Why Do People Break the Law: Persuasive Essay

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Since time immemorial, laws have been used to govern small communities as well as large countries. Typically, they are made in relation to human political communities, attitudes, practices, and values. They are expected to be followed and are generally viewed as a way to maintain specific moral codes of society. However, several people believe that there is morality in breaking the law, especially notable historical figures such as Plato and Martin Luther King Jr. King, one of the many black leaders who fought for freedom, makes an argument on the morality in breaking unjust laws in an exemplary manner. On the other hand, Plato’s Crito argues the morality of breaking the law using an impeccable dialogue between Socrates and Crito, who have different and realistic views on the matter. Admittedly, rules may be made to govern and keep peace in a society, but when the civil law is discriminative or unjust, it is morally permissible to break it.

Martin Luther King Jr. published a letter, “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,' which explained his stand on civil disobedience. He had been arrested for conducting mass public demonstrations, which was against Alabama law. His letter is one of the most inspiring documents in America, which showed tremendous courage and defense of his stand on civil disobedience. While in jail, King read a letter that had been published in a newspaper, criticizing demonstrations and referring to them as imprudent. He wrote his letter in response to the newspaper letter, where he argues that the people protesting had every right to fight for justice. King’s main argument was that protests against racism were justified since they were fighting against unjust ordinances and laws. He made sure to explain why he thought it was morally right to break civil law.

In his letter, King deals with the question of how activists can intentionally break the law while fighting for the adaptation of racially equal laws. He answers his question by pointing out that there are right laws, but others are wrong. King writes that unjust laws are those that treat people like animals or disrespect their humanity and, thus, should not be obeyed. They are laws that are made by the majority to govern the minority and keep them in a less dignified manner. He supports his argument by giving an example of how black people in the South were prohibited from voting for laws that clearly affected them gravely. Besides, he mentions that he was not an anarchist since he breaks laws knowing the exact penalties. In fact, he wrote that he and his fellow demonstrators actually had the highest respect for the law, since they were attempting to make them better. In further support of his argument, he points out that Hitler caused a lot of pain in the world in a very legal way. Also, he declared that he would have illegally aided the escape of Jews if he was in Germany. Thus, he concludes that laws are not always right and can be broken if they are unjust.

On the other hand, Plato’s Crito engages in an argument about whether breaking unjust laws is morally right through a dialogue between Socrates and Crito. Socrates is convicted of mortifying the youth and impiety with his public philosophizing, which was against the gods of the city. He denied the charges but claimed that his arrest was for the good of the law in Athens. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. Crito shows up in Socrates' cell, where they have a dialogue about justice and injustice and a suitable way to respond to injustice. Crito intends to break out Socrates, but he refuses the offer. Subsequently, they begin a conversation where they argue what they believe about the right thing to do in that situation.

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Crito makes several arguments as to why Socrates should take up his offer to escape. To begin with, he explains that if he were to be executed, his friends would gain a bad reputation for not having tried to save him. Crito then tries to make his point from an ethical point of view by explaining how Socrates would be assisting his enemies, which was a wrong thing to do as well as leaving his sons fatherless. Socrates responds by pointing out that public opinion is not essential, and they only listen to the wise and experts. They should only be concerned with being morally upright. Additionally, he believed that it would be unjust for him to break the laws of Athens, to which he was bound. Individuals should care about what is actually just, rather than what many people think is just. He compared breaking the law to a child striking a parent. As for helping his enemies do unjust deeds, he said that if he were to behave himself unjustly, he would be giving them what they want. Socrates argued that the right thing to do was to convince the law keepers to release him since being treated unjustly did not warrant him being unjust. In the end, Crito is entirely persuaded by Socrates' argument.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is very consistent with his argument. He provides solid reasons as well as real historical events to prove that laws are not always right and that it is morally acceptable to break the unjust ones. In the end, King gives an excellent reason for accepting his conclusions by explaining that Hitler caused misery and did it through the law. Thus, he proves that rules are not always right. His arguments are very compelling because he provides actual facts such as black people not being allowed to vote. He makes a reasonable point when he says laws that keep people in misery are unjust and should not be followed. However, he uses the either/or logical fallacy when he talks about extremists for justice. He mentions that it is essential to promote justice because notable figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and even Jesus Christ were extremists for justice. King assumes that people will side with his argument since famous people are on his side.

On the other hand, Socrates' argument is weak, despite his having convinced Crito. First, the state has made an unjust ruling and Socrates reasons he does not want to teach lawless behavior, while the Athens system itself is already unfair. Instead, he teaches people not to stand up for themselves when being discriminated a. Either way, it is wrong at the end of the day. Crito’s argument, however, is reasonable. He claims that if Socrates does not escape, he will be promoting unjust laws in Athens, which is true. Doing nothing in the face of discrimination only promotes further injustice in society. Notably, Socrates commits the Ad Populum Fallacy by appealing to the opinion of the many. He sets up his argument with what many people would think.

In my opinion, it is very morally permissible to break the law in cases where it is wrong or unjust. Blindly following every rule can rapidly promote discrimination and unfair treatment of some groups. Not necessarily everyone has the opportunity to participate in law-making, and thus some rights can easily be infringed in the process. Therefore, if people feel like the law is not fair or is oppressing them, they have the moral obligation to make sure that prejudice and oppression do not endure in society. This is consistent with King’s opinions, which suggest that laws causing misery and subjugation in a society should not be obeyed. Indeed, if people were to follow all rules blindly because they are laws, communities would never develop or improve with the changing times.

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Why Do People Break the Law: Persuasive Essay. (2023, August 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-do-people-break-the-law-persuasive-essay/
“Why Do People Break the Law: Persuasive Essay.” Edubirdie, 29 Aug. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/why-do-people-break-the-law-persuasive-essay/
Why Do People Break the Law: Persuasive Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-do-people-break-the-law-persuasive-essay/> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
Why Do People Break the Law: Persuasive Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Aug 29 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-do-people-break-the-law-persuasive-essay/
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