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The Law vs. Ethics -- A Discussion Worth Having

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posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 11:17 AM
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We often hear our national politicians saying things like "I acted within the law" or "He violated no laws." We heard it from Obama (and the Right) as justification for the NDAA and drone attacks. We hear it from the Romneys about their tax returns -- "We've been completely transparent with what the law requires."

But what about ethics? I contend that laws are there to set to very edge of what is acceptable, but that edge, to me, might be far beyond what's ethical.

For instance, Ron Paul, whether you like him or not, I think can be justly labeled a man driven by an ethical code. I further think most of us do not need a law to tell us not to murder someone, not to steal from another. Most of know right from wrong.

In another great example, George Romney (MItt's dad) was considered a man of high ethics. He set the modern standard for release of tax returns, going far beyond what the law required believing it the ethical thing to do. In fact, research has shown that George Romney paid far more taxes than the law required of him, thinking that taking advantage of every politically driven legal loop hole created by special interests and codified into law was unethical. Compare that to his son, who is famous for pushing the legal edge in his pursuit to exploit every possible loop hole.

The topic is very relevant also to the big banks, big CEO pay relative to worker pay, vulture capitalism vs. productive capitalism, law enforcement behavior ("Gee, sorry we killed your dog or shot your husband when we crashed down your door at 2AM by mistake. We followed all protocol and the law.")

How many of you need strict laws to guide your actions? How many of you care about ethics when it comes to whom you'll vote? What do you teach your kids -- to let the law guide their behavior or what you know to be right vs. wrong?

Note: I am trying to keep morality out of this, as I believe morality emerges from religious tenets and I do not think one needs religion to separate right from wrong, ethical from unethical.




posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 11:47 AM
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I knew a professor who taught at Harvard in the late 70's and early 80's. He said they had an ethics class at Harvard, the gist of the class was: if it isn't against the law then you can do it - everyone passed it with an A.

In our society, the world of personal accountability was sacrificed for the convenience of law based accountability. You no longer check your soul for your moral and ethical compass, you check a law and hope that it is spelled out for you.

An ethical sense of self is hard to teach, it requires effort. A lawful sense of self is easy to teach, the first time a child does something wrong you point to the law and then punish them, they learn quickly that following the laws as they are written will be safe, much safer then following their on ethical sense, which the will quickly drop development of in favor of the spelled out rules.

Ethical self requires self reflection, and few people actually have a true sense of the process of self reflection. Law abiding self just requires you believe in the power of the punishment for violating the law. Oddly enough it doesn't require you know the law, how can you know the millions and millions of laws that are not absolutes but all subject to interpretation?



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 12:02 PM
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reply to post by crankyoldman
 


That's an interesting theory and I can some truth in it. I see an "end-justifies-the-means" mentality that even goes further than the law. In other words, what I see happening is that ethics are now so missing from American society that even violating the law is not a violation of the law if one is not caught. Without an ethical compass, our emphasis becomes, "How can we get away with it?" and especially, "If we have plausible deniability," we can violate the spirit of the law (never mind ethics at all) even in public. I believe the latter to be the case with voter ID laws. We all know their purpose, because only one side is proposing them using an argument about fraud that is both provably false and were it even true, grossly out of proportion with any reality -- i.e. to them 100 case of voter fraud (which have not happened even) are justification enough to try to defraud hundreds of thousands of voters of their most fundamental right, the right to vote.

We all KNOW the purpose of these laws, even leading Right wing officials have admitted it (the PA leader of the State House), but our lack of ethics allows what is a blatant attack on the Constitution to occur without batting an eye.



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 12:03 PM
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Originally posted by pajoly
Note: I am trying to keep morality out of this, as I believe morality emerges from religious tenets and I do not think one needs religion to separate right from wrong, ethical from unethical.


In my opinion ethics is how a person balances his or her personal morals with the values of society, so I think it is necessary to talk about both morals and laws when discussing ethics.

