Is an Immoral Law a Good Law

Is an Immoral Law a Good Law?
The question may be a misleading one; to clear this, I will not look into what the words moral (or immoral) or good might mean in this context, I would rather define them just as we begin.

Statua Iustitiae - Lady JusticeMoral, in this context would be concerned with the principles of right and wrong: in the sense of what one believes or perceives to be wrong.
Good, in this context would mean valid and acceptable.

This simplifies the question at hand: Would a law, which is wrong in principle, be deemed to be a valid and acceptable law?

This question deals with the centuries old debate between the Naturalist and the Positivist view of law.
According to the Positivist view, a law is a law when it is validly enacted or proclaimed, and is binding in its entirety, regardless of whether it is moral or not.
The Naturalist view on the other hand is that, an immoral law is not a good law: a law must be moral to be valid. It must conform to the basic standards of right and wrong; a law which is unjust or immoral will not be law.

On the offset it is easy to dismiss the Naturalistic view: law is what distinguishes the right from the wrong. How could a law be wrong?

To better understand the Naturalistic view, and to appreciate for what it stands, we must understand what law is, and what purpose it serves.

I would argue that law is the collective embodiment of the rules a society makes for itself. Law is the foundation of a civilized society. Just as morality of the society evolves, so must the law. An old law, by today’s standards may be immoral and unjust.

An example may be the Witchcraft Acts enacted by different countries throughout the world in the 16th Century, and the inquisitions, trials and lawful executions that were done under them, by today’s standards are immoral and unjust. Surprisingly enough, these remnants of the past continue to exist in statute books of some countries.

Let us change the question to this: would the implementation of the Witchcraft Act, to accuse and punish an individual on the pseudoscience contained in the law, be moral and just? Should it be enforced?

The Trial and Death of SocratesIn Plato’s work Crito, the reason Socrates gives for his obedience to the law and the nature of the law, reflects upon the utility of law for a society. Law is what a civilized society is built upon.

It also makes one see the potential for abuse in a democracy. Democracy has the tendency to become mob rule: where the majority oppresses a minority.

Abusive laws are all around us: law has mandated slavery, racial segregation, suppressed classes of humans based on their sex, economic status, race, color and lineage. This was true in the past, and is still true today in many jurisdictions.

The concept of liberty, individual autonomy and human rights play their part in protecting an individual. According to a widely circulate quote, misattributed to Benjamin Franklin:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

Liberty and Freedom are a recognition of certain rights which may not be taken away, not even by a 99% vote.

Many modern constitutional democracies like the United States, India, France, Germany etc. do recognize this. The US Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man recognize certain rights, freedoms and liberties that the state cannot take away, under any circumstances.

This may be seen as either Naturalistic or Positivistic; consider the following statements:

  • Human Rights are protected because the Constitution says they are protected.
  • The Constitution protects Human Rights because they ought to be protected.

The first one sees Constitutional schemes to protect rights as Positivistic and the second sees them as Naturalistic.

Human RightsUnder either circumstances, an immoral law will not be a good law, regardless of whether it isn’t a good law because it is immoral or because another, higher law, the Constitution, says so.

Things become interesting when in the absence of a Constitution, an immoral law is considered in abstract: would a law condemning disabled children to death, be a good law?

The answer may depend on whether it is enforced. The Witchcraft Act is a valid piece of legislation existing in the statute books of countries like South Africa and Israel. Is it enforced? No. Would it still count as a good law? That might be a question of whether it would be enforced when it needs to be.

Martin Luther King Jr- Unjust Laws
One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. -Martin Luther King Jr.

Would I personally enforce an immoral law? Not if it violates the rights and liberties of a person for no fault of their own. At the end of the day, law is the embodiment of the collective wishes of the people. If the majority brutally crushed the minority using the law, then instead of serving as a utility the law would become a weapon or an excuse to commit atrocities – the Nazi Germany, for example, used laws to exterminate the old, sick and disabled, and minorities.

