Rule of Law Essay

Submitted By rpmellinger
Words: 1756
Pages: 8

As abiding citizens in a democratic modern society, we are restricted to following laws set by the government. Rule of law is generally understood to be that, “individuals, persons and government shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action by an individual or a group of individuals” (UN Rule of Law Charter). However, in certain situations the law may be insufficient to support and rule a group of people. Thus, it is justified to undermine the law to pursue change. To undermine is defined as a threat, or eroding the base or foundation of. It does not necessarily mean to, without reservation, break the law, but rather to damage a law’s reputation. In these circumstances, undermining the law is only justified when a group of people can affect a significant change without bloodshed. From Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance in India to the civil rights movement in the United States, peaceful movements have become key elements of political change. Undermining the rule of law peacefully is justified when conventional politics are not responsive in situations that violate justice, human rights, and or cause oppression to a body of people. When there has been need for social change, individuals and groups of people have achieved change through three approaches. The first approach in achieving change is through the government. Within an authoritarian government, the capacity an individual has to create change efficiently is highly restricted and difficult. Although a representative government gives individuals the ability to voice their opinions at different levels of the ladder system, citizens are still limited due to the imbalance among decision makers when power is challenged. The second approach is through violence. In the past this approach often uses force to take control of a government, engage in armed struggle, or use brutality against other citizens to enact change. Violence is not justifiable as it causes more harm and problems to an already unjust situation. Although a group of people may be oppressed and in danger, posing more risks to humans is still not a justifiable way in achieve a goal. Throughout history, violent revolutions have been more common. Yet, nonviolent action as a way to publicize an issue, demonstrate passionate beliefs, and make a government more accountable of their action is a more beneficial tool to affect laws. This approach includes strikes, rallies, campaigns, boycotts, and peaceful revolutions. Nonviolence has more strengths than commonly recognized and is an effective way to achieve social change and deter aggressors. Certainly, if one can easily enact change by going through the justice system they should. However, considering the situation and purpose of their goal to enact change, participating in a nonviolent movement is justified because it causes no harm and is a passionate display to overthrow an iniquitous law which then gains enough recognition to make the government power reconsider. Furthermore, nonviolence to achieve a beneficial ends can be examined through Henry David Thoreau’s essay, Resistance to Civil Disobedience. Thoreau was an American author, philosopher, and abolitionist during the 1800s. He gained literary acclaim for his published essay through his argument about justified disobedience to an unjust state. He states, “If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law” (Civil Disobedience). Thus, his sole purpose was to explain that breaking the law for a justifiable cause is reasonable. Nonviolence is interpreted as a form of civil disobedience. The influence of his work set precedent that allowed nonviolent movements to rebel against what they deemed to be unfair laws. To further justify this statement, the Gettysburg Address shows that the government was founded on the idea of the people’s choice and will. The United States government is written to…