What is Law?
What is Morality?
The Relation between Law and Morality
Law and Morality as Complementary Tools
Nigeria is a country that bribery, corruption and lawlessness reign supreme. This is the reason she has always been named among the most corrupt countries in the world. The establishment of EFCC and ICPC gave hope to many concerned Nigerians, that corruption has finally been given its long overdue attention in the country. These efforts at combating corruption have however failed for corruption and other social ills go on apace with no signs that their end is near. It is for this reason that we believe, that the law alone cannot bring sanity to the Nigerian social system. It is the dearth of morality that has made Nigeria the way it is. This is shown by the fact that Nigerians hail greedy and corrupt politicians as heroes and gives them chieftaincy titles and awards – pointing to an alarming moral emptiness in most Nigerians. This shows that Nigeria has lost the basic sense of what is right and wrong. The social state of Nigeria shows glaringly that law and morality must go together for a country to walk straight. This incidentally is the thesis, of this work. Law and morality are inseparable entities in any social setting. Attempt to separate them would lead the country to experience what Nigeria is experiencing at present. We would argue in this work that, a better Nigeria would only emerge if morality is made to co-exist alongside law. This responsibility we believe falls heavily on the various religious bodies as well as the government.
Nigeria is a country where bribery, corruption and lawlessness are now seen as a way of life. It is for this reason that she has always ranked so highly in the global scale of corruption. According to transparency international, for several years now, Nigeria has been named among the most corrupt countries in the world. Several people in a show of blind patriotism argue this away as a western conspiracy which lacks veracity. The happenings in Nigeria are clear testimonies to the in-depth level of corruption and lawlessness in the country. Killings, maiming, robberies, lootings, kidnappings and other forms of social maladies are existent in a wide and alarming scale in the country.
The establishment of EFCC and ICPC gave hope to many concerned Nigerians, that corruption has finally been given its long overdue attention in the country. These efforts at combating corruption have however, failed for corruption and other social ills go on apace with no signs that their end is near. It is for this reason that I believe that the law alone cannot bring sanity to the Nigerian social system. It is the dearth of morality that has made Nigeria the way it is. This is shown by the fact that Nigerians hail greedy and corrupt politicians as heroes and gives them chieftaincy titles and awards – pointing to an alarming moral emptiness in most Nigerians. In Nigeria, if one occupy a public position and comes out not rich, he would be castigated, derided and hated especially by his own peoples. He is believed to be a fool, because they see his appointment to that position as an opportunity to enrich himself, his family and even his immediate community - which points to the truth that there is a complete breakdown of morality in Nigeria. Hamilton Odunze believes that Nigeria started this downward movement in morality, not because of lack of legal punishment, but because of a total breakdown in morals (http://www.gamji.com/article6000/NEWS7507.htm). It shows that Nigeria has lost the basic sense of what is right and wrong.
The social state of Nigeria show glaringly that law and morality must go together for a country to walk straight. This incidentally is the thesis of this work. Law and morality are inseparable entities in any social setting. Attempt to separate them would lead the country to experience what Nigeria is experiencing at present. Law rule the external environment of humans and morality rule the internal, it is a combination of both rulership that would provide an effective control of behaviour. It could be argued by many that morality could do the work alone, but the presence in the world of amoral humans make it necessary that law must complement morality.
I would argue in this work that, a better Nigeria would only emerge if morality is made to co-exist alongside law. This responsibility falls heavily on the various religious bodies as well as the governments. The government would need to formulate laws that would be aimed at producing moral values in individuals. However, before we plunge ourselves into the discussion of the thesis of this work, we would first do a conceptual analysis of the major concepts of the work. After this we would proceed to discuss the argument against and for the inseparability of law and morality.
What is Law?
Like most other concepts, law has no universally accepted definition. This is why Lloyd lamented that “much juristic ink has flown in an endeavour to provide a universally acceptable definition of law, with little sign of attaining that objective” (19). For John Austin law is “ a command set either directly or circuitously, by a sovereign individual or body, to a member or members of some independent political society in which his authority is supreme” (21). St. Thomas sees it as “a rational ordering of things which concern the common good; promulgated by whoever is charged with the care of the community” (184). Oliver Wendell Holmes believes that laws are the “rules which the courts will follow; the prophecies of what the courts will do in fact and nothing more pretentious” (9). According to Karl Marx, law is a superstructure upon an economic base. It is an instrument employed by the capitalist class to exploit the poor and to protect themselves and their position at the expense of the poor and oppressed (79). Collins regards law as “a rule (written or unwritten) by which a country is governed and the activities of people and organisation are controlled (155).
