Why the law is not enough when it comes to doing the right thing

People often claim that our biggest problem is the lack of laws and enforcement. But is it? I was recently on a metro train in Singapore, a country known for all kinds of strict rules, including stiff fines for not clearing your table after eating in a fast food restaurant. An older but seemingly fit man wearing jogging gear was sitting in the designated area (by law) for the elderly and expecting mothers. At the following stop, a young guy got onto the train stumbling and making a grimace. He had his skateboard under his arm and had obviously hurt himself badly. He asked the older guy if he could sit, but was denied as the older guy pointed to the section of the law above his seat. The older guy was of course right. He had the right to sit there. But did he do the right thing? Must we just comply with rules and regulations in order to be good citizens? Can’t a young person be needing a special seat on the train? It seems we’re creating a society that only relies on rules or laws to do the things we ought to do out of graciousness and civility. It’s clear that we’ve lost our moral compass. In the past, we relied on the church for direction, but these are so deeply engulfed in their own scandals and how to cover them up, to be taken seriously. So next time we blame the lack of law and enforcement for the filth all over our island as well as the dire state of our street animals, we ought to be teaching norms, values, civility, kindness, and cordiality at home instead of waiting for someone to legislate what cannot be legislated.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Author: alexdavidrosaria

Alex Rosaria is from Curaçao. He has a MBA from University of Iowa. He was Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and United Nations Development Programme Officer in Africa and Central America. He is an independent consultant active in Asia and the Pacific.

5 thoughts on “Why the law is not enough when it comes to doing the right thing”

  1. Very true. We cannot legislate all aspects of morality like common decency. But, I believe there is a place for organized religion in our lives. Religion teaches right from wrong, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, prayer, scripture and listening to our inner voice called a conscience. Parents have the responsibility to teach this as well. Home and church like home and school must work together. We follow the eleven not the one who betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.


    1. Agree with what religions should be doing. Instead, some Buddhists are fighting their Muslim countrymen in Myanmar. The Roman Catholic church keeps abusing children and covering up their criminal activities. Churches lack a moral compass to guide us. They should first clean up their act instead of evangelizing hate against f.e. the LGBTQ as they preach every day.


      1. Don’t know anything about the Buddhists or if this is a holy war. There have been “holy wars” throughout history. Look at what the Chinese are doing to the Muslin Chinese. Yet large corporations continue to use this labor to manufacture their products cheaply. The CCP is atheist. I believe the RC’s have gotten abuse under control. I am by no means excusing the Church. This was a terrible event which should not have happened. The church has worked to eliminate it and make restitution. However, look at the abuse in Boy Scouts of America which has no religious affiliation. Look at what the Mexican cartels are doing to traffic women & children along the US southern border. The cartels do not practice any religion. In the US, we have far more teachers abusing kids than priests. Catholic priests are not “preaching hate… everyday against the LGBQT community.” They do not approve of drag queen shows for children or the indoctrination of children to “gender fluidity” in US schools. As parents of all religions object as well. I am not sure why you hate the Church so much. I am a cradle Catholic who attends Church regularly. Went through 15 years of Catholic school. I never heard “hate preached” by any nuns or priests against any group. And speaking of hate, the LGBQT community is not without projecting “hatred” and “shock and awe” with many public displays of their choices. I am not seeing any religious affiliations there. The Church, as well as many evangelicals, do not approve of the lifestyles of the LGBQT community. But disapproval is not “hatred.” There has always been and there is evil in the world. This does not stem from religion, but just the opposite. The rise of atheism has done nothing to improve the “moral compass” of the general population, but just the opposite. To give a blanket condemnation of all churches and organized religion is just wrong, misguided & uninformed. Organized religion plays a vital role in the world and in people’s lives. I believe they are doing that. Belief in God and religious practice gives hope which cannot be gotten elsewhere.


      2. Your religious beliefs are yours and they are personal. Good for you. No sense in discussing things that are irrational and without proof. I never talked about atheism, yet you felt compelled to lash out against atheism. Don’t they have the same rights as you to believe or not to believe in whatever they want? The buddhists I talked about are not waging ‘holy wars’. I wonder where you’d come up with this. They are fighting and killing Muslim Rohingyas, today. In this country Christian church are against equal rights for the LGBTQ. Belief in a God started a few thousand years ago. Yet humans exist for a million years. Lastly, is it because you never heard of something, it does exist? Never heard of using the bible to condone slavery, inferiority of women? How convenient.


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