Reverence For The Law

Scott Farrell comments:

Mr. Josephson offers some excellent insights on the value of justice in this essay. His point is well taken — a knight in shining armor doesn’t abide by every little rule out of blind obedience, but because he or she understands the erosion of the social fabric which occurs when laws are trivialized. A link to more of Mr. Josephson’s articles can be found below.


A few years ago, I met a newly appointed president of a prestigious liberal arts college. Earlier in the day, I had chided an audience of educators about using radar detectors to get away with speeding, and she took me to task, saying I was trivializing ethics.

As a former law school dean, she said many laws are not intended to be strictly followed. So she not only had a radar detector but she saw nothing wrong with treating a red light as if it were simply a stop sign when she drives at night and there’s very little traffic. After pausing for a moment, if it appears safe, she drives through—treating the red light as if it were only a suggestion.

When I offered that this conduct was not only illegal but dangerous, she said, “Not if I use good judgment.” I thought of all the people who’ve been shot with guns thought to be unloaded and the fatal accidents caused by people who were sure they could drive safely after a few drinks.

If we see a green light we can drive directly through an intersection without slowing down because we count on others to stop at the red lights. When people take it on themselves to pick and choose which laws they will obey and when they will obey them, life becomes more chaotic and risky.

Sure, there are situations where strict compliance with a law seems unnecessary, even foolish, but on the whole, society is more stable, safe and orderly when we all play by the rules, even when they’re annoying and inconvenient.

© 2002 Michael Josephson

This article reprinted by permission from www.CharacterCounts.org. ©2002, Michael Josephson and www.CharacterCounts.org. Mr. Josephson’s recent essay, “Winning Like Champions” is an excellent examination of chivalry in professional sports, and is highly recommended by the staff at Chivalry Today.