Can you think of a situation where it would be right to break the law?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”--Dr. Martin Luther King

There are many instances when it would make sense to break a law.  Some of the greatest social changes have occurred as a result of people breaking unjust laws.  An example of this is when citizens deliberately violated Jim Crow laws during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  This is a heroic example and one that may not be confronted by the average citizen.  

From a more practical standpoint, decisions of whether to break a law are complicated. Everybody understands the importance of law and order in a civilized society.  Morally speaking, it would be fair to say that breaking a law should be weighed against the consequences of following the law.  If your wife cut her wrist by accident and was severely bleeding, it would seem reasonable that obeying speed limits on the way to the hospital would be foolhardy. Would you immigrate to a country illegally if it could provide your family with better health and economic benefits?  If your children were starving to death, it would not seem immoral to steal bread for them.

It is reasonable to discuss the issue of breaking a law in the context of who would be harmed by following the law, and how many people would be harmed by breaking it.