There’s a Special Place in Hell for Spammers!

Spammers will be shot on sight!A little while ago, I logged into my dashboard and found a whole lot of comments caught as spam by my anti-spam software.

This website being my personal blogging platform, doesn’t attract much unknown visitors, those who read my blog are actually people whom I know, or have known due them reading my blog regularly. A sudden burst of spam comments? What is going on? The backup of this website on WordPress.com attracts well over 300 spam comments every day, almost all caught by the anti-spam software there, but an even larger number here, and that too within a shorter time period!

So what really is spam?

Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages, especially advertising, indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media. Spamming remains economically viable because advertisers have no operating costs beyond the management of their mailing lists, and it is difficult to hold senders accountable for their mass mailings. Because the barrier to entry is so low, spammers are numerous, and the volume of unsolicited mail has become very high. In the year 2011, the estimated figure for spam messages was around seven trillion, the figure for this year (2012) is expected to be even higher. The costs, such as lost productivity and fraud, are borne by the public and by Internet service providers, which have been forced to add extra capacity to cope with the deluge. Spamming has been the subject of legislation in many jurisdictions. A person who creates electronic spam is called a spammer.

And where does this spam come from?

Well, it comes mainly from spammers. These spammers may be an automated bot (a computer program made for this purpose), a company/organization trying to publicize their product(s), themselves or for a financial gain, fraud or a cause (which may in some rare cases be simple and just) or individuals bent upon publicizing their business startup/blog that leads to advertising revenue.

Rank Country Spam vol. %
1 India 13.9
2 Russia 9.0
3 Vietnam 7.9
4 (tie) South Korea 6.0
4 (tie) Finland 6.0
6 China 4.7
7 Brazil 4.5
8 America 3.2

So what’s actually so wrong about spamming?

Spam can be used to spread computer viruses, trojan horses or other malicious software. The objective may be identity theft, or worse (e.g., advance fee fraud). Some spam attempts to capitalize on human greed whilst other attempts to use the victims’ inexperience with computer technology to trick them (e.g., phishing).

Apart from all that, spamming is a type of in-your-face advertisement, filling you e-mail/SMS inbox with useless, meaningless often fraudulent advertisement. This reduces productivity by take up space, both storage space, display space and bandwidth (data transfer space).

Some spam contents are also ethically objectionable and morally wrong. Most common spam these days is about winning lottery, being made a beneficiary by rich business tycoons about to die, discounted travel, cheap Viagra, fake medicines, pornography, online dating and get rich quick schemes.

Legal status

As mentioned earlier, spamming has been the subject of legislation in many jurisdictions. Many countries, states and territories, with the notable exception of Bulgaria, have illegalized spamming, making it a punishable criminal offence. For the state specific legislations see the Wikipedia article on E-mail spam legislation by country.

In Pakistan, it is prohibited under Section 14 (1) and (2) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance 2007. This law illegalizes and criminalizes spamming, and provides for a fine of up to PKR 50,000.00 (approximately 830 USD at the time the Ordinance was signed), and for repeat offenders a prison sentence of 3 months or a fine of PKR 50,000.00 or both. However I still see spam, lots of it, in almost all of my e-mail inbox and my SMS inbox.

Some questions that pop up in my mind:

  • Why do people comment on “nofollow” blogs? (i.e. blogs that prevent search engines from crawling to their links)
  • Why do people spam when they do realize that spam protecting software will bust their spams?
  • Why on Earth do they just do all this, I mean when they have better options for publicity!

What I’ve decided…

Some time back, I came across a statement on a blog that was somewhat like this: “There’s a special place in hell for spammers”. I am totally in favor and agreement of this statement. Spamming is illegal; breaking the law is like doing a sin, and sinners, figuratively speaking, go to hell, and actually speaking, law breakers go to jail.

I’ve now decided to make up a policy to combat spam, and would, like all other policies, enforce it strictly.

UPDATE: I’ve made up the Spam Policy!