Ethics and law – there is an interesting relationship.
An immediate response to the question in the title of this article would probably be “NO”! Most citizens know that laws are created for the smooth and orderly conduct of human affairs. But what is a law is past that itself requires an unethical act. Let’s say a law is past that says that one must tell the authorities if you are hiding a person a particular religion. You know that if the person is caught they will be executed merely because of their religion. Should one obey that law? Would it not be ethical to disobey that law?
What if a law is passed by Parliament that says all citizens will surrender any gold and silver coins they have in their possession to the nearest bank. If a citizen does not surrender his/her gold and silver by 31st March, there is a fine of £10,000 and two years in jail. The law is passed because the country is bankrupt and cannot meet its bills and society as we know it will collapse!!! Would it be unethical to disobey that law?
Say your wife is just about to give birth in the back of your car on the way to the hospital. Would it be unethical to break two laws … going through a red traffic light and going 60 mph in a 40 mph zone?
Striving to answer these questions poses some interesting insights. For example, if one says “no” it is not unethical – why is that so. If you answer “yes” , then in rare instances it is okay to break the law. However, it could be that breaking the law is unethical, but then it is okay to be unethical. But that conclusion cannot hold. By definition, being unethical is never okay, so we are forced into a decision one way of the other!