Friday, March 4, 2011

Illegal. Immoral or Both?

Apparently generous Commonwealth bank ATMs were dispensing more money than requested by customers earlier this week. The bank said people were deliberately overdrawing their accounts, and that this was possible because the ATM's were offline, and therefore not connected to the bank's database.For those collecting the bonus cash, it must have seemed like a miracle but banks don't give money away. It's not like Monopoly where a bank error in your favour can net you a cool $200. The beneficiaries of the surprise cash have been told to return the money. Fraud squad is involved, and advising people that keeping money which does not belong to them is a crime which may result in prosecution and a 10 year jail term. That seems a bit over the top, doesn't it? These people aren't criminals...or are they?

You can be fined for littering, but is it immoral? It's against the law to use a handheld mobile phone while you're driving, but it's okay to eat, drink, smoke, have a conversation, or listen to the radio - or even do all five things at once. Is talking on the phone while driving immoral? Is it even criminal?

The possession and/or use of heroin is a crime even though it is less harmful to the body than tobacco which is a legal product. Slander is illegal but it's not a crime to assassinate someone's character in a secret whisper. You can be fined for staying ten minutes too long in a parking space. It's illegal to exceed the speed limit but you can't be fined for overstepping the boundaries of truth in order to manipulate somebody, or their opinion of you. Telling lies is, in many instances, perfectly legal. It's not against the law to be greedy or selfish or to fornicate or to commit adultery, but it is illegal to cut down a tree on your own property without permission.

Consider these many examples and ask yourself the question: Is every illegal act also an immoral act? Or try this one: Should all immoral acts be illegal?

1 comment:

  1. No, and No. Sharing with other people your opinions and beliefs is generally not immoral, but can be illegal in some places. And making every 'immoral' act illegal is impossible and any attempt leads to a police state. It comes down to who determines 'right' and 'wrong' for you - and illegal=immoral only if that authority is the state. Which obviously I disagree with. But others may not. But what if the church is the state, and it is making the laws?