Mr. Jones, having murdered his wife, was burying her in the garden one night, when his neighbour, hearing the noise, asked him what he was doing.
“Just burying the cat,” said Mr. Jones.
“Funny sort of time to bury a cat,” said the neighbour.
“Funny sort of cat,” said Mr. Jones.
Now it is obvious to everyone that, in a community such as the one in which we live, some kind of law is necessary to try to prevent people like Mr. Jones from killing their wives. When the world was at a very primitive stage, there was no such law, and, if a man chose to kill his wife or if a woman succeeded in killing her husband, that was their own business and no one interfered officially.
But, for a very long time now, members of every community have made laws for themselves in self-protection. Otherwise it would have meant that the stronger man could have done what he liked with the weaker, and bad men could have joined together and terrorized the whole neighbourhood.
If it were not for the law, you could not go out in broad daylight without the fear of being kidnapped, robbed or murdered. There are far, far more good people in the world than bad, but there are enough of the bad to make law necessary in the interests of everyone.
There is no difficulty in understanding this but it is just as important to understand that law is not necessary just because there are bad people in the world. If we were all as good as we ought to be, laws would still be necessary. If we never told lies, never took anything that didn’t belong to us, never omitted to do anything that we ought to do and never did anything that we ought not to do, we should still require a set of rules of behaviour, in other words laws, to enable us to live in any kind of satisfactory state.
How is one good man in a motor-car to pass another good man also in a motor-car coming in the opposite direction, unless there is some rule of the road? People sometimes hover in front of one another when they are walking on the pavement before they can pass, and they may even collide. Not much harm is done then, but, if two good men in motor-cars going in the opposite directions hover in front of one another, not knowing which side to pass, the result will probably be that there will be two good men less in the world.
So you can see that there must be laws, however good we may be. Unfortunately, however, we are none of us always good and some of us are bad, or at any rate have our bad moments, and so the law has to provide for all kinds of possibilities. Suppose you went to a greengrocer and bought some potatoes and found on your return home that they were mouldy or even that some of them were stones. What could you do if there were no laws on the subject? In the absence of law you could only rely upon the law of the jungle. You could go back to the shop, demand proper potatoes and hit the shopkeeper on the nose if he refused to give them to you. You might then look round the shop to try to find some decent potatoes. While you were doing this, the shopkeeper might hit you on the back of the neck with a pound weight. Altogether not a very satisfactory morning shopping.
Or you might pay your money to go to see a film at a cinema. You might go inside, sit down and wait. When the cinema was full, there might be flashed on the screen: “You’ve had it, Chums”. And that might be the whole of the entertainment. If there were no law, the manager could safely remain on the premises and, as you went out, smile at you and say: “Hope you’ve enjoyed the show, sir.” That is to say, he could do this safely if he were bigger than you or had a well-armed bodyguard.
Every country tries, therefore, to provide laws which will help its people to live safely and as comfortably as possible. This is not at all an easy thing to do, and no country has been successful in producing laws which are entirely satisfactory. But we are far better off with the imperfect laws which we have, than if we had none at all.