I was recently reading “Death of a King,” a book by Travis Smiley on the life and times of Dr Martin Luther King. In it Mr. Smiley references a quote from Dr. King’s ” A letter from the Birmingham Jail,” speech, which I found very unsettling. The quote stated that everything Adolph Hitler did was legal. Once one digests what that actually meant to those of that time one can begin to appreciate modern societies responsibility to conscientiously govern itself and the importance of doing so with a sense of morality.
Laws are traditionally created with respect to concerns and circumstances a given society feels endangers the safety and wellbeing of its citizenry. The actual legality of those laws however is consistently saved for courts that more often than not determine legality on precedent rather than on any particular injustices the laws may have caused.
The point emphasized here is that precedent may acceptably determine perfectly legal but fails to put any morality into the decision making process. Thus we get the feeling laws are interpretable as either right or wrong, and this is not the case.
Current laws deeming personhood on Corporations is a fine modern day example of how laws can be on one hand legal yet appear morally bankrupt on the other. No one believes corporations are actually people yet enabling businesses with the same rights as people is setting up a myriad of problems. Can a business vote? Can a business breathe?
Other instances of perfectly legal but morally questionable laws quickly come to mind. Currently it is perfectly legal for a corporation to pay their CEO’s and Boards whatever they feel the market will bare. This policy has seen CEO’s salaries in the last twenty years outstrip wages of the people actually doing the physical work of the company by stratospheric leaps and bonds. The old adage, “a rising tide raises all boats” does not work if all profits are funneled to the management. Presently a huge exodus from the United States is ongoing amongst American corporations seeking to set their home bases in foreign countries to escape taxes. Both of these practices are great for a company’s bottom line, yet both equally are as morally bankrupt as they are legal.
It is perfectly legal for a person to work in government as a regulator, lawmaker or any other position of importance and then leave that position to work in the same industry they formerly regulated. It is perfectly legal for a drug company to charge whatever they want for their medications, regardless of the person who needs the medicines ability to pay. Again both perfectly legal; but morally wrong!
It is perfectly legal for someone to be elected to government for the sole purpose of shutting down or impeding actions of said government. Our current Congress is on record for passing the least laws and entwined in a serious gridlock made in part by the willful actions of elected representatives whose sole purpose is to curtail government’s ability to spend on behalf of the needs of its people. Morally wrong; perfectly legal!
In a society where it has become commonplace to sign, usually without reading, a hundred page long document in minuscule print just to get the latest edition of I-Tunes, one can only wonder where our accepted complacency of laws that are all considered perfectly legal, is leading us. Which leads me to another quote I often think of in situations such as this from George Santayana.“ Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it!”