6 Journal of Regulatory Compliance Vol. I
do not yet provide us an answer.
In the title question, “What does it mean to comply with the law?,” two
terms stood in need of definition, namely “comply” and “law.” I have not
defined them in any satisfactory way, especially since the question revealed
itself to be a bait-and-switch. What I have begun to discuss is “compliance”
regarding “regulation.” In Anglo-American legal philosophy, there has not
been much concentrated thought on the concept of compliance. In searching
through the subject indices of some standard reference volumes, I found
small entries on “obedience of law” and very detailed sections on “consent.”
“Law” obviously has had extensive analytical treatment, particularly in the
fifty or so years since H. L. A. Hart’s The Concept of Law. 10 It has also had
treatment as a category of moral obligation from Plato11 through Thomas
Aquinas12 and in our own time by Lon Fuller, 13 John Finnis, 14 et al. Even
“legal obligation” as a separate form of obligation from moral obligation has
gotten book-length treatment by the likes of J. C. Smith. 15
Regulation obviously has a great literature for those practicing it (and there
is no shortage of regulation to study), but what it is conceptually remains in
need of philosophical attention. Here I have only made philosophically-derived observations and raised questions. The great open question is
whether one can fail to comply with any and all regulation qua regulation,
while remaining morally blameless. It would seem that the answer must be:
No, one cannot. Is compliance with regulation, then, morally obligatory? It
would seem that the answer would have to be: In some way, yes. Failing a
minimal test of moral obligation qua legal system, one wonders what
considerations should be given for determining moral obligation to comply
with regulation besides its uses for order, its content and its provenance.
Perhaps a more sophisticated answer could be offered that relates a certain
level of procedural adherence to the continued working of the legal system.
The onus would then be on demonstrating that the legal system is morally
deserving of such obedience (and so we return to Plato, Aquinas, Fuller and
Finnis). To answer even the procedural point sufficiently would be a great
contribution to the literature.
10. See generally H. L. A. HART, THE CONCEPT OF LAW (1961).
11. See generally PLATO, APOLOGY.
12. See generally AQUINAS, supra at note 2, passim.
13. See generally FULLER, supra at note 3, passim.
14. See generally JOHN FINNIS, NATURAL LAW AND NATURAL RIGHTS (1980).
15. See generally J. C. SMITH, LEGAL OBLIGATION (1976).