Column by tzo.
Exclusive to STR
The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!
If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.
~ Frédéric Bastiat
These are the words with which Bastiat began his famous treatise "The Law
" in 1850, and it remains imperative today to focus attention on the serious fact that the law has been perverted and inverted and achieves the opposite of what it professes to accomplish.
But if this has truly been an ongoing and serious problem for such a long time, why is it not generally recognized? Wouldn’t most people today judge that Bastiat was overstating his case? The law may not be perfect, but to call it evil is surely a gross exaggeration, isn’t it?
Well, we have to begin by looking at that little three-letter word, "law," and consider just what it means to the average person who hears it. Most people think of themselves as good, law-abiding people, and it is no small factor that "good" and "law-abiding" go together like chocolate and peanut butter here. This can be a very useful pairing for those who create the law, and a very difficult pairing to separate in the minds of those who have been taught about the law by those who create the law.
To make discussion of these matters even more difficult, many will deny the assertion that it is the same organization that both creates and teaches about the law—an obvious conflict of interest—but of course that invisibility is the beauty of the system, and the key to why it is so successful.
The government creates the law, and the government teaches the people—beginning at a very tender age—all about the law. They also manage to convince their charges that these are two distinct and separate organizations—or at least two very distant and unrelated branches of the same organization—that really have nothing to do with each other. Legislators legislate, teachers teach, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Genius!
Well as you might guess, I subscribe to the view that the government is the government wherever it is in charge, and it's main job is to look out for itself and to keep itself going and growing.
Government has discovered that by molding (double meaning intended) the minds of its citizenry, it can fabricate an invisible holding cell wherein the unaware citizen believes all sorts of contradictions that effectively keeps him trapped within a prison he cannot see and cannot believe exists because he knows perfectly well that he is free. But it was noted long ago by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that:
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
Government education is not incidental or unrelated to other government endeavors—Indeed, it is essential!
One of the main indoctrination points drilled into the students of government schools is that the government creates the law of the land, and that law is to be obeyed because it is moral and ethical to do so. Good people obey the law, and bad people break it: Keep it simple for the kiddies.
Oh, it will be grudgingly admitted that some legislation gets passed here and there that really isn't quite right, but then the course of action is to petition the government for change. There are proper channels. This citizen feedback-mechanism helps keep law and order on the straight and narrow moral and ethical path. Everyone pitches in! Participatory warm and fuzzy goodness flows uphill to the halls of legislative power, whose occupant-servants bow down and correct their imperfect offerings before the real power, The People.
So sayeth the sacred Political Science texts, and as it was written, so shall it be done. Amen.
If this is to be the platform upon which an objective analysis of the law is to be launched, then Bastiat must necessarily be found to have been a raving lunatic. Of course any objective analysis that is based upon such an irrational platform as “the government law is good because the government schools say so” is merely an exercise in providing detailed answers to the wrong questions.
Bastiat’s observations and conclusions were reached through analysis based upon the infinitely firmer foundation of first principles: What is law, exactly? Where did it come from and what is its function? No jumping in midstream with assumptions of intrinsic goodness just because that’s what everybody says.
The law to which Bastiat referred is the Natural Law, which is the logical discovery of an objective set of rules that define ethical—and thus lawful—human behavior.
The law to which most people refer today is Positive Law, which is a subjective set of manufactured arbitrary rules that supposedly define moral—and thus lawful—human behavior.
When the Positive Law overwhelms the Natural Law, this turns what was meant to be a system of determining just solutions to human conflicts into an arbitrary set of rules imposed by legislators to further their own ends at the expense of justice. This was the point Bastiat was making, and I don’t see but that the problem has worsened considerably over the last century-and-a-half.
The current system of US government is a perpetual motion machine that emits legislation faster than 535 monkeys could crank out random pages on 535 typewriters. There are several thousands of pages of legislation in the ever-growing US Code
And so today we have reached the point where most people automatically associate the word “law” with mandates sent down from the on-high government offices. The Natural Law is buried under a mountain of arbitrary legislation and is no longer even acknowledged to exist.
People used to be fairly justified in conflating law and ethics when the law had a much stronger Natural Law component. Being a good, law-abiding person coincided fairly well with being an ethical person, which was not considered to be some mysterious attribute that no one could define.
As the “law” has become detached from Natural Law, being a good, law-abiding person necessitates that one assign “good” to Positive Law and “arbitrary” to ethics, since the two do not overlap.
So what was once good is now arbitrary, while the arbitrary has become the good. With such a nebulous foundation, anything can happen, and it certainly has. This explains how the “good” citizens, who follow the law of the land that they themselves helped shape and create, can have it all backwards and not see the problem.
And the only way this inverted philosophy can be sustained is to make it common curriculum for all government schools starting with kindergarten and then having true-believer-government-school-educated teachers continuously drilling it into students for the following twelve years: The government is good. The laws are just. Obey authority.
Break. Your. Training.