Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
What are laws?
They are the malodorous droppings left behind by the gang of self-serving, power-mad busybodies who populate our legislatures, meddling lowlifes who presume to know better how to run our lives than we do, ne’er-do-wells with whom decent people wouldn’t normally stoop to associate.
There, I got it out of my system. The above is a paraphrase of a comment I read somewhere on the Internet, not sure where. Perhaps a bit overheated, but it does raise the point: Why is law so revered?
John Godfrey Saxe (no, not Bismarck) noted that one should not watch laws and sausages being made; that is, the manner of their creation does not engender respect. Much less then, should we respect laws, knowing as we do the persons involved in their enacting. Anthony Weiner’s sexting proclivities are only a more amusing version of the personal foibles common among legislators. Keep in mind the image of his genitals as you obey the laws he helped pass.
Some people, most typically cops and conservatives, like to utter as an incantation, the phrase “It’s the law,” as if that were the end of it. Do they never bother to associate that which they revere for some unknown reason (indoctrination, I suppose), with the characters of those who enact it? When someone comes up with “It’s the law,” perhaps the response should be, “. . . created by our betters, the most wise and decent among us, right?” Would that shake them out of their cognitive dissonance? What would it take to make a conservative condemn the law?
Of course they tend to fall back on the Constitution, saying laws they don’t like (e.g., gun bans) are not law at all, because the Constitution says so. But they are just as good at constitutional cherry-picking as their liberal opponents are. The Constitution is actually followed only in its most trivial features, such as the specification that presidential terms are four years, rather than, say, five. “It’s the law” should be answered with a guffaw. Anyway, are conservatives going to turn their guns in until they can get a case successfully through the Supreme Court? Yeah, that’ll work!
It’s not only conservatives who revere law. Even here in Anarchyville, it is common to call tendencies and “rights” (don’t get me started on them) “natural law,” as if calling it that will make it sound more impressive and respectable. For some reason having to do with sausages, even if I can go along more or less with the concept, calling it “law” does not conjure up respectability to me. After all, every tyrant had plenty of laws, and we don’t like tyrants, right? Couldn’t we call it something else? “Natural tendencies” or “how people should live properly” don’t exactly roll off the tongue, I admit; but I’d hope we could do better than “law,” with all its statist connotations.
A few quotes to spice this article up:
“The state calls its own violence ‘law,’ but that of the individual ‘crime’.” ~ Max Stirner
“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” ~ Publius Cornelius Tacitus
“‘Law’ is the congealed shit left over after a bunch of career parasites are finished taking bribes; when they get around to the serious business of politics, which is simply forcing people to obey their whims.” ~ Goffrey Transom
“The law is an ass, an idiot.” ~ Charles Dickens
“Every actual state is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.” ~ Emerson
Laws are associated with crimes, and there are supposedly two kinds of those: “mala in se” and “mala prohibita,” the former being inherently wrong (e.g., murder) and the latter merely the breaking of arbitrary rules (e.g., driving on the “wrong” side of the road).
Now, if the law against driving on the wrong side of the road were repealed, would mayhem ensue? Here in North America, people drive on the right. If an Englishman visited, would he say, “That’s too hard, so I will drive on the left”? Of course not; self-preservation dictates he behave otherwise. So no law is needed about it.
But there are other examples of mala prohibita not so clear; for example, driving drunk. People do in fact takes risks with not only their own lives (which is their business), but also with the lives of others.
I suppose the libertarian dogma on this point is that this also should not be illegal, and it’s not until actual damage is done that the boom should be lowered on the offender. There is a lot to this point; I’m certainly not a fan of the Nanny State, and the books are full of such laws. Although virtually every human activity involves some risk to others (driving, anyone?), and one can go overboard prohibiting it on that basis, it seems though that there should be some kind of deterrent to crazily-risky (to other people) behavior. Still, I don’t favor law because the “cure is worse than the disease”; maybe a good unofficial beating could supply the deterrent to the malefactor in question. One can go overboard worrying about others’ activities. It seems to be a mania among conservatives particularly, to worry about such things. They ought to man up and not be so fearful of others.
Some people think nothing of giving a gun to a boy for Christmas, while others consider it the very definition of child abuse. This latter bunch will then typically send their own kids to government indoctrinations centers (“public schools”); go figure! Again, the cure (“child protection agencies” AKA “child kidnapping agencies”) is worse than the disease.
A few things that are mala prohibita should simply be consigned to custom, and the rest are completely unneeded or even counterproductive (from the peons’ point of view, if not the rulers’). But what about those pesky mala in se crimes?
If there were no laws against murder, would you murder? Probably not. But let’s imagine some bad people who might be more inclined to do so.
Well, what do criminals fear most? A victim with a gun--not cops or the law. Time in jail is a vacation for these types. Not having a law against murder would instantly normalize the carrying of firearms, making it even more popular than now, a result all to the good. People would understand and act on the necessity for self defense, an example of personal responsibility. “Victim disarmament” would collapse (if it hasn’t already). Murders would become infrequent as the murderers are all killed off. I just can’t see any downsides to getting rid of the law against murder, strange though that appears at first glance.
Of course this assumes that getting rid of the law against murder, would be accompanied by getting rid of gun prohibitions; but this is almost certainly true. In no realistic universe is the former going to be dumped, but not the latter.
Fans of the law often like to post this link about Thomas More. Well, it’s a pretty speech, but it is mere assertion, isn’t it? And from a Hollywood movie too (well, a Hollywood/London joint production). Let’s not forget that Thomas More himself sent many people to their deaths through his investigations of heresy. Oops, an ad hominem. Well anyway, you can make lots of pretty speeches, like Lincoln with his Gettysburg address, but it doesn’t excuse your actions.
Laws protect us? Laws, administered by government, the bloodiest agency ever created by humans? By the same people for whom the laws do not in any real sense apply? Sounds like fantasy-land to me.
Well, those are my ruminations about law. I don’t have much use for it, but maybe others can add to the discussion about it.