Law is not something we ask for, but is simply something that has been thrust upon us at birth. It is a body of rules and regulations that govern the relationships among individuals as well as between the individual and their society. These rules establish rights, duties and privileges that are consistent with the values and beliefs of the society. Nevertheless, is law a “necessity,” is it an “evil” or is it merely a “necessary evil?”
Law is necessary in the society as a control mechanism. Since society has so many variables, what is one man’s right may be another man’s wrong. According to Prof. H. L. A. Hart, “Man needs to be regulated by laws as he does not live in isolation. Man lives in a community and must therefore be regulated.”
If there was no system of law to have power over how people control their lives then there would not be a society to live in. People would be free to make decisions based solely on their principles, they would be free to steal, murder, damage, rape, trespass and terrorize what or whomever they wanted when it suited them, and nothing would be done about it. Hence it would be disastrous, if not impossible to base a society solely on such principles. The UK summer riots that took place in August 2011, give an unambiguous example of what happens when there is a collapse in law and order. This proves that for an ordered society to exist there must be some sort of legal system.
What makes Law evil? Most laws are made based on the moral values of society. If these values are harmful to the majority of society, then the laws generated based on these values will be equally harmful. Take into consideration the apartheid; it was a system of legal racial segregation and discrimination against blacks and other colored descendants that was physically enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. This not only makes the law capricious but also oppressive. Many may argue that the law may not be evil but flawed, and that what makes law evil is the way it has been enforced.
The Law also provides a method of dispute resolution and offers legal representation and compensation where due. In this respect, the Law is necessary. Despite this, it has been argued by legal academics that the Lawmay sometimes be inaccessible to certain sectors due to financial burdens incurred.
This is a justifiable illustration of where the Law may have said to been evil, because it favors those who are financially stable, whilst disadvantaging those who are not. In practice, this may lead to, at best, grave disparities in the quality of legal representation people receive, and at worse, a complete absence of any legal representation. Consequentially, the Law is unfair, bias and arguably ‘evil’.
In accordance with the Scythian philosopher Anacharsis, “Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones.” Selective enforce ability of the law is a form of inefficient enforce ability. Lady Justice is a representation of the moral power that underlies the legal system.
Her blindfold symbolizes equality under the law through impartiality towards its subjects, the weighing scales represent the balancing of the truth and fairness under the law, and her sword denotes the power of Reason and Justice, which may be exerted either for or against any party. This evidently shows that selective enforce ability breaches the fundamental principle constitution, that all are equal before the law.
In conclusion, the functions that the Law performs, illustrate that the Law is necessary; to create structure and order, security and regulation, mediation and representation, and to enforce the moral values for the society in which it situates. Nevertheless, in performing these functions, the Law may sometimes fail to effectively deliver.
For example, if no one is around to see us break the law and no one can prove that we did break the law, has a law been broken? Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound, if no one is there to hear it? Additionally, when regulating, protecting, representing, providing structure, order and security, the Law can disproportionately favor certain interests, and sectors of society. Along with that, the Law may discriminate against certain groups, and preserve unrepresentative moral framework.
Moreover, it is often shaped by political ideologies, which further distort how well the Law accounts for all different needs, interests and beliefs. On the other hand, the Law may be flawed and “evil” but it is necessary bearing in mind that it is the closest thing to a perfect and absolute system and that without law, our society will collapse.