The Letter of the Law
July 1, 2018 | View PDF
The purpose of a law, any law, is a singular objective—protecting people from the wrongdoings of other people. To be moral, just, legitimate, and Constitutional, it must meet that criterion. Otherwise, it is usurpation and oppression.
Laws that are obviously just are those against murder, bodily harm, theft, destruction, and any other actions that hurt or violate other people and/or their property. These can be readily understood by any civilized person. Common sense dictates that only a few laws are needed to protect people in this manner.
But we all know that all over the world, we have an enormous hodgepodge of laws that are fundamentally and morally wrong—that instead of protecting people, they protect specific groups and often allow them to violate other people. The presence of laws that violate legitimate laws has been stated as an “insurmountable conundrum of all statist philosophies.”
Examples can be found everywhere. In many cases, people who enforce our laws are often allowed to do things that would land most people in prison. A classic example is civil asset forfeiture, a law that allows police and others to plunder innocent people at will. Enforcers have seized millions of dollars from thousands people on real or imagined pretenses that the money (or property) was in some way connected to a crime. This same law is also structured to make recovery very expensive and extremely difficult. (Did you know that nearly every Federal Reserve note in your pocket will test positive for traces of cocaine and other illegal drugs?)
Less extreme examples are much more common. Nearly everybody at some time or another has received at least a few unwarranted traffic citations. Over the years, the fines and court costs have skyrocketed from minor inconveniences to major financial losses. Points against drivers’ licenses and increases in insurance premiums impose additional burdens.
Safety regulations have been another sore point. Every individual is responsible for his own safety. It is his right to judge his actions and the risks he is willing to take. Government has no business or right to interfere unless these actions can be proven to be dangerous to others.
Over the years, government has had less and less respect for private property. Eminent Domain abuses have been on the rise for several decades. Authorities have arbitrarily declared that some properties are “wetlands” and have imposed draconian restrictions on their uses and development. Municipalities have instigated hostile annexations of outlying properties and then imposed zoning and other land use restrictions in addition to jacking up the property taxes, ostensibly for city “services” that the landowners never wanted.
The really scary bottom line is that politicians never tire of creating more and more reams of new oppressive laws. Some, like consensual “crime” laws (recreational drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc.) are widespread. Others are so absurd that anyone with common sense cannot imagine why they should ever exist. Certain communities in California have prohibited residents from collecting the rainwater that falls onto their houses. Some in Florida won’t let homeowners grow vegetable gardens in their front yards. Still others prohibit mini-wilderness spots on vacant lots and back yards.
There is an old saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse. In times long gone, when nearly all laws were reasonable, brief, and few, compliance was not very difficult. But with today’s huge volume of mostly illegitimate and unconstitutional laws, compliance is utterly impossible. One source claims that the average American commits about three felonies every day. What would they be? Your guess is as good as mine. Enforcement, of course, is also utterly impossible. Otherwise, every one of us could be in prison.
If our legislators really want to do something to improve our state, they should forget about concocting piles of new laws. Instead, they should first seek out abusive laws that should be repealed, and then draw up bills to do exactly that.
I strongly recommend that everybody read a small book, THE LAW, by Frederic Bastiat. It is an all time classic, and it is just as pertinent now as it was when it was written back in 1850. If I was a teacher in high school or college, it would be
required reading for every single student.
THE LAW can be read and downloaded for free at several web sites.