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Laws without ethical content

    A law or '''legal rule without ethical content''' is irrelevant to morality (see also ethics) or to an ethical behavior or life Instead of (general) rules we can also consider legal decisions like those of courts So, the problem concerns legal norm (philosophy)|norms without ethical content may they be rules decisions or principles
    It is commonly accepted that some perhaps most legal norms have no ethical content Take the following: In many countries it is law that motor vehicles must keep to the left of a two-lane street; in many others they must keep to the right The advantage of a uniform rule here is hard to quarrel with; but it would seem difficult to make the argument that morality requires one and condemns the other Here it looks like having a rule any rule is more important than having one rule or the other And if we can have either then none of them seems to have a moral status
    But the matter cannot be that simple Suppose that two children are in danger You can save one or the other but not both Of course your decision to save one of them is morally significant as would be a decision to save none So, the simple fact that there are two (or more) morally acceptable solutions does not make each one of those solutions morally irrelevant They are just morally equivalent It is irrelevant to choose one or the other but it is not irrelevant to choose (just to choose) and it is not irrelevant to choose one of the acceptable ones and not some other
    Lets go back to the driving rules Suppose that some legislator decided that it be allowed to drive on either side of the streets Or that drivers should keep the left at some specific times and the right at other ones Would those legal rules be morally acceptable? It seems they would not and that is exactly what is meant with «the advantage of a uniform rule here is hard to quarrel with» And actually not any rule Either the rule to keep the left or the rule to keep the right but not the rule to keep whatever one wants or to keep the left between 7 am and 11 am, the right between 11 am and 1 pm, and then left again
    The rule to keep the left (or the right) seems to be useful So this rule fits moral utilitarianism But utilitarians defend that every legal rule must be useful must be in accordance to the general good And if a legal rule is harmful or even irrelevant it should perhaps be cancelled This way it is hard to grasp how can a legal rule have no ethical content But then again there may be a problem with the concept of ethical content
    Robert Alexy argues that every legal rule is ethically relevant since it affects freedom and freedom is a matter of great ethical significance
    On the other side most legal positivists argue that there are legal rules without any ethical significance and that is an important step towards their claim that law and morality have no necessary connection