Oh No! It’s The PoPo: Moral Laws Are Less Important Than People

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June 28, 2013 by Liberty

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Petr Kratochvil

I read a book written by a police officer about his life. The police officer told a little story that I think we could all relate to. He was in his civilian clothes and car when he drove by a police officer trying to catch speeders. The police car pulled out after him and the off-duty cop looked in the mirror and thought, “What’s that asshole want?”

Yes. Even police officers hate police officers.

People generally see police officers in one of two ways. The first way is the one people are taught in school. Cops are good people that risk their lives everyday to stop bad people. The second is that they’re just kids that got bullied that now end up bullying other people legally.

Everyone can generally understand that some cops are good and some cops are bad but most people have a natural assumption one way or the other in particular situations. (Of course, if they’re pulling you over, they’re the damn kids that became the bullies.)

I feel like discussions of police officers often end up obscuring the reality of the situation.

Bad Cop. No Donut.

The cop lovers give cops so much benefit of the doubt that their is virtually nothing that can be done wrong. The statistics of police brutality cases is alarming. Even if you pretend that the statistics include everything bad that cops do, there is still plenty of room to be worried.

Cop lovers are usually willing to dismiss immoral but legal police activities as well. In fact, if a cop catches a peaceful drug dealer, they often say police have the responsibility of arresting them. If the cop was to say, “That law is unconstitutional and I swore to protect the constitution,” then many would even say the cop should be fired.

The believe that legal takes priority over moral is absurd. (Insert concentration camp example here)

On top of all that, I feel like the escalated situations that cops create need to be considered. Imagine a person stole an old lady’s purse. A cop watches the whole situation and starts to chase the guy. The guy sees the cop and reaches for his pocket. The cop pulls his gun and shoots him. Is that an ethical shooting?

I don’t know but I do know the cop is sometimes the first one to pull the trigger and is often the one to turn a minimum violence situation into a maximum violence one. Compare 100 bucks in the woman’s purse to a man getting killed. These questionable situations are actually the majority of decisions made by police. (No I’m not saying whether or not they decided wrong. It’s often an impossible decision.)

The natural tendency is for people to assume the police officer is the one that’s right. That makes it a rather unfair situation for the other person.

Good Cop. Free Donut.

Not everything that police officers do is bad.

Despite my strong stance about a number of issues, I’m willing to accept the fact that some are doing good things some of the time. They’re doing things that I would support (or at the very least not fight against) in a free market world.

If a man is taking hostages or repeatedly killing people then I’m all for excessive force. While someday it would be nice to have an effective means of ending it peacefully, sometimes those solutions just aren’t practical or possible.

While I may not support the funding mechanism, I do support certain specific actions in specific cases.

Most people would agree with that.

This is where most people go wrong.

The LAW

Most people support a specific set of laws to help define what is right or wrong. Whenever a cop does something that’s legal but unethical people believe that a new law should be put in place to help combat the cop from doing that unethical thing. Then, of course, the criminals take advantage of it, or the cops find another way around being ethical. At that point, new laws need to be created.

People want to create a specific set of laws to define what is right and wrong in every single possible situation but it’s absolutely impossible.

No set of laws can keep up with people’s ability to create ways to beat it. Like anything, when you put a rule in place, the problem usually just migrates to a new situation.

If you try to stop rich individuals from avoiding taxes by closing a loophole you still won’t get the tax money from the rich individuals. That’s because they were intentionally using the loophole in the first place. They’re just going to find a new one. The people you will catch are probably the least smart and least rich among them.

It’s all just a silly waste of time.

People Are The Law

Laws cannot be set by any specific set of rules and be powerful enough for every situation. That being the case, people need to be involved. (In fact, the only reason we try to make “laws” is because people are involved. Animals don’t need laws and they understand this instinctively.)

People design laws off of moral beliefs. Moral beliefs aren’t static or well-defined. Moral beliefs are often designed from specific situations. For example:

A friend got killed by another friend. You don’t like that so you make a law that you will lock people up that kill someone. A friend of yours kills someone in self-defense. You have two options: Lock up the killer and follow your law or don’t lock them and follow your moral belief that they’re ethical in that situation. In the future you might just make a new law to prevent that but you’re stuck with the same problem every layer of legality.

That means laws are just a cheap knock-off of these moral beliefs. They’re less effective at stopping truly unethical behavior and more effective at…

Who Loves The Law?

The people that benefit most from the law are the people that would have been punished without the laws. When law takes over, people don’t have the choice of picking their own punishment for people that wrong them.

When a killer kills in America, he’s safer than if he killed in a less government enforced area. If the killer is hunted down and killed as punishment the vigilante will go to jail. If the killer is caught, there is virtually no chance that the killer will get killed. There is virtually no chance the killer will go hungry. There is virtually no chance for the killer to face any serious retribution for his actions. Assuming he’s found guilty, the worst he can usually expect is free room and board with people that share his preference for murder.

While not every free market punishment would be accurate and fair, every legal punishment isn’t fair either. The law just magnifies the human error by not giving a choice.

It doesn’t matter how perfectly we define any set of rules for any set of officers to follow. There will never be a way to turn legality into morality. Even morality has rough edges and situations that people would need to debate about.

There is no way to simplify morality or the enforcement of morality to something that can be decided fairly every time.

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4 thoughts on “Oh No! It’s The PoPo: Moral Laws Are Less Important Than People

  1. It’s absurd that we live in a society, country, world which believes in the law more than the ethics which the law attempted to capture in the first place. The ridiculousness of it all when you truly think about it is astounding. I keep thinking of my high school vice principal telling me “because those are the rules!” when I asked basic questions on a number of rules.

  2. James E Newton says:

    I was in a wreck less than a month ago. The other car driver that hit me went to work at a pizza parlor. Anyway I called a hit and run on to the police headquarters. An officer arrived took little information down, when he came back he read my rights. Little does he know that i’m a college student. My call came in 8 min before the pizza guys. He tried to get me to be immoral (lie). I would not. I also have more disrespect for the law and what they stand for.

  3. […] Oh No! It’s The PoPo: Moral Laws Are Less Important Than People […]

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