Might Makes Right

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The term ‘Might Makes Right” means that whoever is in power determines the rules a society must follow. In other words, the leaders use their might to determine what is right. What we constitute as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ depends on the environment we live in and the rulers who determine them.

Everyone has difference opinions about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Some people follow a religious text, others follow their own personal beliefs, and some refuse to accept that there is any right or wrong way to begin with (I belong to this last category BTW). Nonetheless, since there are so many differing opinions, how can any of them be implemented? After all, surely some of the ideas of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ would contradict or conflict with other ideas.

‘Might Makes Right’ means that the strongest – those who rule over a society or its subjects – get to determine what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The strong defeat the weak, and thus the strong are able to implement their moral ideals into a society, which others then follow. If these moral ideals are broken, then the disobeyer is punished.

There are two ways we can look at ‘Might Makes Right’. One is on a small scale and another is on a larger scale. On a small scale, imagine a parent and child. The parent gets to determine what is ‘right’ for the child. Parents have different rules they make for their children to obey – some may make them eat only healthy foods, some may make them wash their hands or pray before every meal, some may punish them for getting bad grades. Each family has rules that are a little different from one house to the next. Basically. the parents use their might (i.e. intelligence, physical strength, age, money) in order to enforce their idea of what is ‘right’ for the child, or what rules the child must obey. Even though the child can disobey, this usually results in a punishment which is meant to deter the child from further disobedience. Whereas in one house a child may be punished for staying out late, in another house there may be no curfew at all. The rules that parents set differ, but nonetheless the parents exert their ‘might’ to determine what is ‘right’.

On a larger scale, this applies to government, or whoever rules or exerts authority over society. The government gets to determine what is ‘right’, meaning what rules, laws, and punishments must be exacted. In some countries, say the United States, the government uses its ‘might’ to make people pay taxes. In another sense, the US government has determined that economic freedom is a ‘right’ and thus the US has a free-enterprise market. Whereas in North Korea, the government has used its ‘might’ to create an isolated military dictatorship, which is views as ‘right’.

This ‘Might Makes Right’ policy not only applies to the physical world, but it can also apply to a spiritual one. God, for example, is apparently the only being that can set forth what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. In the Bible, God gives numerous commands about what is morally right and should be done, and what is morally wrong and should be avoided. But why do people listen to God? Because God has might. If God did not have the super-natural powers he supposedly has – then would anyone listen to him? I am not a Christian nor do I really believe that there is a God, but I admit that the only reason Christianity has an ‘objective morality’ that people follow is because people are afraid of God’s wrath. If you disobey God, he may punish you. God’s ‘might’ is what makes people obey his laws – his concepts on what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Without his ‘might’, very few, if anyone, would listen to God and obey him.

Those who rule are those that get to decide what is right or wrong. This done not mean, however, that morality is necessarily subjective. A person can believe, for example, in an objective morality set forth from God (i.e. Christianity). However, if the ruling group is an atheist state, then Christianity morality means little because it cannot be implemented. Even if it may be an objective morality, the rules of a society ultimately determines what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, because they have the power to enforce their views. So, ‘Might Makes Right’ simply means that a persons ‘might’ determines what shall be considered ‘right’. Therefore, next time you think ‘oh this is the right thing to do’ or ‘oh this isn’t right’ – remember that your concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ were probably forced onto you by society.