Is the law contray to the virtue of courage? That depends on whether the law is moral and valid enough that surrendering is an act of courage or an act of cowardice. The law in America does not recognize any virtues except obedience to itself, is often effectively arbitrary, and uses all sticks and no carrots, mostly, for its purposes. Therefore, the best citizen according to the statutes of an American state is a complete, absolute, and pure coward. This was not always true. In fact, the law was once associated with virtuous life and courage was not opposed to it. The idea that law negates virtue ethics and utilitarian ethics for a Lockean deontology and one which must be enforced in the absolute is an American one borne in the 20th century.
One of the great criticisms of the Model Penal Code for American law, when compared withh British law from which American law is derived, is its lack of lattitude for humanity. The moral nature of an action is taken more into account in British Law because their aim is to prevent anti-social behavior; not enforce statutes on the principle that society will fall apart if statutes are not universally enforced. If we look at Chicago in 1968 versus Seattle in 1999, we see this change as well. Or the Pentagon Papers versus Edward Snowden.
Earlier in my blogs did I touch on the shift from rule of moré versus rule of law from the early to late 20th century. That in the increase of supposed freedoms, it was mostly turning informally but tolerated behavior to either forbidden or formally permitted behavior. Sodomly laws, for example, were not very enforced in a small town in rural America in the 1930s and the Gay Rights movement mostly got formally allowed what had once been tacitly tolerated after our country decided to enforce formally rarely enforced laws.
With regards to crimes like civil disobedience, this is very relevant. As Rand Paul pointed out, Martin Luther King faced thirty days in jail while Edward Snowden faced decades in prison for treason. The civil rights movement would not have won if their criminal records ruined their lives and denied them gainful employment resulting in their widespread malnutrition and homelessness. It was understood by the sit-in participants that in five years they could still get a decent job and home despite their criminal record. There could not be a civil rights movement today that was nearly as successful because they’re not facing thirty days in jail but thirty years barely making ends meet.
But this is not just civil disobedience. I’ve never been arrested but I have gotten in trouble with the police and been threatened with arrest. In college, it was for platonic harassment or, rhetorically worse, platonic cyberstalking. Disputes that could have been resolved over a coffee date went to the campus police and the Dean of Students. There is no standing up to bullies or mean girls. I didn’t hit back but hitting back is, of course, an assault and battery charge, talking back is a harassment charge, and DMing back is potentially cyberstalking. What is worse is that it is easier to bully someone with plausible deniability than it is to stand up to a bully with plausible deniability. So there is no recourse except to sit and take it silently and without complaint.
Philosophically, it is John Rawls. He was criticized a lot for his thin-good but the Rawlsian thin-good is even worse because while it doesn’t have much, what it does have are Lockean negative liberties. That’s almost all it has but they are not overridden or mitigated by virtue or utilitarian ethics. It should be remembered that John Locke is partially responsible for the “Bloody Code” which entailed executing people for minor property crimes because of the absolute right to property. While it was made in the name of pluralism, the Rawlsian thin-good’s few morals and ethics are Lockean property rights extended to the person. In contravention of the state, it is the corporate sole of the state whose property rights have been violated. We don’t usually execute people but we royally fuck over their lives and incarcerate the fuck out of them in the defense of Lockean ethics.
Using the platonic harassment example, there is no negative liberty to reconicliation, understanding, or goodwill. There is a negative liberty to not be bothered under any circumstance the moment one decrees it regardless of how trivial or asinine the issue. The school did not send these things to a mediator in the counseling department because there is no virtue in that in their Rawlsian system. If one party shuts it down, that is their absolute negative liberty. There was no sex, no romance, no pursuit of those things, no violence, no threats of violence, and no property damage. They were going to incarcerate me for any contact, whatsoever, under a vague harassment statute on the principal of absolutist individualism. That has nothing to do with being a good person or creating a harmonious community. It is enforcing a philosophical principle.
The question here is whether that is moral and if it is not whether my submission is an act of cowardice. I mean, I did submit but I was not taking responsibility for anti-social behavior or harm that I had done. Yeah, turning oneself in to the authorities was an act of nobility and honor when most laws that were enforced in a community were about anti-social behavior. That’s just the rising action to my point. My point is the Foucaultian institutional standard that is internalized and the conditioned personality traits make for spineless and ballless cowards. The ideal citizen is one devoid of courage. To stand up to a bully or to commit civil disobedience. Breaking the law or standing up to interpersonal injustice aren’t worth the cost. There is no chivalry; just terror, domination, and submission.
No one in that state can stand up to a government, stand up to a bully, defy a company. The state has guns and internment camps and what it wants is for the average citizens to look at them and give up. The law is so broad and pervasive, it deals with far more than antisocial behavior and in the American system, there is no lattitude for humanity as was pointed out in the criticism of the MPC. Any and all statutes must be enforced in its view. It wants people to consider acting on their conscience and then look to the barbed wire, guns, and tanks of the blindfolded Lady Justice and think “It ain’t worth it”. Having a conscience is too risky so it is safer to not have a conscience and to obey the code. Which is the death of character.