This is famous a very famous quote associated to Plato, a Greek philosopher and founder of Academy in Athens. There exists some contradiction on the translation of this quote from original Greek to simple English language. Some people translated the original quote as
“Laws are made to instruct the good, and in the hope that there may be no need of them; also to control the bad, whose hardness of heart will not be hindered from crime.”
It implies that it takes very little to govern good people and much effort is needed to govern the bad people. It further elucidates that good people always abide by the laws, once they are made. While, bad people commit the crime with impunity even in the presence of laws. However, it does not means that laws are useless powerless and good people are wise enough to decide the good and bad on their own.
Let’s discuss the first part of quote that good people don’t need laws. Complete agreement to this quote is near to impossible because;
Morality is not universal. What one person or culture considers moral is not what another might. In the age of globalization, when cross cultural amalgamation is at high pace, some standard laws are much needed. Even, when a good person with high level of morality, moves from one country to another, needs to now the laws of new state. Infect laws save the good people firm unwanted nuisance.
Also there are laws that doesn’t have anything to do with moral good or bad, like traffic laws. The law says everyone should drive on the right side that does not mean that there is a moral judgment in which side of the road you drive on it’s just to standardize driving practices because it is more convenient and safe if everyone drives on the same side.
Laws also guide the good people how to fulfill their responsibilities. In other words, empathy needs to be combined with wisdom to be effective. An empathetic fool may go around trying to help people, but he’ll inevitably make things worse. But once he knows the way he would be more informed and vigilant in his doings. Here come laws which provide the people a full fledge rational for their actions and the consequences.
When it comes to divine laws, there were several acts——-which were forbidden after the advent of Islam——- which were done by good people also. But once they were forbidden, they stopped doing them immediately. Before the revelation of Aya’ah people usually did not ask for permission while entering someone’s home. Although it was not meant to trespass someone’s property but Allah (SWT) considered it against the privacy of people. As result, the divine law bond upon its followers to ask three times for permission while getting in someone’s home. Another glaring example of divine laws is law of marriage. Before the advent of Islam getting married with step-mother (after father’s death) and step sister was a common practice and thus followed by general public as a whole. It was the eternal law of Islam which declared this practice disgusting and had elevated the mothers and sisters in the more honorable way.
Now the point to ponder is how the bad people find a way around the laws. The answer is it is the law enforcement body which is toothless, not the law itself. Laws are nothing more than written words on piece of paper. At the very first place, it is the responsibility of state’s law enforcement agencies (LEA) to enforce the law in its true spirit.
Although it takes much effort to enforce the laws upon infidels and traitor yet laws, however, make it inconvenient for bad people to be bad. The fear of law is always there. Had laws not existed at all, the crime rate would have been much higher. It is the fear of punishment which compels the criminal to commit crime in disguise otherwise the crimes would happen more openly. Thus laws try to control the wrong doers whenever they commit the crime.
Furthermore the violation of divine laws is not easy. The societies following particular religion have strong hold on the implementation of religious laws. If any contradiction arises than social punishment is inevitable which are more excruciating than legal punishments.
Laws whether divine or man-made, always ensure the safety and betterment of mankind. Nevertheless, man-made laws need to be changed with respect to time and circumstances. Laws not only banish the wrong doers but also guide the good people how to fulfill the responsibility. Those who find escape from man-made laws are often taken to the task by the law of nature. Thus escape from the law is near to impossible.