This is an interesting philosophical question that I've pondered on before: When is a man, if ever, justified in breaking the law?

It depends, in part, on how one defines the function of government to begin with, and whether the state exists to serve man or man exists to serve the state, of course. One must also mind that niches such as 'defensive murder' are typically covered in law; a person is not usually punished for defending themselves against another trespassing on their property who has just killed their entire family and who has shown definite intent to kill the person in question who has therefore murdered the offender. So to say 'in defense for my life' directly is not really a valid answer to the question, unless we're also examining Christian laws, which I am also open to if Christians would like to add their two cents on whether it's ever okay to break one of the ten commandments. Interpret this question however you can best answer it.

I'll add my own two cents later on, I don't want to affect anyone's answer with examples right away.

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Civil disobedience. Remember the '60s? Oops, maybe you weren't even born then :-)

Conscience: war dissenters and draft evasion (no more draft, though).

Assassinations. You might be approved by your own government but you'd be breaking the law of the foreign country ruled by the despot you just shot between the eyes.
Yeah, my father was pelted in the head in the 60's with rotten vegetables because activists believed all of the returning veterans had been drafted. They were pelting them in protest of their following the draft and not evading it to make a statement, their form of civil disobedience wherein a lot of draftees left for Canada (they were recently pardoned). My father was one of the few in his company that actually volunteered to go without being drafted. Funny enough, when he was back, all he could talk about was returning to Vietnam. They wouldn't let him because he had contracted malaria (as well as amoebic dysentary and jungle rot).
I'm asking what I asked: Is it ever okay to break the law?

No one else really seems to have any difficulty answering it.
Breaking the law is okay when you cause no harm to yourself, others, or the environment around you. Laws are set so you can do no bad, this is what they are for or else society wouldn't accept them (:
So what do you define as harm in those three instances? Is it limited to the physical? Does it extend to the emotional-psychological and financial factors? What is 'harm' that the law is trying to prevent?
I think harm means anything negative to anything that deals with any of the examples I listed,

When you are confronted with a problem and you have multiple choices I believe that you must choose the best out of those, best meaning that you need to pick the one with the most benefits for ALL. Call me a communist, I'll agree (;
That is a bit communistic, but not wrong. However, when you say 'breaking the law is okay if nobody is harmed and nothing bad happens to anyone or the environment', but then you say 'laws are set so you do no bad', you imply that law is somehow infallible therefore, making it useless to disobey the law because laws are set there already so we do no harm to people or the environment, while in the same breath advocating sometimes breaking it. I just want clarification.
The first point to make is that ultimately, there is no absolute morality. What we depend upon, then, is that, on average, people will typically tend to make moral decisions that most others agree with. For most things, this is the case. Ultimately what it comes to, then, is each individual person will make their own decisions for when it's okay to break the law, and the rest of us have a duty to stand up to those people whom we feel make bad decisions in that regard.

My personal belief is that first of all, it's not "that bad" to break a law that doesn't hurt anybody (whether physically, emotionally, economically), or even have significant risk of doing so. You always have to weigh against the potential downside of the legal consequences of the action, but this sort of law-breaking I wouldn't consider that bad in the main.

And we most certainly should break the law in situations where the law itself is causing harm to people, such as discriminatory laws, if breaking said law is effective. In many cases, civil rights protests fell right down this alley. Today the big civil rights issue is gay rights, though there aren't many situations in which it would actually be effective to break the law as a result (it's not exactly possible to get married illegally in any way that matters, after all). But here's a recent example of a bit of law-breaking (technically trespassing) that was, in my view, 100% the right thing to do:

Fortunately the church, in this case, did the sane thing and didn't press charges.


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