Thoreau, King, & Goldman on Unjust Laws Essay

Thoreau, King, & Goldman on Unjust Laws Essay

Length: 937 words (2.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

A well founded government is one which has the consent of the people it governs. This system is used to protect its people and provide them with the necessities to prosper. But, many individuals have believed that majority of the time government should not interfere in economic and political affairs. This type of government is known as an active government which can be referred to as a “large government.” Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and political anarchist Emma Goldman argue the right to break unjust laws that the government up holds for the public. Although some are more radical than others, each thinker asses their idea in a different way. Thoreau and King both believe that the best way to rid an unjust law is by performing acts of civil disobedience. Goldman on the other hand, believes in complete obliteration of the government thus becoming a state of anarchism. All three thinkers have made it clear in their arguments that it is justified to break an unjust law.
In his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau starts off by saying, “Government is best which governs least” (Thoreau 98). Thoreau clearly states that he is not an anarchist and does not believe that government should be abolished. Rather, he believes that we are entitled to a better government that is based upon morality and justice. Thoreau explores the idea of civil disobedience and challenges the role of government by describing his own incarceration for refusing to pay taxes during the Mexican-American War to expand slavery. When the government ceases to act morally, Thoreau argues that it is up to the individual to disobey and withdraw him or herself from the government. Thoreau...


... middle of paper ...


...ldman bring about important arguments against unjust laws and how they affect society as a whole. But, the reality of it all is that getting rid of government and performing acts of civil disobedience alone is not enough to rid injustice. It is all about becoming unified and fighting for a cause together. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. best argues that individuals have the moral duty of disobeying unjust laws which go against the moral laws of God. So many individuals have disobeyed unjust laws because they have felt it is their moral integrity to do so. In Sophocles tragic play Antigone, the main protagonist buries her brother Polyneices' body, by disobeying Creon's deceleration of letting his corpse rot and be eaten by vultures. Knowing the consequences, Antigone still accepted her faith. Individuals disobey laws on the grounds that a higher moral law may be at risk.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Just and Unjust Laws: Should the Unjust Laws be Obeyed? Essay

- "One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." Martin Luther King's words, which just correspond with the above assertion, perfectly tell us what to do in face of laws, either just or unjust. To be sure, modern laws are made to express the general will, a will that aims at the common good. This means that laws in most cases intend to protect every social member’s rights under the principle of justice and fairness....   [tags: judicial, law enforcement]

Better Essays
750 words (2.1 pages)

Essay on Should Unjust Laws Be Obeyed?

- John Stuart mill wrote on liberty which basically was about freedom and that what majority says is right. Since we don’t live in a perfect world we often have laws that are unjust. Many civil activists believe that not only it is our right but it is our obligation to disobey unjust laws. The question that rises is where this freedom comes from. These civil activists believe that we have god given rights that no one can take away. Laws that unjust and interfere with our rights should not be obeyed....   [tags: freedom, disobedience, relativist]

Better Essays
960 words (2.7 pages)

Unjust And Just Laws By Martin Luther King Jr. And Henry Thoreau Essay

- Unjust and Just Laws What is an “unjust law”. Though described differently by many an “unjust law” could be said to be a law that is right legally and not morally. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry Thoreau both have dealings with the government due to their disagreement with laws that they saw as unjust. Both men were sent to jail for not complying with the laws put in place by the government. They do so however in ways that do not subtract from the overall point they are trying to prove. Though they handle their situations differently they ultimately strive for the same goal in making those who are of higher power and those who are everyday people see their wrong doings in following the...   [tags: United States, African American, Democracy]

Better Essays
1346 words (3.8 pages)

How Should One Respond to Unjust Laws? Essay

- The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines unjust as “characterized by injustice: Unfair.” At the same time it defines a law as “a binding custom or practice of a community.” With both definitions in mind an unjust law can be described as “a binding custom or practice of a community characterized by injustice and unfairness.” Today one can see unjust laws across the globe, many of which are overlooked by much of the world. At the same time, just laws are often enforced in an unjust manner. The fact that much of the world is corrupt is an obvious fact, however, the appropriate course of action to bring about change, is not always so easy to see....   [tags: Laws Injustice Equality Essays]