I agree that organized religion is not necessary to distinguish between "right" and "wrong," but I think there is something spiritual and/or metaphysical involved in that distinction, which results in a person's morals. Of course some people come to the conclusion that there is no such distinction, which is why society needs laws.

On a side note this is one discrepancy that I have with Ron Paul; he says we should not legislate morality, but in my opinion all laws are legislated morality; law distinguishes between what is right and what is wrong just as morals do. Thus it seems Ron Paul's rhetoric implies that we should have no laws, and I disagree.

Until everyone shares the same moral distinctions, society will need laws, and individuals will need ethics to determine when to follow the law and when to follow morals.



How many of you need strict laws to guide your actions? How many of you care about ethics when it comes to whom you'll vote? What do you teach your kids -- to let the law guide their behavior or what you know to be right vs. wrong?


My ethics almost exclusively follow my own moral code, which is much more strict than the law, though there are some instances where my ethics are actually contrary to the law. In those instances I am happy to face the consequences of following my morals rather than the law.



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 12:18 PM
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reply to post by pajoly
 


Good points you make, pajoly.

Personally, I see ethics as being defined as what one decides to do (and does) when no one is looking and morals being more concerned only with what others actually see you do.

In other words:
ethics is about inner private/individual thought determining personal action and
morals is about the thoughts of others influencing personal action.

So, ethics has no apparent *reward* in this increasingly instant-gratification-seeking world...or maybe I should say society. If it isn't going to pump you up in the eyes of your peers...or reap some sort of materialistic bounty...better if both, right?....but otherwise...why bother? seems to be the attitude more and more.

Morals change with social norms and mores but ethics are more like a backbone...and if they are what a person's character is developed upon, they will actually have a backbone.


As for me, personally, I know right from wrong without question. I have rarely chosen wrong deliberately even in my younger years...ultimately I know I WILL have TO LIVE WITH the consequences of every decision I make. I guess that is personal accountability. The laws that are made do not define my sense of right and wrong but rather my conscience. I like a clean one. The gains may not be apparent but they are permanent and no small true reward. On the outside, though, who could tell?

I'd never win an election for even the most piddly public office, I know that for sure.



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 12:20 PM
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reply to post by wagnificent
 


Good post and I tend to agree an try to imprint my ethics and personal rules about how one should conduct oneself in a civil society. I try not to impress upon them my spiritually-driven morals, but that's hard not too and I often fail.

So does any of your ethical code inform your voting? Or is it most ethical to not vote at all if all running grossly violate your code or is it most ethical to pick the best of the worst?



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 01:17 PM
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Originally posted by pajoly
reply to post by wagnificent
 


So does any of your ethical code inform your voting? Or is it most ethical to not vote at all if all running grossly violate your code or is it most ethical to pick the best of the worst?


Yes my ethical code informs my voting significantly. For instance when I vote, I vote for the candidate that I truly believe will do a good job, and I do my research and check voting records, etc. I think voting is a responsibility, so refusing to vote is irresponsible in my opinion. That's not to say that I will pick the lesser of two evils, though. In my experience there has always been a candidate who I believed would do a good job, but they generally do not get the publicity that democrats and republicans get.

I will probably vote for Ron Paul in this election (hopefully as the republican candidate). Though I disagree with Ron Paul on some minor details, I still support him because I am impressed with the consistency of his rhetoric and voting record.



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 01:23 PM
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reply to post by queenannie38
 


Good contribution, thanks. I have always loved that "character" definition that you assign to ethics: "good character is doing the right thing when no one is looking." My kids hear this constantly. Three out of the four follow it well. The fourth worries me to no end; she'll do anything if she thinks she can get away with it. When caught, she'll comfortably, yet brazenly lie and lie some more to try to get of it. My wife and struggle with how do we instill ethics into this kid. Your post gives some food for thought.

edit on 16-8-2012 by pajoly because: sp



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 01:54 PM
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reply to post by pajoly
 




A law can not feel anything. A law has no emotional feelings, no morals or ethics. Only people have feelings and know morals and ethics.
Laws are based on moral values and moral principles. But today we see more and more laws being formed without the consent of the people. Today we see elected authority create laws on our behalf. That is immoral, because these laws, these agreements are formed without our consent.

