Without laws, civilization cannot exist. Humans need laws and rulers to prevent the breakdown of civil actions. Societies that live in some form of civility have always had governments and rulers in different forms. Kings, Queens, Bishops, Priests, Dictators and even Pharaohs.
In most cases, these leaders or rulers can be seen as human beings just like the citizens they are overseeing. In rare cases, such as the Ancient Egyptians, their Pharaohs were seen as gods and yet managed to exist for well over 4,000 years.
In most societies and nations, the structure rests on rule of law vs rule of individuals. Laws are the guideposts by which Presidents and Prime Ministers are allowed to support and rule their nations. The English historian and churchman, Thomas Fuller, articulated his philosophy in respect to the rule of law as: “Be you ever so high, the law is above you”.
Law is considered predominant because the written word is incorporated into law books and agreed upon by the ruling party of the nation. Laws are created to bring an equality to the citizens. This is true among nations that believe whether king or queen, prime minister or president, all people are equal in some form. Unfortunately dictatorships usually create laws in order to rule people but not their leaders.
Civilized people believe that laws are created in order to benefit the whole, while criminals choose to go against the written law in order to benefit their own desires.
If misused, laws can actually turn on a society, as a whole, imprisoning the very people they were meant to protect. In some orders, laws can be so suffocating that even happiness and joy are either restricted or totally prevented. Quite simply, if a citizen chooses to break the law, they will be punished for their actions. The long arm of the law will remove these people from society for a given period of time. Throughout history, people have suffered at the discretion of rulers simply for having an opposing belief or opinion on a given subject.
The greatest example: Jesus was not crucified for claiming he was the son of God. The High Priests of Rome did not truly believe in a singular God, only in themselves. Instead, they felt he was a direct threat to their control over the citizens within the region.
How well laws are enforced and by whom, can dictate whether these laws are beneficial or destructive. In reality, laws are not objects, remote of any human qualities or purposes. Laws are, after all, written by people. Staying within the boundaries, usually lies within a person’s understanding of these given laws. Breaking this down, most people abide by the laws believing they are in place to protect most people and are considered friends to the majority. Citizens within well developed nations find their laws a needed and a useful part of society; they believe without them there would be total chaos.
In general, people believe that if you abide by laws, your life and society will prosper and be a much happier environment. Others regard laws as their enemy because they prevent these people from their own aspirations and beliefs. Here is an excellent example of contradiction of law:
Known for his 1516 book “Utopia”, Thomas More was a very important counselor to King Henry VIII of England. More refused to accept the king as head of the Church of England. He was tried for treason and beheaded in 1535. The irony, 400 years later, in 1935, he was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
In some countries, if you are poor, you are not considered the luxury of protection under the law. This is very common in dictatorships, socialism or fascism; due to their low position within society, citizens are often breaking laws in order to survive. Many will ignore the “so called” laws by doing as they will, such as stealing, in order to make a living. At some point they will be arrested and imprisoned as criminals.
In most cases, laws are established as a guide for people to live by helping people understand the difference between right and wrong. Those who follow the laws will usually be seen as good citizens while those who disagree will be perceived as the enemy.
Although there are probably thousands of laws, on many varying issues, there are common threads and philosophies. Yes, laws do lean toward the philosophy of the people living within a particular country. If you study the laws within a given country, you will discover the beliefs and philosophies of its citizens. If a particular country uses capital punishment for murder, the citizens probably believe in this punishment vs those within a nation that do not believe it’s right.
Another philosophy of law lies in who or what control the laws. Kings, politicians and the wealthy have an enormous control over the laws. The biggest difference between a king and his subject is winner – loser, rich or poor. Many who wield power are given the ability to use these laws for their own personal advantage. Laws are not above the flaws of human beings; they can either become corrupt or stay above the fray in order to protect all. Understanding written laws will give you the insight into those who created them. Throughout history there have been rulers who a tyrannical with their citizens, yet are loving caring fathers to their children. Some would refer to this split in personality as an oxymoron.
If you possess the knowledge and understanding of the laws within your society, you will know how to use them to your advantage. This could create a huge difference from becoming a master of given laws vs becoming a slave to the same laws.