June 12, 2011
Ignorant Laws Have No Excuse
I set out on the internet this morning to find support for a personal premise: The existence of unenforced laws undermines respect for those laws that are enforced. The experience caused me to recognize an unacknowledged subsequent premise: Individual liberty is enhanced in a law-abiding society. For some time now I have thought the first premise was a call to action in furtherance of the second premise but then I questioned the validity of that objective, and of the second premise itself.
Slate magazine published, in October 2007, a rather wide-ranging compendium of unenforced law discussion by Tim Wu.
He addressed the drug war, illegal immigration, copyright, polygamy and more. Wu seems to conclude that non-enforcement is good for America. Not, as I would attempt, in furtherance of greater liberty but of "the economic interests of the nation."
Immigration policy is perhaps the strongest example of the ways in which tolerated lawbreaking is used to make the legal system closer to what lies in the economic interests of the nation but cannot be achieved by rational politics. All this is why the Bush administration faces an uphill battle in the course of trying a real internal enforcement strategy.
I tend to agree with this conclusion but I attribute as cause the very American attitude of individual liberty amongst voters who won't tolerate a heavy hand against individual workers and employers. More to the point is what this does to our representative government. Since our legislatures cannot achieve rational laws our judiciaries and our executives, at both state and federal levels, exercise discretion in which laws are enforced and to what extent. This appears, at first, to be a good outcome since the forces that guide the police and the courts are those of public opinion which derive, in turn, from individuals. We effectively have 300 million citizen legislators. However, this system has (at least) two major flaws.
First is the disparate influence on the legal system from concentrated versus individual interests and the tyranny of the majority. Allowing the trial lawyers lobby, the AARP and SEIU to dictate which laws are left to wither (and which to be bolstered) is no boon to liberty.
But worse yet, the ability of government to "get" any individual on some trumped up charge whenever it is "necessary" is a hallmark of totalitarian states.
At the federal prosecutor's office in the Southern District of New York, the staff, over beer and pretzels, used to play a darkly humorous game. Junior and senior prosecutors would sit around, and someone would name a random celebrity--say, Mother Theresa or John Lennon.
It would then be up to the junior prosecutors to figure out a plausible crime for which to indict him or her. (...) The trick and the skill lay in finding the more obscure offenses that fit the character of the celebrity and carried the toughest sentences. The, result, however, was inevitable: "prison time."
It's one thing when government lawyers make selective prosecution into a drinking game, but quite another when used as a tool of coercion and intimidation. In the name of liberty, laws to prevent "injuring a mail bag" have no place in a just society. Liberty is enhanced when laws are obeyed, but said laws must first be not just objective and knowable but also justified in the cause of protecting individuals from others and not from themselves.
Posted by JohnGalt at 12:47 PM
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Three Words: Bastiat, The Law.
Looking the other way at drugs invites discrimination against the statistically minority poor. That has been one of my big objections. Rightly or wrongly, minority youths feel that they are hassled by law enforcement, increasingly under the rubric of suspected drug possession.
Taken to its logical conclusion, unenforced law is no law, but rather rule by police and prosecutors.
Excellent post. The undermining of voluntary enforcement is a powerful point as well.
Love the link. Six stars! If you've posted it before I was delinquent in following it.
"The Desire to Rule Over Others" is a good reply to your current FB tilt.
Agreed. Great post and response. Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.
June 3, 2010
Why copy Europe now?
Much as this June 1 post made one ponder why America is so eager to emulate Canadian-style health care, Victor Davis Hanson muses about the example of Europe...
In short, as a reaction to the self-destruction of Europe in World War II and the twin monsters of fascism and communism, Europeans thought they could change human nature itself through the creation of an all-caring, all-wise European Union uber-citizen. Instead of dealing with human sins, European wise men of the last half-century would simply declare them passé.
But human-driven history is now roaring back with a fury in Europe -- from Mediterranean insolvency, to the threat of radical Islam, to demographic decline, to new international dangers on the horizon.
Only one question remains: At a time when Europe is discovering that its democratic socialism does not work, why in the world is the United States doing its best to copy it?
Both are good questions, and I have a single answer for both of them: If America doesn't follow suit quickly enough the "utopian" Euro-centric systems may crumble of their own weight before we get there.
The Progressives/Marxists/Euro-socialists will, of course, tell us that once America is integrated into the collective it will suddenly become sustainable. How, exactly, they never say. Nor do they explain our lack of recourse if, once the "bill is passed," we find it undesirable.
Posted by JohnGalt at 3:12 PM
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Or the explanation for why communism failed in the USSR: "It wasn't done right, but here we'll make it work! We won't make the same mistakes." This ignores that the entire collectivist "experiment" is one big gigantic mistake.
March 22, 2008
Congress and Obama: Freedom be Damned
Hello all. Very busy here with work. But here is an important issue to be aware of.
