2.3 Laws and values
Rules (including laws) express values (both implicitly and explicitly) and people are more likely to comply with a rule (or a law) which expresses a value to which they are committed. For example, you may have heard about the poll tax riots which took place in the UK in 1990. Those riots started because a significant number of taxpayers and others thought that the tax, which was not based on a person’s ability to pay, was unfair.
Activity 3 Thinking about values
In the left-hand column of the table you will see eight statements. Below, we have set out a number of values which tend to be associated with ‘law’. Put the value you would associate with each of the statements next to the one which most clearly reflects that value.
Liberty, Security, Autonomy, Dignity, Privacy, Fairness, Equality, Freedom of Expression
Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.
Freedom of Expression
a.People should not have to carry identity cards.
b.People who have not been convicted of a criminal offence should not be held in custody.
c.People of different ethnic backgrounds should be treated no differently from each other.
d.People suspected of links with terrorist organisations should be held in custody.
e.People should be able to decide on their own medical treatment.
f.People should be able to say what they want to say.
g.People should not be punished in public.
h.People charged with a criminal offence have the right to put their defence.
- 1 = a
- 2 = b
- 3 = g
- 4 = f
- 5 = c
- 6 = d
- 7 = h
- 8 = e
Your completed table should look like this.
|People should not have to carry identity cards.||Privacy|
|People who have not been convicted of a criminal offence should not be held in custody.||Liberty|
|People should not be punished in public.||Dignity|
|People should be able to say what they want to say.||Freedom of Expression|
|People of different ethnic backgrounds should be treated no differently from each other.||Equality|
|People suspected of links with terrorist organisations should be held in custody.||Security|
|People charged with a criminal offence have the right to put their defence.||Fairness|
|People should be able to decide on their own medical treatment.||Autonomy|
When filling in the table, you may have been aware of the fact that although each of the statements expresses one clear value, those values may conflict with each other. For example, security, which a community may value because it emphasises the importance of physical safety, may conflict with the value of liberty (of people suspected of terrorist links).
Similarly, the value of freedom of expression, which allows newspapers to publish intimate stories about people, may conflict with the value of privacy of individuals.
One of the problematic aspects of rules (including laws) is that they may advance one value at the expense of another.