Justifications for Disobeying Some Laws

5 min read
Legal System

A lot has been said in recent months and years about the legal system in the US. Generally speaking, it’s the best system around. But as with any system wrought by man, it is imperfect, and people can sometimes find themselves in a situation where the law doesn’t treat them fairly. To obtain the justice they crave, they must operate outside the law. Here are 7 occasions when the world’s top philosophers theorize that operating outside the law might actually be moral, or at least fun.

You Just Need To Park Here For A Minute. Five Minutes, Tops

No Parking

See what a small thing this is? A parking ordinance is just about the smallest possible law to break, and barely even moves the needle of a standard morality meter. Heck, in some cases, like if maybe your town has unusually draconian parking restrictions, parking illegally might even be the noble thing to do. Because six minutes for a quarter is price-gouging.

Even if it is a little immoral, it’s still the kind of thing that just doesn’t add up to much when we go through the mental calculus we use when making decisions about things like parking. Parking illegally is a pretty airy thing when considered against weighty counterarguments like “I’ll just be a minute,” or “I have to get my kids from daycare now,” or “That ambulance isn’t even honking THAT much.”

You’re Defying Corrupt Officials

I love officials and authorities, and because their powerful minds are too busy to make their way through compound sentences, we can get real now, and acknowledge yeah, sometimes they’re bad. Sometimes authorities are not good. Whether it’s a corrupt small-town sheriff, or a paid-off politician, or an entire justice system that doesn’t like the color of your skin, people around the world often have to deal with corrupt, immoral authorities. Who doesn’t know a crossing guard that is completely power-drunk?

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Obviously this is a topic far beyond the scope of a list-based chuckle venue, and as a whimpering baby-man, I can’t even claim to have a very good perspective on such matters. So you’ll have to rely on your own judgment about whether the law or authority you’re defying is truly unjust. If it matters, I believe you’ll do the right thing.

Also In my experience, pushing over a parking enforcement officer – even a corrupt one – usually doesn’t qualify in the eyes of most observers. So keep that in mind.

You’re Accused Of A Crime You Didn’t Commit

Not Guilty

Although people are considered innocent until proven guilty in theory, in practice it is very common for a person’s rights and liberties to be deprived. Maybe you’ll be held without bail, or prevented from leaving the state or country. Worse still is a case where that imperfect law system actually convicts you of a crime you didn’t commit. At which point you’ll find that, at least in your eyes, the law is now working against justice. Under normal circumstances your representatives would now work to prove your innocence. But if you don’t have representatives due to some kind of personality or odor problem, this might prove impossible. So what choice do you have but to operate outside the law?

I’m not saying you should escape from prison and disappear into the Los Angeles underground to prove your own innocence. Again, that’s now something I can legally advise. But it would certainly be morally correct, along with making for a thrilling roller-coaster ride of a movie or television series, which is also an extremely correct thing to be.

You’re Following The Dying Wish Of Your Sensei

There are some commitments we make which are higher than the ones we make to the society around us. For example, you might do something extremely illegal if it meant protecting the life of a spouse or child. And with that in mind, consider the most important commitment we have in our lives: the one we make to that special someone who teaches us martial arts. “Your enemies will suffer at my hands, Sensei Kevin.”

Why your dying sensei has asked you to operate outside the law is an open question, though we can make a few guesses based on what we know about sensei. They may have been cursed by some kind of magical artifact, or been murdered by corrupt parking bylaw enforcement officers, or some kind of third reason. Having watched many Steven Seagal movies, I can state pretty confidently that martial arts experts operate outside the law pretty much all the time. Speaking of actors …

You’re Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal, bless him, has operated outside of the law for almost his entire career. Also outside the bounds of taste.

Only a fraction of readers are Steven Seagal, so this won’t apply to most of you. And for those of you it does apply to, I can hardly offer any advice you don’t already know, you having stabbed so many corrupt parking enforcement officers on the decks of decommissioned battleships over the years. You know your business and the contours of this moral landscape better than I. I’m sure you know what you’re doing here.

You’re Dying


More than a few things will be thrown into stark focus when you find out you’re dying, in particular the priorities you place on various things in your life. And your relation to the law may very well be one of the things which finds itself suddenly downgraded. Also your relationship with cholesterol.

There are degrees here. Finding out you’re dying won’t necessarily make you into a remorseless killer. But it will make things like library fines or public nudity ordinances a little less menacing to you. Naked library time won’t seem quite the insurmountable hill it once was.

And while dying itself isn’t technically illegal, it does bring me to …

You’re Legally Dead

People almost never end up legally dead, but it’s a plausible enough case to consider here. If you’ve faked your own death, or angered the county’s record clerk, or are on the run with Steven Seagal, you might very well find yourself in a situation where you’re legally dead. And if the legal system considers you dead, almost everything you do will be outside the law. None of this has to be immoral at all; again, this isn’t going to turn you into a killer. But breaking the law is more or less unavoidable, if for only for census reasons.

How you conduct yourself in this lawless nether-existence is entirely up to you, and will reflect your true moral character more than anything else you’ve done in your life. Will you work tirelessly to restore the justice that was robbed from you, via a series of capers? Fight against your enemies back-to-back with Steven Seagal in the parking office in the middle of the night? Or will it simply be more naked library time?