I would like to raise an honest discussion about the real life implications of this trope, based on some issues that have been raised in other threads.
I suppose the starting point would deal with Kohlberg's stages of moral development
, and the notion of conventional versus postconventional morality system. In short, the characteristic defining trait that must be asked is: Is it right to defy law for the greater good?
(For reference, Kohlberg's dilemma is a simple one: Your significant other is dying of a terminal cancer. There is a cure for it, but it's very expensive - after pooling all your resources, you still can't afford enough of it to save him/her. You are then asked: Would you break in and steal the drug to save his/her life? Why or why not. The reasoning given is used to determine a person's stage of moral development, with simple reward/punishment mechanisms being preconvential morality, societal norms and laws being conventional, and rights-weighing, philosophical discussions being postconventional. There are criticisms to the methods, but it's a nice starting point for this discussion.)
What about for the individual's own good, assuming that no one else suffers because of it? At what point should a person state that something needs to be done, law or no law. The entire notion of civil disobedience is based upon the premise that there is some higher notion of justice that supersedes human law, and that it is sometimes justified to break the law when the law is unjust. The Civil Rights Movement was largely based on this peaceful protest, and, some would state that the Occupy Wall Street movement is as well. (Please keep discussion on that in the appropriate thread.)
Another tangential question can be raised from this: Does a Law Enforcement officer have an obligation to enforce laws that he/she finds unjust? If there is a moral conflict between the two, what should a person working for law enforcement do?
Some would say that the law must be held as sacrosanct - once we bend the rules once, we open the door to all sorts of loophole abuse. Proponents of this position argue that the laws have to be obeyed, but the best way to effect change is through the political system. The opposing viewpoint holds that there are inherent flaws in the political system, that it is unresponsive without substantial popular pressure, and that it's necessary to do what is considered wrong in order to bring about what is right. Of course, there's plenty of room for differing opinions about what "right" and "wrong" are, and in my opinion, that may be the biggest argument for allowing law and the legal system to stand except in the most egregious positions.
Going back to Kohlberg now: Would you break the law and steal the cure for an otherwise terminal illness to save the life of your (possibly hypothetical) significant other? What about your (again, possibly hypothetical) child? Why or why not?
- Note to mods: Please do not move this to Trope Talk - I want this in OTC.
edited 18th Jun '12 10:13:17 AM by DarkConfidant