If laws didn’t exist, would you still trust people?

So, my seven-year-old just told me she doesn’t trust the police. The police don’t have a good reputation here and my husband and I don’t speak very highly of them (although the topic doesn’t come up very often). But still, the few times in my life I’ve needed the police they were there and I was grateful. If I wasn’t a middle-aged white woman, I’m sure my story would be different. 

Strange question – how badly do we really need laws? Are there too many of them?

If laws didn’t exist, would you still trust people? Are there people whose only deterrent from doing something horrible is the threat of incarceration? 

Does the threat of incarceration stop you from doing anything? Jail really scares me even though I’ve never been in any real trouble with the law. Deep down is that fear preventing me from doing anything?

The thought of laws not existing reminds me of people who say if you don’t have religion, how do you know right from wrong? Obviously, we know religion isn’t required in morality, so I feel if you took away laws, most people would still have a conscience.

Do laws work? It’s like that saying, “Locks keep honest people out.” If you really want to do something, do laws actually matter to you?

I asked my husband if there was anything illegal he wanted to do, and if he would do it if laws didn’t exist. He laughed and said he wanted to loiter. I told him it might be exciting to dine and ditch. We couldn’t seriously think of anything we actually wanted to do. Do you feel that way?

Are there any laws you would like to break if it was no longer illegal? Are there any laws you feel are unnecessary? I’ve always felt drugs should be decriminalized. 

How do you feel about laws? If you don’t want to comment on this post, I completely understand! I just thought it would be interesting to throw some questions out there.


  1. Bruce says

    I think that for about 98-99% of Americans, laws are unnecessary. But for 1-2% of people, they are very necessary. And for 100% of corporations, laws are necessary.. That’s because corporations and psychopaths have no internal restraints.
    From TV shows, we think of laws in terms of criminal laws that crooks break, according to cops. Yet, the actual biggest category of court cases is suits brought by one company versus another. So maybe there should be separate categories regarding corporate laws versus criminal law.
    Losing laws would mean companies feeling obligated to use every trick, etc…
    Yes, the Seattle government board isn’t really competing, so a show would be to misdirect people‘s efforts.

  2. says

    If laws didn’t exist, would you still trust people?
    If laws were not visibly and consistently enforced, then I would have a harder time trusting people. There are some people who routinely look for ways to rob, cheat or steal from people, and won’t be stopped except by being caught, or at least called out. And if other people see them getting away with it, then they’ll be less likely to see any benefit in obeying the rules. So we need well-enforced laws, both to deter people who want to break them for their own benefit, and to maintain a climate where those who don’t want to break the laws can trust each other, feel safe and not feel like shmucks missing out on opportunities to “get over.”

  3. Stevko says

    When someone talks about not breaking any laws, I always think of the copyright laws. I see it broken all the time. So to me the question “Are there any laws you would like to break?” sounds more like “What other laws would you like to break?”.
    And there is one law I would like to break: It is forbidden by law to pay for stuff with cash if it is over [some amount of money]. I would like to break it by buying a house with cash. However, I do not have that kind of money so I couldn’t break it even if it were not illegal.

  4. John Morales says

    Laws as in formalised State enforced laws, well… states always have those.

    Laws as in norms and consequences for breaching them exist in every human grouping at whatever level of granularity.

    Yes, even within families.

    The former type is a necessary feature of a State, the latter a necessary feature of human sociology.

    So I don’t think the question has any real answers, in the same sort of way that the square root of a negative number has any real answers.

    • John Morales says

      I can essay an answer, but remember this is not a real answer:
      Different jurisdictions can have different legal regimes, and what is illegal in one jurisdiction may be legal in another, and one may be able to travel between those jurisdictions.

  5. says

    I’m white. Disabled. AFAB. And was always taught that the police are there to help.
    The times I’ve needed the police, they took the side of my abuser, didn’t even take him out of the apartment, treated him like he was “one of the boys”, and treated me (the victim) like I was a criminal and told me to stop provoking him.
    I do NOT trust the cops.
    And at this point, I have a hard time trusting anyone because society still blames women/AFAB individuals for “getting ourselves” beaten up, raped, or killed.

  6. says

    As for breaking laws? I’d like to end the ineffective, expensive, and deadly Drugs War. It’s done nothing but ruin lives, mostly for a plant. Drugs — yes, all of them. yes, even that one — should be legalized, regulated, and taxed, just like everything else, FOR THE SAFETY OF THE USERS.

  7. Holms says

    You definitely need laws. Not only because there are criminals, but also because there would be drastically more danger if there were no laws, as more people would do whatever they wish.

  8. says

    And why shouldn’t people do as they wish, so long as it does minimal reasonable harm to others? Hm?

    I’ll remind you, the Drugs War in the US started precisely because the government wanted a way to criminalize black people and war protesters, but couldn’t outlaw dark skin or free speech, so they decided to build an artificiall association between members of these groups and use of certain drugs. (This after the successful campaign in the 20s to outlaw that devil weed marihuana (note the use of a scary foreign word, deliberate choice), by associating it with jazz musicians (black) and poor laborers (Mexican) and asserting that it somehow made the black men violent and sexually aggressive, while making the Mexicans lazy and unwilling to work, and in both instances invoking the safety and purity of White women to get White men all riled up.)

    It was never about the drugs, and always about protecting the purity and virtue of white women (and later, children).

  9. brightmoon says

    I was never mistreated by the police and I’m a Black woman . And usually they’ve been very nice. I have been abused by racist social workers over my children . I don’t act like a stereotype so i got harassed because my kids don’t either. Oldest likes learning languages and Mr SS ( stupid social-worker) decided he was fantasizing so he took him out of his Spanish class and told him he should be playing basketball . Thats when my son got mad and learned the other languages. Luckily I live in a multicultural area and I had neighbors who spoke those languages. Ms SS got angry because I had “ too many books in my house!” Like WTF!!!!

  10. brightmoon says

    If there were no laws would I trust people, No . Ask anyone who has been abused by a narcissist about that one . They do immoral cruel stuff that they tend to get away with . And they also encourage others to further abuse any one they victimize . Dolt45 did/does that all the time . some Fundie Christians in America went after Judge Jones of Dover trial fame and anti vaxxer idiots went after Fauci. Enforced laws prevent a lot of that if not all. That’s why marital rape laws had to be passed.

  11. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    If laws didn’t exist, would you still trust people?

    This assumes I trust (all) people. I don’t. To answer the intended question, without laws, I would trust people a little less, but I also believe that most people tend to act with good intentions most of the time, with or without the threat of incarceration.

    Are there people whose only deterrent from doing something horrible is the threat of incarceration?

    Yes. I am fixing my house, and I am working with a dozen different contractors. Based on that experience alone, aka the poor quality of work and attempts to wiggle out of reasonable contractual obligations, I am quite confident that a lot of people would do more bad stuff without the threat of incarceration.

    Does the threat of incarceration stop you from doing anything?

    Yes. I don’t torrent download TV shows, movies, and music anymore.

    Are there any laws you would like to break if it was no longer illegal? Are there any laws you feel are unnecessary? I’ve always felt drugs should be decriminalized.

    I already break some laws while it’s currently illegal to do so. For example, I just parked in the fire lane in front of a store to take out some very heavy stuff to return. The threat of fines was a significant element of my decision-making process whether to park in the fire lane or not. There’s also copyright law w.r.t TV, movies, music.

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