Welcome to the Philosophy Forums! If you are not a member, please join the forums now. It's completely free! If you are a member, please log in.

Should we obey government?

Have philosophical discussions about politics, law, and government.
Featured Article: Definition of Freedom - What Freedom Means to Me
  • Author
  • Message
Offline

cynicallyinsane

  • Posts: 119
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 3rd, 2007, 11:58 am

Should we obey government?

Post Number:#1  PostApril 20th, 2007, 9:43 pm

I don't see any reason why we obey the government so much. Why do we do it? Clearly if most of us didn't respect most laws, then they would have no power over us.

Did you know?

  • Once you join the forums and log in you will get to enjoy an ad-reduced experience. It's easy and completely free!

Offline
User avatar

pjkeeley

  • Posts: 694
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: April 10th, 2007, 8:41 am

Post Number:#2  PostApril 21st, 2007, 2:41 am

What are we saying when we ask ourselves why we obey government? Provided a government is lawful, we need only obey its laws. In a democratic society we can participate in government to the extent that we can elect or even become representatives with the power to effect laws and government policy. Ergo, we are only obeying what we (perhaps indirectly) have chosen for ourselves and likeminded others to obey.
Offline

cynicallyinsane

  • Posts: 119
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 3rd, 2007, 11:58 am

Post Number:#3  PostApril 21st, 2007, 10:16 pm

pjkeeley wrote:What are we saying when we ask ourselves why we obey government? Provided a government is lawful, we need only obey its laws. In a democratic society we can participate in government to the extent that we can elect or even become representatives with the power to effect laws and government policy. Ergo, we are only obeying what we (perhaps indirectly) have chosen for ourselves and likeminded others to obey.

Provided a government is lawful? A government is always lawful, because it makes the laws. The nazi government was lawful.
Offline

MyshiningOne

  • Posts: 203
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 7th, 2007, 9:51 pm

Post Number:#4  PostApril 21st, 2007, 11:11 pm

cynicallyinsane wrote:
pjkeeley wrote:What are we saying when we ask ourselves why we obey government? Provided a government is lawful, we need only obey its laws. In a democratic society we can participate in government to the extent that we can elect or even become representatives with the power to effect laws and government policy. Ergo, we are only obeying what we (perhaps indirectly) have chosen for ourselves and likeminded others to obey.

Provided a government is lawful? A government is always lawful, because it makes the laws. The nazi government was lawful.


Well, a person should obey laws as long as they
bring about good. The Nazi government was indeed
wrong, and they made laws that were wrong. However,
people were sometimes afraid to stand up to the Nazis
even though they knew the laws were wrong.
It's not what you know that makes
you smart, it's knowing what you don't know.
Offline

kyle22

  • Posts: 60
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: November 20th, 2007, 10:27 pm

Post Number:#5  PostDecember 6th, 2007, 9:01 pm

I think the only incentive you have to obey government is that governments will attack you if you disobey. They might arrest you and jail you. They might punish you or even murder you.
Offline

trid2bnrml

  • Posts: 4
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 8th, 2008, 8:41 am

Why do we obey laws?

Post Number:#6  PostMarch 8th, 2008, 9:22 am

It is programmed into us from birth, that we must belong somewhere, and that it is "normal" for us to seek the acceptance of our peers. I think we tend to obey laws to find a sense of "belonging", albeit a false sense, in that we have to be obedient (read compliant)in order to be accepted.

This control mechanism functions by making us reflexively police ourselves as well as others for group compliance.

This seems to me to be foundation for classism that effectively leads us to separate ourselves, and inherently see that as what is normal.

Lab mice run the maze to get to the rewards they believe they will find in the end---we run our maze because we are born in the middle of it and have nowhere else to go.
Offline

anarchyisbliss

  • Posts: 515
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: February 28th, 2008, 4:23 pm
  • Location: Maryland

Re: Should we obey government?

Post Number:#7  PostMarch 8th, 2008, 11:25 am

cynicallyinsane wrote:I don't see any reason why we obey the government so much. Why do we do it? Clearly if most of us didn't respect most laws, then they would have no power over us.



I agree with that statement but it follows the rules of mob psychology. If we were to send out a mass email telling me to just ignore a certain law, a large percentage of them would be worried about the consequences of breaking the rules and proceed not to break them. Then only a small percentage of people would ignore the law making it much easier for the government to dole out consequences to the minority. The only way it would work is if everyone agreed and followed through with ignoring the law, but it has happened before. When segregation was illegalized in school, a lot of schools just ignored the laws and continued to segregate until the military came in and forced integration.
"If there is hope, it lies in the proles." - George Orwell, 1984
Offline

vandsmith

  • Posts: 20
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 5th, 2008, 6:35 pm

Post Number:#8  PostMarch 8th, 2008, 12:47 pm

the only reason why we would obey a government is because what it says is law is in fact law. the analogy to the nazi regime is important.

