How Laws Benefit Society

How Laws Benefit Society

3 examples of how law benefits society:

Designated Rules For Behaviour

Designated Authorities

Ethical Punishment

Without laws, we would lose these 3 benefits. People would have no incentive to follow group behaviour, we would have no accepted authorities who can resolve issues, and there would be no means to legally and justly punish people. Lets explore these further.

 Rules For Behaviour

follow the rulesThe advantages of having designated rules for behaviour are numerous, but to name a few:

  • a source of conflict resolution
  • an a priori set of rules for conflict resolution
  • And forced conformity

When we have rules for behaviour, we necessarily have agreed upon standards to reference. That is, when a conflict arises, we can definitely say, in most cases, who was right and who was wrong.

So, when a conflict arises within society, then we can reference our rules. A good example would be when families split-up and the courts have to determine who gets what resources. Rather than rely on social customs, we have the benefit of laws to determine how things ought to be separated. Laws provide us with a means to resolve conflict.

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🔴>>Learn About: The Purpose of Law

In addition to the rules of law being a source for us to resolve conflicts, the law allows us to also determine standards of behaviour before the fact. The advantage of doing so relates to power. That is, if rules for behaviour were determined after the fact, that is, after an event had occurred, then the rulers could create law to suit their interests. The fact that law is created before the fact means no legislator or law maker can produce outcomes which are deeply favourable to them, or it at least becomes far more difficult to do so. Thus, another advantage of law is that no one can create a law which will benefit them in some future scenario, so long as the laws are produced before the fact.

The last advantage to having rules for behaviour is forced conformity. When we lack rules for behaviour, we rely on our social customs; however, these social customs are not enforced. If they were, they would be laws; and so, in a lawless society, no social custom would be enforced. Therefore, though we might all have a custom to drive on X side of the road, there is no punishment for those who reject the custom and drive on Z side of the road.  Without rules for behaviour, we lack a forced conformity. And without forced conformity, people can engage in deviant behaviour, especially of the sort that harms society rather than expresses individual differences.

Legal Interpreters

Another benefit of having laws relates to positions of authority. Laws can do the following:

  • Determine who interprets the law
  • Determine who can create new law 

If we think about the game of soccer, we can recognize that it is up to the referee’s to determine who violates the rules. Such circumstances ensure that neither team can selectively apply the rules, as the referee is only interested in applying the rules rather than using the rules to help one team win over the other.

A soccer field with players standing on it.
🔴>>Read About: The Philosophy of Soccer

Without the designated referee, then the teams would have to fight with one another about how the rules should be interpreted.

Similarly, when we have laws, we need to determine who is to interpret them. We cannot simply rely on crowds of people or social custom to determine the application of law, as there would be bias.

Instead, we would need rules to confer powers to specific individuals, such as the rules within the constitution: U.S. Constitution.

The various sections within article 1 of the the constitution not only determine who is to interpret and create law, but they also lay out the processes by which one must abide in order obtain the outlined powers. This method ensures that not just anyone can have legal power, and it also determines how much power someone is allowed to have.

Ethical Punishment

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Once we have accepted legal authorities within our society, we can begin to develop ethical forms of punishment. Rather than be reliant upon mob rule, we can instead trust those who aspire to higher-order principles, especially because of the rigorous education and testing we put them through, to hand out punishments in an unbiased and ethical fashion. Of course, judges will still be subject to some biases: a list of biases in judges; however, the ethical ideal is something we always stride towards yet never quite reach. So, imperfection is expected. Nevertheless, those who create and administer punishment can stride towards:

  1. Ethical forms of punishment
  2. Ethical criminal justice systems

With the powers set in place within the legal system, we need not worry about rogue forms of punishment as much. For it is most certainly the case that, when we seek to punish those who deviate from the rules of behaviour, our watchful eyes can scan the few with more ease than would be the case with the many; in addition to such, we likewise have the freedom of the tyranny of the many. These two states of affairs evoke a few principles of social psychological research, of which exemplify the necessity of elected officials.

1. Social Loafing

When we are diligently at work, producing something of capital for either a price or for pursuit of passion, we have a sense of responsibility; that is, we are responsible for whatever outcome arises, as the outcome is a manifestation of our efforts. However, when we are tasked an assignment while in a group, that sense of responsibility diminishes.

More precisely, groups have on us the effect of diffused responsibility: formally known as social loafing. Social loafing refers to the simple fact that, when in groups, we expend less effort toward a task than when otherwise; which is to say, we have a greater sense of responsibility when working alone than when in groups.

2. Deindividuation

The notion of deindividuation refers to the loss of self-awareness and evaluation apprehension; it occurs in group situations that foster anonymity and draw attention away from the individual. For example:

It is rather apparent that this group of fans had loss their sense of individuality and responsibility; they had become subject to the process of deindividuation. And when people experience a diminished sense of self-awareness, their behaviour becomes detached from their values, they are less restrained, and extremely unregulated.

Thus, when judges conduct themselves, knowing they are under the watchful eye of not only the legal system its self but also those who the legal system serves, they are more likely to behave in accordance with the ethical principles of the state. Their sense of responsibility is greater than the sense of responsibility found within groups; and therefore, such leads to more ethical forms of punishment.

Likewise, when we have a mere handful, whom of which can be seen by all, we will have the fortunate disposition of being immune to deindividuation amongst ordained powers. We do not have to take witness to the brutality of the mob, nor do we have to tolerate the sacrificing of principles as a result group bias. This, therefore, brings about a more ethical criminal justice system.

In Conclusion

The benefit of laws, though far from being exhaustively explicated here, are nonetheless, apparent. Without law, we would have numerous problems, of which stem from issues related to uncertainty, stasis, or inefficiency: see “why laws are important“. But with law, we are able to produce accepted country-wide standards, accepted positions of power, and accepted standards of punishment. So, what are the advantages of law? Our society, when under the rule of law, can be far more organized and rational as a result of slow, methodic, and deliberate reflection upon the rules for behaviour, accepted officials, and ethical punishments.


Ideasinhat is a business development analyst and longtime reader of academic literature. He writes books and essays on science and philosophy, and posts them to this website. The essays, as with the books, cover topics from psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science to economics, politics, and law.

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