SYMPOSIUM: THE INTERNAL POINT OF VIEW IN LAW AND ETHICS: II. LEGAL ETHICS: TAKING CUES: INFERRING LEGALITY FROM OTHERS' CONDUCT Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2006 Fordham Law Review
Fordham Law Review

SYMPOSIUM: THE INTERNAL POINT OF VIEW IN LAW AND ETHICS: II. LEGAL ETHICS: TAKING CUES: INFERRING LEGALITY FROM OTHERS' CONDUCT

December, 2006

75 Fordham L. Rev. 1429

Author

Bruce A. Green*

Excerpt



Introduction
 
A lawyer told me this story about what he saw one day on his travels in northern Europe. A farmer was driving a tractor down the road. As the farmer reached a crossroad, the traffic light turned red. The farmer stopped the tractor. No one was waiting to cross the road and there were no other vehicles coming from any direction as far as the eye could see. The farmer could tell it was entirely safe to proceed and no one would have cared if he had done so. But the farmer waited until the light turned green. "And that," the lawyer concluded, "is the rule of law." "And that," H.L.A. Hart would likewise have concluded, "is the internal point of view." 1 As Hart explained, people viewing the traffic light from an "internal point of view" treat it not "merely as a natural sign that people will behave in certain ways," but "as a signal for them to stop, and so a reason for stopping in conformity to rules which make stopping when the light is red a standard of behavior and an obligation." 2 The farmer was apparently indifferent to how the traffic law would be enforced - or, more precisely, to the fact that there would be no financial, reputational, or other penalty if he broke the law. He obeyed the law not because he felt any moral obligation independent of the law to stop his tractor in the road, and not because the ...
 
 
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