Free Essays
1445 words (4.1 pages)

Essay on Teenage Curfew Laws Should Be Removed

- A curfew is a regulation requiring people, specifically minors, to remain indoors between specified hours. These restrictions can sometimes cause more problems between a city that enforces the curfew and a teenager that mistakenly breaks it. A recent lawsuit has been filed against the city of Wanaque, New Jersey. The lawsuit says Shaina Harris, a 16-year old Wanaque resident, left her home on Lake Drive on the night of September 22, 2013 with her mother's permission. She then walked an estimated, 200 feet, to buy a milkshake at Burger King on a nearby street....   [tags: they are unjust and ineffective]

Better Essays
788 words (2.3 pages)

Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Justification of Defying Unjust Laws

- Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Justification of Defying Unjust Laws In his famous essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,’’ Martin Luther King, Jr. cites conscience as a guide to obeying just laws and defying unjust laws. In the same way, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience,” that people should do what their conscience tells them and not obey unjust laws. The positions of the two writers are very close; they use a common theme of conscience, and they use a similar rhetorical appeal of ethos....   [tags: Compare Contrast, philosophy]

Better Essays
1828 words (5.2 pages)

Unjust Laws Threat Justice, A Letter to the President Essay

- Unjust Laws Threat Justice Dear President Obama While I was reading an article about a death of highly respected person who was calling for gun ownership, I came into the conclusion that all laws support gun ownership are unjust. That man was one of the eminent supporters gun ownership. He was found dead from a gunshot. However, those weapons he had couldn't save his own life. Your Excellency, Let me get this straight. Our lack of gun control has led to a seemingly endless string of tragedies, multiple killings by some deranged persons and has finally reached into all places especially our schools....   [tags: gun-related suicides and homicides]

Better Essays
1252 words (3.6 pages)

According to Socrates, Should you Obey an Unjust Law? Essay

- Convicted For Living. Do we have an obligation to obey any law, no matter how unjust or evil, provided only that it is in fact a valid rule of the legal system in which we happen to be physically located. In the following composition, I am going to examine the answer to this question in accordance to what Socrates believes. The best way to understand this almost “WWSD” (What Would Socrates Do) approach is by looking at Socrates' actions in the three Platonic dialogues we have read. These dialogues bring forth three possible bases for why Socrates believes one should obey the law....   [tags: socrates, unjust law, obeying]

Better Essays
567 words (1.6 pages)

The Lion in Winter by James Goldman Essay

- The Lion in Winter by James Goldman      Lion in Winter is the chess game as portrayed in Becket. There are kings and queens, but the most important ones are the pawns. The pawns are what makes this story grow. Everyone in this story is playing their own chess game for their own reasons. The most dangerous ones are the one that have nothing to lose.      Everyone is hungry for power: Henry, Eleanor, Richard, John, Geoffrey, and Phillip. This thirst for power all started when Henry III, the rightful heir, died....   [tags: Lion Winter James Goldman Chess Essays]

Better Essays
1020 words (2.9 pages)

The Satirical Theme of The Princess Bride, by William Goldman Essay

- Satire with a funny twist. In the novel The Princess Bride, William Goldman satirizes both fairy tales and the standard literary process through his characters and their actions. Westley, a poor farmer, falls in love with the far from perfect maiden, Buttercup, but has to sail away in order to find his fortunes. Years later, Buttercup, thinking that Westley abandoned her, is forcibly engaged to Prince Humperdinck, a cruel and calculating man. Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo, three mysterious kidnappers, abduct the princess in hopes of causing war between the great nations of Guilder and Florin....   [tags: The Princess Bride, William Goldman]

Better Essays
813 words (2.3 pages)