Should there be more laws protecting citizens or should there be fewer, and should all groups have equal rights?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

While the Constitution of the United States guarantees equal rights under the law, it is a fact of life that not all people are treated equally.  One only needs to go to Smalltown USA in order to learn this as the family of the local judges, or lawyers, or other "important" people in town enjoy privileges that others do not.  [Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel about this situation titled Main Street.]  As the late Johnny Cochran said, "The color of justice is green."  Of course, there are people such as criminals who should forfeit some rights. 

Henry David Thoreau once declared, "That government governs best that governs least.  A government that must police people's behavior and make laws in order to keep people "safe," rings of an undemocratic government.  Nazi Germany told its people that there were restrictions being put upon them "in order to be safe."  If people in a society are responsible, there is no need to make laws that force behaviors upon people.  For, the responsible citizen will have a sense of what David Hume called "natural law."  That is, he/she will respect the rights of his/her neighbor enough to not steal from him/her or invade privacy in any way.

The problem is not that we do not have enough laws.  The problem is that we do not have responsible citizenry as the US has a litigious society that places blame upon someone else.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

As far as should all groups have equal rights, of course not.  But what is hard to determine is which groups should have equal rights and which should not.

To take an easy example, children should not have rights equal to those of adults.  Kids should not have the right to drive or to sign contracts or anything like that.

But what about other groups -- that is where it gets more difficult.  Should women have the right to be in combat positions in the military?  What about gay people in the military?  Should apartment owners be allowed to discriminate against people with kids?  These are much more difficult questions.

So not all groups should have equal rights, but most should.  The trick is in figuring out which groups should have equal rights and on what issues.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

The question raises two issues. Taking up firs the easier one of the two issues, I believe that all groups should have equal right.

The question of how many laws are appropriate to protect citizens is not that easy to answer. Increasing the number of laws apparently provides protection to to citizens in more areas. However, while laws, protect the interest of citizens, they also increase the scope for law enforcing agencies to interfere in lives for individuals. Let us take for example the laws relating to the responsibilities and obligation of parents towards their children. Such laws cover some basic responsibilities of the parents such as sending their children to school, ensuring their basic safety, and providing them with basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. But children also require love and understanding from their parents, and some parents may fall short of the ideal levels of love and understanding. But if laws were to be enacted covering such aspects also. it would give too much power to law enforcing agencies to interfere in private family life of people.

Thus under a given condition of society, there is an optimum level of extent of legal provision to regulate conduct of individuals, institutions and others. Increasing laws beyond the optimum level increases the problems of implementing the law, which can more than offset the befits of improved protection provided by the law.

Also very important is the quality of law. One good law can do more good than several ordinary ones. Not only that, a bad law can actually do more harm than good.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Should there be more or fewer rights is an extremely debatable topic that has no easy answers. It all depends on what the community wants as a whole along with complying with federal laws of the United Sates government. As for all groups have equal rights, that is just not practical in today's society. Children, the elderly, the infirmed, the incarcerated, and any other groups who lack the mental capacity to understand rights should all have different levels of rights to protect their own class of individuals. It is not an economic class, but rather as a whole.

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