item deserves to possess that item. However, based on moral reasoning, stealing to satisfy necessity may be considered rational, only if the act of stealing does not negatively affect the other party. When a person is ravenous and penniless, he will have to choose theft over abiding by the law in order to save his own life. Similarly, impoverished Maricel Dela Cruz was forced to steal milk from a grocery store to feed her starving baby in San Carlos City, the Philippines. Oftentimes, people believe that human lives are superior to the law; that morality comes above the law, especially when they are put into the positions of the destitute themselves. Moreover, a grocery store is likely able to afford another can of milk powder easily, a lost can of milk powder will not make a significant difference to the business success of the store. A material object of necessity like nourishment can often be obtained again with the use of money, but a human life will be gone forever once it is gone. With this, if committing a petty crime is said to be for the greater good of saving a human life, it can then be justifiable.

      Some may say that breaking the law by taking one’s life is immoral and unacceptable. Taking one’s life can be in the form of engaging in euthanasia or abortion, which is not only against religiosity as it is not part of natural occurrences, but also brings up issues of murder and immorality. As a human life is significant to the economy and the community, the termination of it is being controlled not only by the individual but also by the physicians, the government, and even the religious leaders. There is the controversy that potential lives, which was able to bring positivity and change into the world, may be wasted away if one’s life is taken intentionally. Euthanasia or abortion may cost the world the next Steve Jobs, the next Wolfgang Mozart, or the next Sim Wong Hoo, impeding mankind from experiencing the possible fruits of their potential successes. Nonetheless, in situations where the taking of one’s life is less painful than the continual survival of that person, Euthanasia and abortion may be embraced. Euthanasia should be embraced with respect to terminally ill individuals. Individuals who no longer have the will to live, who are suffering immense amounts of pain, and who are in the last stages of their lives, should be given the authority to make a life and death decision. Without the will to live, a person will no longer have any purposes nor desires left in life, and will not be able to actively make positive changes to his environment, nor do anything other than thinking of the end of his life. In this case, for the economy and community, losing a life as such will not make a difference as compared to keeping the life without a will to live. Moreover, death will be able to help a person with chronic pain leave the world without experiencing additional physical or mental sufferings in this world. As a result, a good deed will be done to these persons in death, without costing the economy or society any great losses as compared to if these persons were to merely survive. In year 2000, Chantal Sébire was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that causes disfiguration to her body and face. Wishing to not take the risks of medications or surgery, Sébire opted for her right for assisted suicide. When denied that right, she chose to commit suicide via toxic ingestion. This true story depicts the inability of the law in controlling the endpoints of people intending to die. Since the law is unable to dictate a person’s right to pass on, the law should instead empathise with the persons who chose death over life, that they had their reasons for making such deathly drastic decisions, and respect their decisions. Each human controls his own body, and the body essentially belong to him, and for him to decide what he wishes of his fate. Therefore, the breaking of the law by taking of one’s life in the form of Euthanasia should be embraced in situations where people are suffering terminal illnesses.


         On the other hand, many people may posit that the taking away of a life of an unborn child is an act of murder and an unjustifiable crime, especially in countries that do not legalise abortion. Merely not fully formed, fetuses are living beings like anybody else. Humans began as fetuses in their mothers’ wombs. Based on the video of an abortion graphically described by Carly Florida, the fetus continued to show signs of life outside of the womb through movement, with the presence of a beating heart and kicking legs. Similarly, many abortions show instances as such, causing the majority of the public to take a stand to say that abortion, or the murder of physically small but living fellow human beings, is unjust and unacceptable to the potential future lives. However, abortions may be desirable for the whole in cases where the costs of bearing the child is greater than its benefits reaped to the family or the society. If having another child born into this world makes people’s lives worse than before, in the case of less well-to-do families or serious health complications with the mother, taking away the life of that child would be the sensible thing to do, maximising the overall welfare of society based on utilitarianism, albeit being illegal. If children are born into families with less financial stability, they are likely to become a burden to their families and the economy. If a child is born at the expense of their mother’s life, more people will grieve for the mother as compared to the unborn child due to years of interactions and being on this earth. A family is less likely to function as well in the absence of a mother-figure. Moreover, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, fetuses are very unlikely to feel any pain. Thus, fetuses should not die agonising deaths during the abortions, further easing the moral debate on abortion as an unacceptable and impermissible crime of murder. Henceforth, even though abortions are still illegal in certain countries, they may be justifiable if the costs of bearing the child outweighs its benefits.


         Some may say that going against the law in any form should be impermissible. Civil disobedience, or the active refusal to obey certain laws of a government, is illegal. Laws have been enacted by the government for a reason, be it known or unknown. Nevertheless, if the law is unjust, it is just to go against it. Although governments are supposedly elected for the purpose of serving the people, governments consist of humans who oftentimes care most for the overall economy and financial benefits more than the welfare of their citizens. So, if a law diminishes the ability of people to live their lives, it should be gone against. In 2014, Arnold Abbott was arrested and given a warning for going against the law in feeding the homeless. In helping the homeless, Abbott did nothing wrong in ethical terms, but made a moral effort to act on the injustices of society in not providing sufficient for the homeless for survival. Instead of being arrested for breaking the law, he should have been celebrated with for helping those in need. In this case, the law is unreasonable in making mass feedings an unlawful action. Similarly, when laws oppress the welfare of citizens, and breaking the law does good instead of evil, civil disobedience should be employed, and breaking the law is justifiable.


         All in all, the act of breaking the law should be embraced in situations where it is moral to do so. When a person is struggling to survive, committing a petty theft to survive may be justifiable. When a person is suffering from a terminal illness, Euthanasia should be embraced if he has lost his will to live. When a person does not have the means of bearing a child, abortion is acceptable for the greater good of the whole. When a law is unfair, civil disobedience should be desirable. Breaking the law is merely an action, but when it’s for the greater good, it is a brave act of morality.


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