What is the Point of Law?
The law is a concept with semantic elusiveness and no person has given it a universally accepted definition. The concept becomes even more intricate with the increase in the number of people developing an interest in the area.
The positivist and natural law theorists pose the most prominent arguments concerning the law. While the natural law theorists relate the law to morality, the positivists advocate for a clear demarcation between ethics and the law using the separatist thesis. Accordingly, for a natural law theorist, the point of the law is to preserve the morality of the society. However, not all legal norms are social norms (Ross 132).
Accordingly, the law may not necessarily reflect societal norms or ethics. The application of the written law, as well as legal judgments in common law jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom roughly, approximate to the prevailing moral values (Tebbit 3-4). Therefore, the main aim of the law is to regulate human actions and provide mechanisms for aligning different aspects of life with the prevailing climates of opinion.
Life in the State of Nature
First, it is important to appreciate life in the state of nature, according to Thomas Hobbes, before delving into the real aim of the law. According to Hobbes, life in the state of nature is nasty, brutal, short, poor, and solitary (Solomon and Solomon 58). W
ars characterize the environment where every man is fighting against all the others. The laws of nature entitle every man to everything and only the strongest survive. In the absence of a body with superior power and authority to adjudicate, justice is unachievable and commerce cannot thrive. Man opts out of such unsustainable condition by relinquishing some of his rights in exchange for personal safety and security of his property.
There is no justice or injustice in the state of nature because such concepts are only present if the law and justice systems exist. If law and other political institutions disappear, lawless anarchies will emerge and every person will lead a miserable life.
What is Law?
The law is the coming together of persons to defend their rights (Bastiat 4). Every person has an inherent right to defend his/her person, property, and liberty (Bastiat 4). Individuals are entitled to defend these rights even by the use of force. The collective exercise of this right gives rise to the law, which is the organization of natural rights for a common lawful course (Bastiat 5).
People have an ingrained propensity of aspiring to develop and preserve their persons. There would be no social interruption if everyone enjoyed the fruits of their mental faculties and labor. However, people have another inherent selfish comportment whereby they want to live and prosper at the expense of others (Bastiat 7).
It is lucid that the proper purpose of the law is to stop this plunder by using the collective power in it.
Law as a product of Social Order
The other end of the law is the production of social order (Tamanaha 21). As noted above, the social order in the natural setting involves stiff struggle and competition for the scarce resources, where only the fittest survive. States enact a law that acts as the mechanism to bring about change in the society.
Despite the many questions about the efficacy of using the law for social engineering, history points out that law has been a significant tool in bringing about positive and desired changes in the society (Tamanaha 124).
The Law lays down a predictable pattern of behavior, which reflects the morals and ideologies of a given people (Williams 4). The fact that citizens are able to respect the authority of the law also brings about social order.
Amicable Settlement of disputes
The social order also involves the amicable settlement of disputes. People have conflicting interests will always necessarily lead to disputes. The disputes may erupt into a social catastrophe if not contained in time. The work of the law is to ensure it strikes an amicable solution between disputants and ensure peaceful coexistence in the society.
The rate at which the contemporary society is changing is utterly alarming. The various technological changes have by far overtaken the legal regime. The system of law needs to always move in resonance with the society it operates in. If the legal system lags behind in such a way that it fails to serve the interests of those that it govern, it renders justice inept and ineffective.
The present example is one of the situations where the society leads and dictates the changes. The work of the law under such circumstances is to recognize the already existing rights, preserve, and protect them.
Justice as an Aspiration of Law
Justice is the other principle aspiration of law. The concept of justice also poses semantic notoriety as no single definition is universally accepted. When people feel that they have been unfairly treated, they say to have been subjected to some form of injustice.
Simply put, justice is treating equals equally and unequal unequally. According to Thomas Hobbes, to declare what is just, equality, and morally acceptable and make them binding there is a need for a sovereign power and laws (Hobbes and the Law 22).
Without the law, which specifies what is just and unjust, criminal, and legal then people would act selfishly, propagating many injustices. John Rawls refers to justice as fairness (10-12). According to him, justice involves the sharing of resources equitably in a system that advances the good of its members.
In the United Kingdom, for example, the courts while interpreting the law have ensured equality amongst all persons especially in employment (Moran 359-360).
The Law as Means to Protect Individual Liberties
The other point of law is to protect individual liberties and rights. The powerful in the society have an ingrained propensity of intruding and violating the rights of the weaker members. The law is supposed to protect individual rights and make sure that the disadvantaged enjoy the benefits enjoyed by those of high social status.
The Law as a Standard
According to Dworkin, the purpose of the law is to provide and establish a dependable set of standards for the public and private persons. The set standards should not be called into question based on a single person’s opinion or morality (Coleman 359).
The society determines what is acceptable and enacts laws, which punish those behaviors that it considers deviants. In most cases, the laws reflect the moral and ethical standards of a society, which then becomes a living code to guide them.
However, as the society matures, it may lessen these standards and change the laws to reflect the prevailing circumstances.
In a nutshell, the end of the law is social order and peaceful coexistence. A lawless society leads to a state of anarchy where every man is fighting against everyone else. Under the natural order, every man has the right to everything.
The law is necessary to guarantee individual rights, protect property, and set standards. Law entails the coming together of individuals who collectively act to achieve a common goal. The collective action entails relinquishing rights to a sovereign in exchange for personal protection and security of the property. Lastly, law aspires to ensure equality, justice, and fairness for all by an equitable distribution of resources and other privileges.