hitler was germany's most popular leader - remember, during the depression (for the rest of the world) he turned that **** around, building railway, armed forces, infrastructure, etc, etc... the people said nothing because they had jobs, were well-fed, and their once great nation was again great. people could turn a blind eye to the ovens because it was easier than ending up there themselves. the nazis were extremely rational and scientific, the difference is that their ideas are so repugnant now that no one can believe they happened. they were rationalized people with a different world view. they were ruled by science, nationalism/patriotism, and discrimination - all of which we can observe in our "enlightened society."

we don't have to obey laws, especially if we feel them to be wrong. when we disobey, we are saying this law is unjust, and here is why... it cannot be disobedience for disobedience's sake, which is where many anarchists and social activists get mixed up, and why the left has lost credibility - you need to have alternatives you can place next to the status quo and you need to say why it's better.

but your last sentence is important "if most of us didn't respect most laws, they would have no power over us" exactly. the government cannot throw everyone in jail, but the problem is that people often follow the rules because they feel helpless or feel they can't effect change. they are wrong of course, and the worst offenders/supporters of the system(s) that hold them in place.
Offline
User avatar

Scott

Site Admin

  • Posts: 3634
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
  • Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic

Post Number:#9  PostMarch 8th, 2008, 5:29 pm

It is true to say that, "Clearly if most of us didn't respect most laws, then they would have no power over us." But it is not as simple as it seems.

For example, when two bank robbers run into a bank with a hundred people and tell everyone to get down on the ground, then we could say the same about the bank robbers' law mandating that the people get on the ground. Even with their guns, the bank robbers could not defeat a a hundred people in a bank if all the people resisted. But the bank robbers would shoot any person who starts to get insubordinate, and that would scare the others. I believe that that is why people tend to obey laws: Most people are afraid to start resisting, and. when anyone does start resisting, they are usually taken out and made into an example.

Let me also explain how I see laws come to be. Governments are often created and supported at first because the people believe that government is a so-called necessary evil. The masses generally believe that they need a centralized government to protect them from interpersonal acts of governance (e.g. rape, murder, etc.). They want the government to monopolize the use of offensive violence as to protect them from individuals. But the governments almost always tend to grow in power and scope. They get more and more involved in people's personal lives. And the governments tend to more and more favor one group of people in society at the expense of the rest. The "necessary evil" that was made to protect people from offensive violence and dominance becomes the very tool by which some people attack and dominate the others. The solution turns out to be worse than the original problem.

Except to avoid being punished by the government, I do not see why anyone person "should" obey the laws. (Granted, I try not to speak with normative morality anyway.)

I do know that almost all of my greatest heroes were criminals who got arrested and sometimes even executed by the state. Namely, consider Martin Luther King, Henry David Thoreau, Malcolm X, Jesus, Socrates, and Gandhi.

I find it most respectable when people choose to act without regard to what is illegal. I have the most respect for people who act in accordance with their own conscience and values. And it is that view that makes me appreciate Henry David Thoreau's statement, "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
Offline

trid2bnrml

  • Posts: 4
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 8th, 2008, 8:41 am

Post Number:#10  PostMarch 9th, 2008, 6:30 am

You guys all have great points, when blended together, could create a rational response to a highly variable situation. I was indeed assuming that the individuals would act responsibly. We know that isn't always the case, but there has to be a way that would work for everyone without the current mass incarceration epidemic.

I've often said that by removing all of the "inchoate" or "victimless" actions we now punish as crimes, and what are essentially "thought crimes", we would bring the prison population under control and avoid making criminals out of the majority of our populace.

If our laws make the most of us into criminals, perhaps we need to rethink that one issue and stop persecuting ourselves.

If you're not hurting anyone, or taking anything away from somebody else, why do we think we need to control those activities?

I enjoyed this exchange immensely, thanks!
Offline

briealeida

  • Posts: 2
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: March 20th, 2008, 11:46 am

Post Number:#11  PostMarch 20th, 2008, 12:02 pm

I agree fully with kyle22.
The source of legal obligation, for most, is (as John Austin says) the threat of sanction. If people who desired to rob could do so without the threat of being jailed, I think they would rob often.
Offline

Dreamshift

  • Posts: 63
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: June 25th, 2008, 1:42 am
  • Location: United States

Post Number:#12  PostJune 26th, 2008, 8:56 pm

I will be more theoretical in my understanding why we "obey" government than was previously done. We "obey" because we've agreed in a sense to do so. I agree that I shouldn't murder because I don't want the return of that. I agree that I won't steal other's property (ownership would be assumed in this case) and so the same won't be done to me. I obey the laws because I hope that others do the same. If, and their are, laws I wish not to live under--then I won't. And this has been true in the past: I cite most of the amendments of the United States Constitution (sorry if I assume your from such said nation). From the right to bare arms (take your interpretation as you will) to civil rights we have changed laws we didn't agree with. But we have to care about it, and a good amount of us must declare so, apathy gets us no where: and so a law might keep on going. The best way to not obey a law you don't agree with is to find others who don't agree with you and find ways to change it. If you don't agree with Gay Marrage, bring it up to the supreme court (agian, sorry if i'm assuming you are from the United States).
Offline

system-hater

  • Posts: 17
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: February 6th, 2009, 3:48 pm

Post Number:#13  PostFebruary 8th, 2009, 6:45 pm

This question is both rhetorical and relative.

