There was a channel on my local cable system on which various colleges and universities presented distance learning programs. One morning I was flipping around the channels and came across Business Law 1 from Regis University. It was the first class of the course, and the teachers did a brief overview of why law should be studied relative to business, or at all.
What an enlightening discussion.
Key things I got out of it:
- Law is important because we are affected by it at every point
- Getting to understand how the law works can change it from an adversary to a force with which you can enhance your business
- When studying law, the answer you get isn’t as important as the analysis you do, because the results of applying legal principals depends on the actual events you apply them to
- Law consists of two parts…the part that defines rights and obligations, and the part that tell how to invoke the first part (statuatory and procedural)
- Law and ethics do not coincide, and law is enforcable while ethics are not
The reasons these were key statements to me is:
1- This one is obvious
2, 3- These points indicate that folks are actually being instructed in creative interpretation of the law…it was said “when the facts change, the law changes” on the program. So, for instance, since folks are being taught to interpret the law in the best possible way for their business, we couldn’t expect anything from affirmative action laws other than what we got…a twisting of the intent into whatever cost the companies least to implement…in other words, quotas rather than a real analysis of job requirements and elimination of bias. It means we couldn’t expect anything from civil rights legislation other than what we got…the most minimal, cost effective, least disturbing of the status quo gestures possible.
4- The law can state you have rights, but that does you no good (literally!) if you don’t know the method of invoking the law. One can also stay within the law when undermining a moral initiative by standing up for the statuitory law while gutting the procedural law.
5- The law is not going to ensure what you consider the morally correct thing will happen. At best, it will make sure that the legal thing will happen…but since “when the facts change, the law changes,” there’s no advance way to know what that is in the final analysis.
We black folks tend to think of law as absolute, and equally binding on everyone. As you can see, though, to the mainstream society the law is NOT absolute. What is actually absolute is the attitude you take toward the law.