Thursday, September 15, 2005

Laws and Punishment

Indeed for a society to function properly there must be repercussions for every action, be it for better or for worse. The function of rules and codes of conduct allow society to function properly as it enforces the justice dictated by the rulers. While anarchy appeals to some, with a society that doesn’t enforce punishments, the benefit for all of society is slim to none. It becomes clear that the most fundamental aspect is the laws and enforcement of laws, otherwise a government cannot function and its people are left to the whims of any thug that comes along.
As is clear with any functioning society there are levels of rules that are in place that protect the interests of the polis. This set of laws allows society to function because of several reasons, the most important is that it puts limits on the activities of the people by declaring what is acceptable and what clearly is not. Thus people will not have to deal with the variables of what other people are comfortable with, instead it is what society itself has deemed as comfortable, as what society has decided is acceptable. This allows for daily activity to flow in a regular manner. But what are laws that have no basis or substance behind them? Are they merely philosophies devised to adhere to if one agrees with the philosopher? Indeed without reprications laws will not be adhered to except by those who are truly just and who cannot be corrupted when disregard for laws happens around them.
A recent example of the difference with properly functioning society with laws has the codes dissolve comes with the recent Hurricane Katrina. The society in South was working fine, the commerce function and the population remained complaint with laws and respect for basic rights of their fellow neighbor. Following the disruption of police and law officials the codes that were in place were disregarded as people looted their neighbors and shot at government officials.
This points to the fact that when there are no consequences or perhaps when there are not people who can enforce consequences, small but significant groups of people disregard the basic laws and codes and effect the property and rights of the entire population.
The Republic of Plato also looks at the disruption of a just man in the story of the rings of Gyges. Upon becoming invisible, there were no repercussions to any of his actions and so he raped the queen and killed the king and thus took over power. Is this what a healthy society should have? By far not this instability cannot be looked as a benefit for anyone except the unjust man who feels that there is nothing wrong with his actions, its for his benefit so who cares.
The reason that laws and punishments must be in place is from the human nature of selfish, self-propelled desires, that is thinking for the benefit of only ourselves and not looking at the common good for all people. Thus we must have reasons to act for the common good of all people. While incentives or a pat on the back may indeed be enough for some, the vast majority of people are not equipped to function in this manner and unjust actions pour out of them, even when they mean no harm from it. Thus the ideas of justice to be served as rules and punishments for infractions allows the society to function over a long period for the overall benefit of the entire population.

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