The weaknesses of most of these definitions of law stem from the fact that, they emphasized one aspect of law in total negation of the other. We will therefore agree with B. O. Okere who asserts that “a meaningful and acceptable definition of law has to include the essential ingredients of law distilled from the various schools of jurisprudence such as the certainty of source and coercive character as emphasized by the positivist; the social relevance and acceptance as advocated by the historists and sociological exponents, and the purposiveness of law (i.e. justice inherent in rationality and satisfaction of the common good), which the naturalists claim is the decisive element of law” (3). We define law alongside Steven Shavell who sees law as a “body of rules that we learn, that is, the rules that are determined and enforced by the state and that are intended to channel behaviour and to resolve certain adverse events (229).
What is Morality?
According to Bodenheimer, morality relates to certain normative patterns which aim at the augmentation of good and the reduction of evil in individual and social life (290). For Okere, morality is aimed at increasing social harmony by diminishing the incidence of excessive selfishness, noxious conduct, towards others, internecine struggle and other potential disintegrative forces in societal life (5). According to Kant, the difference between law and morality is that law regulates the external relations of humans while morality regulates their inner life and motivation (13-14). This implies therefore, that morality appeals to the conscience of men while law requires external compliance to rules and authorities regardless of the motivation of an individual. According to Steven Shavell, a moral rule has the property that, when a person obeys the rule, he will tend to feel the sentiment known as virtue, and if he disobeys the rule, he will tend to feel the sentiment known as guilt. A moral rule also has the feature that, when somebody obeys a rule, and is observed to have done so by another party, that party bestows praise on him/her, and if a person disobeys a rule, the observing party disapprove and reproach him/her (230).
Morality is a body of rules that aims at regulating human conduct that are imbibed by humans through socialization, education and indoctrination. There are rules not promulgated by a known individual or group of individuals but could be said to have been derived from natural law.
The Relation between Law and Morality
According to Andrew Uduigwomen, there are two schools of thoughts as regards the nexus between law and morality – the separability and the inseparability schools (54). The separatist school holds that law could be separated from morality. Scholars like Bentham, Austin, Kelsen, Lloyd are proponents of the separatist school of thought. Their views are divergent but could be summed up into the following points.
1. Law comes from and is backed by an external authority but morality emanates from man’s internal disposition and personal conviction and is enforced by free choice and inward conviction. According to Steven Shavell morality comes in part through socialization, learning and inculcation and in part is a product of our evolutionary make up. That is, some moral values are inbuilt in us and are propped up by good upbringing (231). But law on the other hand comes from a legitimate external authority.
2. The enforcement of laws comes from the external authority while the enforcement of morality is mostly within. The enforcement of laws depends mainly on external sanction that varies depending on the situation. On the other hand, the enforcement of morality comes from internal incentives of virtue for obeying the rules and of guilt for disobeying them. Morality is also enforced by external sanctions like the hope of entering heaven or the fear of entering hell fire and also the hope of being praised for doing good and the fear of being chastised for doing bad.
3. Establishment or promulgation of laws is far cheaper than the establishment of morality. Shavell argues on this thus, “the establishment of legal rules ordinarily is not a very expensive process, requiring only that law be passed by a legislative body or that a judge make a decision that helps to articulate a rule, and that the rule be properly communicated … the establishment of moral rules is evidently very expensive from a social perspective, assuming that this occurs through socialization and inculcation. To instil the moral rules that one should not litter, or lie or cheat, and the like, requires constant effort, over the years of childhood” (233). Shavell believes that the cost of establishing moral rules should include the cost of instilling the tendency to experience virtue when the rules are obeyed and of experiencing guilt when the rules are broken. If we accept this, it would mean accepting that the cost of legal rules should also include the costs of erecting structures for effecting legal sanctions, like the cost of building courthouses and police stations. This would seem to be greater than the cost of entrenching morality, but a close look at it would show Shavell to be right. For to instil a moral virtue would require constant effort throughout the duration of childhood, if all these are calculated, it would prove Shavell right that the cost of establishing morality is higher.
4. The primary aim of morality is to make man virtuous while that of law is to ensure a peaceful co-existence. Uduigwomen explains this thus “ this is not to say that law does not command virtuous actions, but it does that with the aim of ensuring that the performance of such actions leads to peaceful co-existence … while morality prohibits all vices and evil, law forbids only those vices that are injurious to other people, that is, that militate against peaceful co-existence … while morality covers the spheres of private and public morality, law covers only the sphere of public morality (55).
- Quote paper
- Peter Bisong (Author)Joseph Paul Essien (Author)Inamenti Lawrence Udo (Author), 2017, Law and Morality. Complementary Tools for the Service of Nigeria?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/379512