No second or third party have the right to create a contract/law on our behalf without our consent. But this is not a big issue for the authority, because the authority have a law enforcement tool to force us to comply to the law/contract.



posted on Aug, 16 2012 @ 02:07 PM
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To keep folks on track for the discussion I suggest you understand what a law is.

people think that law are in place to curb behavior, provide punishment to deter people from doing things they should not do in a civilized society. That isn't true at all, not even close.

Since you cannot know all the laws, even worse, few if any can interpret what a law means, and no human is schooled in the millions of laws that regulate their world, it is impossible to connect a law with curbing behavior. Drug laws demonstrate this, people know having drugs or selling drugs is "illegal" yet is does nothing to stop it at all. Layers break laws all the time, even their own procedural laws. So laws don't curb behavior, that is the cover story sold to people who want laws to protect them. Laws don't protect anyone, laws are used AFTER the fact to provide remedy - a way to "legally" take money away from those who want to get money for simply pointing to law instead of providing value to our society.

I could go into the common law verses maritime law issues, but that would take forever. Simply stated, common law is personal ethic law, we do what's right. Maritime law, which is what we live under, is banking law - remedy law, and the laws are simply there to create excuses for remedy.

If laws are to exist in place of morality, then everyone must know every law and every law should not be subject to the endless parsing of words and meanings, the law should be simple fact. The common law fact is, be fair, do not harm another or impede them, provide remedy if an action is deemed to have harmed another, a remedy based on reality, not statutes.



posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 12:03 PM
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reply to post by pajoly
 


As does yours! It makes me wonder if it is something we learn or is inborn or a combination of both.
Good luck with your challenge in regard to your daughter!

Example is the best teacher, imo...but since you are providing that, I have to wonder if there is something else we aren't aware of?



posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 12:05 PM
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reply to post by crankyoldman
 


Good points.

It begs the question, I think, that if most people had ethics on which they based their actions and decisions...would there be no more excuse for the false attempts to control through laws?

We wouldn't need any law if we all acted on what we knew was right when no one was looking...if we did right simply because it is the right thing to do and did not seek a reward of any kind for doing right.



posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 01:15 PM
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Originally posted by queenannie38
reply to post by crankyoldman
 


Good points.

It begs the question, I think, that if most people had ethics on which they based their actions and decisions...would there be no more excuse for the false attempts to control through laws?

We wouldn't need any law if we all acted on what we knew was right when no one was looking...if we did right simply because it is the right thing to do and did not seek a reward of any kind for doing right.


Yes, for the most part. But what you suggest has been demonized by the term "anarchy." Our world is not one of unity, all for the greater good of all. What we live in is a world where there is a kind of greater good, but that primarily uses the legal fiction of the "state" as the greater good focal point. So, really, in essence we are a dog eat dog world, as such, common morality is hard to come by as it serves a few to makes sure there is not one. Given our world today, it is so easy to simply insert a morality distortion - you see it right now with the Martin shooting, as this is being used to insert the insert some totally bizarre morality that states it alright to kill someone if you are attacked, or think you are, unless your motivation is racial, which changes the entire moral framework of the matter. We have an ages old one that states the devotion to god by the muslim folks is morally wrong when compared to the devotion to god by the christians and within those large groups we have fracture groups with their own moral systems. Truly silly, what's best for the greater good of all - not the group, but all as individuals would be without any problems at all.



posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 04:16 PM
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reply to post by crankyoldman
 


Yes...true anarchy requires self-governing individuals.

I see we are on the same page!



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