Skepticism of the law

I’m not a Lawrence Lessig fan. He’s too radical, but he still had a great quote last year:

…I am a little surprised by the respect that non lawyers typically give the law. Because lawyers’ view is one of constant skepticism. We constantly ask and demand of the law that it explain to us: How does this make sense? And we never presume that we happen to have a body of regulation that makes sense. We always examine. Where it does make sense, we say good for the law, and we encourage people to follow it. But where it makes no sense, our perspective is that the law needs to be changed.

He only encourages obedience to laws that make sense. Later he wrote “Stop believing, stop listening, stop deferring. Feel entitled to question this system.

(Getting Our Values around Copyright Right, EDUCAUSE Review, March/April 2010)

This is refreshing. Usually, I see the paintywaist viewpoint, that all law deserves to be obeyed just because it exists.


Law is just an approximation of right and wrong. It’s often off.

Americans were once required to return slaves, but it was never wrong to ignore this law and help slaves become free. Similarly, suppose 75 mph is safe on a road. 75 mph is illegal if the speed limit sign says 65, but it’s not wrong.

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