Ed Cline has written an excellent article, entitled Congressional Duplicity, or Treason?, about Barack Obama's Global Poverty Act.
The beginning of the article lays out his theme:
I rarely write commentary from anger, preferring a properly objective, psuedo-dispassionate approach to a subject deserving my attention. But news of the details, nature and scope of pending legislation in the U.S. Senate has caused me to make an exception to that rule.
As though Americans were not already burdened with:
Extortionate and confiscatory taxes wherever they turn on virtually everything they earn, purchase, or do, from the local level on up to the federal level;
Myriad regulations, controls and arbitrary rules that hamper or obstruct their productivity and their lives;
Footing the endless bills of earmarked pork barrel projects at home in the amount of billions;
Footing the bill in the amount of the billions for bottomless altruist and "humanitarian" pork barrel projects abroad;
Footing the bill for an ever-expanding and ever more costly welfare state to subsidize the ill, the retired, the aged, the young, etc.
Being held hostage by, say, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and other hostile "oil-producing" countries, because our government has decided that snail darters, sea cows, and caribou have a greater right to live than have human beings;
Paying more for food because mandated ethanol, which reports prove costs more in oil to produce than it "saves," in the gas they buy is taking more crop acreage out of production;
Congress is proposing, in Barack Obama's Global Poverty Act (S.2433, based on H.R. 1302, passed by the House September 25, 2007), that Americans be delivered into a state of indentured servitude as laborers for the United Nations. Perhaps "indentured servitude" is too kind a term, for as horrendous a condition as it is, there is usually a time limit to such servitude. Slavery would be the more accurate term in this instance, for what Congress is considering is servitude by Americans in perpetuity, in exchange for nothing but the privilege of laboring to "save" the world without thanks or reward, of filling the alleged needs of others, of performing unlimited "community service" for the offense of merely existing.
He does an expert job of concretizing the issue, of developing the consequences of the Global Poverty Act, and of identifying the principles which the act violates: freedom and natural individual rights.
P.S. Dr. Yaron Brook has an excellent article, entitled "War On Free Political Speech," on "campain finance" law published on Forbes.com. Dr. Brook says:
"Without [campaign finance laws], advocates say, the wealthy would control political speech.
What is the actual effect of wealth on political speech? Is it true that a diversity of political viewpoints would be shut out without campaign finance restrictions? Clearly not, when wealthy Americans include a vast diversity of individuals, and when we are free to watch Fox News or CNN, read the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, listen to Rush Limbaugh or Air America, visit Instapundit or Daily Kos. No private citizen (or corporation), however wealthy, has the power to censor the speech of others. He can refuse to support, finance or promote ideas or candidates he disagrees with--which is his inalienable right--but he cannot forcibly suppress them. Jack Welch could choose not to contribute to MoveOn.org; he can't forbid them to speak or us to listen.
It's not money that corrupts--it's the lure of arbitrary political power."
The article has solid reasoning and good examples, and it puts the issue in proper context: in context of individual rights, including the rights to property and free speech.
Posted by Cyrano at 1:23 PM
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That abominable piece of legislation will be hard for Senator Obama to defend in the general election. The guy has few legislative credits, and the one prominent one that bears his name cedes sovereignty to the U.N. It might be an effective Sister Soljah moment for Senator Clinton to say that he went too far and to tell superdelegates that he is unelectable.
That said, I have to register disagreement with Cline's overwrought prose (This kettle is truly blacker than this pot, hang with me). The charge of Treason is good wordplay, but I'd advise Mr. Cline to stop there. Nope, it's treason and slavery:
Perhaps "indentured servitude" is too kind a term, for as horrendous a condition as it is, there is usually a time limit to such servitude. Slavery would be the more accurate term in this instance, for what Congress is considering is servitude by Americans in perpetuity, in exchange for nothing but the privilege of laboring to "save" the world without thanks or reward, of filling the alleged needs of others, of performing unlimited "community service" for the offense of merely existing.
Now, were it treason, slavery and dog abuse, perhaps people would come out against it.
June 2, 2006
Another One Bites the Dust
Over at the Counterterrorism Blog, they report that Gaddafi is worried about Charles Taylor being prosecuted:
It is interesting to see that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is slamming Nigeria for turning Charles Taylor over to face justice. News reports quote Gadaffi as saying such a move sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of Africa.
"This also means that every (African) head of state could meet a similar fate -- this sets a serious precedent," he said. Indeed it does. If one butcher goes down, others may follow. For Gaddafi, that must be a terrifying prospect.
Gadaffi, more than any other leader except perhaps Blaise Campoare in Burkina Faso, has good reason to fear Taylor's testimony. It was Gaddafi who trained not only Taylor and his thugs for Liberia, but also Foday Sankoh and other leaders of the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Campaore's troops who assassinated president Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, and on and on. My entire blog is here.
Dictatorship: An evil enterprise which needs to be eliminated from the human experience.
Posted by Cyrano at 8:17 PM