Law vs. Justice

Essay by jntmlessUniversity, Master'sA+, May 2006

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It has long been understood that there is a difference between law and justice. The Mallor text describes Legal Positivism and Natural Law and indicates the differences between the two are the unjust positive laws. This essay looks to, on a very basic level, examine and understand these differences. The essay first looks to understand what positive law and natural law mean, and then look at what is meant by the law of nature.

Positive Law

Per the text, positive law is all types of laws recognized by a "political authority such as a legislature or an administrative agency." As I understand it, constitutional, statute and common laws fall into this category. Also included here are administrative agency rules and executive orders. There are positive laws on a local, state, federal, and even a global level. Rules and laws that do not fall into this category are rules that are established by an authority that is not recognized by the governed.

An example of this would be the bylaws of a social club like the Elks or Masons, whose rules are recognized by the members, but not by the population at large. Another example would be a law passed in California to a Coloradoan. Based on this understanding, positive law is defined by the rules and laws to pertain to a particular individual, and may be different for each person.

Natural Law

Natural law is the subset of Legal Positivism that is just. Webster's dictionary describes the word just as, among other things, fair and deserved. Mallor states that "Roman statesman Marcus Cicero described natural law as 'the highest reason, implanted in nature, which commands what ought to be done and forbids the opposite.' Because this higher law determines what is ultimately good and ultimately bad, it is a criterion...