Rhetorical, for the sake of implying that a government "enforces" obeidiance on a massive scale, influencing all walks of perspectives and ideas that would belong to anyone.

Relative, for the sake of implying that an individual assumes his own principles to clarify his or her world and surrounding environment, hence the answer to this question would consist of personal preferences.

However, we notice that a government is associated with laws and regulations by design. What promotes universal obediance in a thriving society of government is simply supplying the general populace with an earnest interst to secure morality and ostrasize immorality. The elements that may constitute immorality are merely the acts of malice or "taboo" behavior that would be deemed incomprehensible or "unhealthy" in the eyes of governing factions. It is also important to note that obediance from members of a society derive not only from "correct attitudes" but of permittance of individual ideas and beliefs by the government in charge-(this is especially important when it comes to sustaining a firm grasp of peoples psyche's). And we must also note that a rightous government consists of founding laws that are unquestionably nessesary for upholding human dignity and security, such as diciplining those who corrupt children, physically and psychologically. Or those who invent machines or psychological proponents for the purpose of controlling others-(marketing, reformers, computers, advertising, institutions for education or work, etc. )

although, the truism present in our current state of government is not as simple or acceptable as we have witnessed in the past. It is undisputable that we have crossed over into a more malicious and mendacious form of government as far as the technological advances and mass marketing venues are concered. Futhermore, the reach of political power has altered and transformed our intellectual state into mere putty for shaping and abstracting our thoughts and ideas into what is conveinient for the government. This reality is all to real and intractable.

obediance for the purpose of defining it, no longer can be defined. Our society has become rigid and controlled by industrial society to the point where obediance has now become a distant, reverie of something we once knew. Moreover, we see that behavior modification is taking a capricious turning point in its progress. Now we observe a vast amount of effort placed into the endeavor of creating "ideal behavior" especially in our children.

So in essence, we cannot obey the basics of government as long as we are forced to "act" in conjunction with technological-industrial prosperity.
Offline

theessentialform

  • Posts: 22
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: December 1st, 2007, 10:13 pm

Post Number:#14  PostFebruary 16th, 2009, 11:08 am

MyshiningOne wrote:
cynicallyinsane wrote:
pjkeeley wrote:What are we saying when we ask ourselves why we obey government? Provided a government is lawful, we need only obey its laws. In a democratic society we can participate in government to the extent that we can elect or even become representatives with the power to effect laws and government policy. Ergo, we are only obeying what we (perhaps indirectly) have chosen for ourselves and likeminded others to obey.

Provided a government is lawful? A government is always lawful, because it makes the laws. The nazi government was lawful.


Well, a person should obey laws as long as they
bring about good. The Nazi government was indeed
wrong, and they made laws that were wrong. However,
people were sometimes afraid to stand up to the Nazis
even though they knew the laws were wrong.
"On me let death wreck all his rage, I shall not long lie vanquished" Milton's Paradise Lost
Offline

theessentialform

  • Posts: 22
    ( View: All / In topic )

  • Joined: December 1st, 2007, 10:13 pm

Post Number:#15  PostFebruary 16th, 2009, 11:25 am

Scott wrote:Let me also explain how I see laws come to be. Governments are often created and supported at first because the people believe that government is a so-called necessary evil. The masses generally believe that they need a centralized government to protect them from interpersonal acts of governance (e.g. rape, murder, etc.).


In essence i believe this is the foundation of government, as Hobbes put it a social contract. This is basically us standing around with guns to each other's heads saying we won't fire if you won't, which is a grim picture, but more or less true.

So should we obey the government? I would yes, as long as they are acting in the interests of the MAJORITY of people. not simply my interest, because my interest might not be for the best. As Scott pointed out, many herioc men were considered insurgents, but they were acting for the best for the most people. When the Americans revolted, they were acting for the best of the people in the 13 Colonies. I would say this should be the only time a revolt is neccasary.

But now an interesting objection arises. what happens when, say the nazi's, are leaving the 'normal' germans alone and killing innocent jews? This is one danger of applying the theory too heavily, because 'your' people aren't being hurt.....
"On me let death wreck all his rage, I shall not long lie vanquished" Milton's Paradise Lost
Next

Return to Philosophy of Politics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Philosophy Book of the Month Updates

The January book of the month is The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Discuss it here or buy it here.

The February book of the month is Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene. Pick it up, read it and discuss it with us as a group!