The poorer people become.
Lao Tsu, Tao Teh Ching
Laws are written by the powerful, for the powerful; therefore, voting for lawmakers is like deciding which wolf may eat you for supper. Abstinence from voting is a pro-life policy, given the choices, or a pro-choice policy, because being consumed amounts to a life sentence, only shorter. Fewer laws to break result in fewer criminals: more laws to break result in more crime. Laws are a leading preventable cause of crime; hence, one suspects, the apt term "criminal law."
External codes of law stunt the cultivation of an internal code of honor, much as using an unneeded crutch hampers walking ability. There is a true form of law, and the libertarian Zero-Aggression Principle expresses it well. The Ten Commandments also encompass this law. (Thou shalt not kill, steal, bear false witness, or covet that which belongs to thy neighbor: i.e., "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") Does electing a government to kill, steal, lie, or envy in one's stead absolve one of responsibility for aggression? Am I government until proven individual, or individual until proven government? I plead individual.
A privileged class of scofflaws engineers laws. A vast, ever expanding assembly line of scofflaws is the product of laws. An aristocracy of product control authorities interprets the law on behalf of the privileged class. The manufacture of criminals is an example of profit motive at its most cynical; however profitable a crime industry may be for the state, it puts a terrible social and economic burden upon the people. The more laws, the less justice administered by them; the more regulations, the more burdensome the apparatus of state becomes to maintain. The more criminals produced by the (so-called) "Justice System," the more dangerous society becomes; the once harmless pothead may not be so harmless after he's done fifteen years in federal prison, where he may trade in his peace pipe for brass knuckles, courtesy of the eminently insensible "War on (some) Drugs."
Laws are the primary means by which a minority may control a majority, because the enforcement of law rationalizes coercion. The more laws binding the ruled majority and the fewer the laws binding the ruling minority, the more inequality rules the day. Laws create inequities more profound than any that laws were capable of rectifying in the first place. This is legal? Ought there to be a law? The law creates criminals by declaring actions illegal. If society is over run by criminals, perhaps more scrutiny is warranted regarding the process by which crime is defined, and therefore produced. Fewer crimes will result in fewer criminals. Call a habit you don't like a crying shame; not a crime. It may be your unpopular habit that leaves you clamped in the vice-grips of law tomorrow.
Laws that presume to create equal circumstances between people ignore the problem that a presumption of equality before the law has not been upheld by the law to begin with: if the law had served its supposed purpose in the first place, (i.e., justice for all,) there would be no need for more laws. New laws are constantly created to address problems caused by previous laws. One bad law begets another, and another, and another. A homeowner who has repeatedly painted his house without stripping down past layers first will understand the consequence of adding layers of fresh laws when the old ones were flaking and should have been stripped. There are so many layers of flaky laws that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights may be beyond restoration. Historical preservation? Why strip down to the original: let's slap on some vinyl siding! Look out, Old Ironsides.
Laws that propose to modify behavior (i.e., drug laws) cannot be other than invasive: an ostensibly intended function of law was to protect the individual's rights against invasion. When the law does precisely what it claimed to prevent, it is lawlessness; it's become malicious, not judicious. The more poorly that justice is served, the more laws there will be to remedy injustice. The more new laws that are passed to address injustices, the less effectively justice has been upheld by old laws. Justice should be the one putting the wraps on politicians. It's illuminating to note that 8,000 taxpayer dollars didn't clothe Justice in stars and stripes: it was merely a cover-up, or curtains for Justice. Be worried, ladies! We may soon learn that boobs have been declared weapons of ass distraction.
As the marijuana debate illustrates, many people question the way drugs are regulated, but far fewer question the pretext under which drugs are subject to regulation. Once passed, laws regarding private behavior are a master key into the safest of sanctuaries. Make drugs or guns illegal to own and use inside the home, and you've handed yourself a go-to-jail-free wild card on the one hand, and the authorities an open invitation to bust down your door on the other. If you don't want to live in a society of criminals, don't advocate for capricious laws against things that people are going to do or own anyway. It's the law that makes the jailbird, not the jailbird that makes the law. Regulations are the prime weapon of social engineers (or behavior modifiers, as you prefer): construct a cage quietly around the lab rats; then the white coats come out of the closet. Let the experiments begin. Life as the subject of someone else's study isn't pretty; object now.
Laws that expand the rights of one person at the expense of the rights of another person are socially irresponsible because they breed resentment as a natural consequence of unequal treatment. Law should be a curb on political ambition, not a high-speed express to furthering political goals. When you presume ownership of rights that do not belong to you, it won't be long 'til your own unappreciated rights are in someone else's care, higher up on the political chain. When you've neglected to draw an appropriate line for yourself, you won't have principled grounds to object, and you'll know it. A right that is assumed contrary to just principles is privilege; it's absurd to agitate for the rights of the under-privileged unless you first renounce privilege in favor of justice. While you support the rights of one under-privileged group, you plant the seeds of another. Defend Justice, or uphold the right of Privilege to wreak havoc among peaceful people. Privilege is the political opposite of the hot potato: Once someone has it, he'll hold on to it. Privilege is political power, and political power has one object: shedding darkness into the light.
Laws that purport to serve common interests centralize authority; they undermine the rights of individuals, and function as reigns that may be used to steer society as if it were a team of horses. Politically, liberal/conservative or right/left animosities serve as blinders that restrict the team's perceptions of events, keeping them focused narrowly as they pull the load. The net effect, since there are various drivers pulling the reigns in every direction, is a society that's been effectively drawn and quartered. When people are not united in respect for each other's rights, they are easily divided into countless interest groups pulling against each other, and soon fall into political mayhem.
The astute reader may be questioning some of my logic, since it flies counter to virtually all contemporary political thought. Laws exist to regulate behavior, so laws are inimical to self-government. Laws are not to be confused with Justice. Laws are often terribly unjust, and may coerce the abider as well as the enforcer to perpetrate injustice and act in a fashion incompatible with personal conscience. Justice is intangible, but it is not vague. The nature of justice is plainly discernible, as is the nature of injustice; the former deals fairly and with integrity, while the second does not. A society that honors justice will not require an ever-growing volume of laws to address injustice. While there is conceivably such a thing as a just law, ("Thou shalt not kill," for example) the law itself becomes a means of sanctioning injustice, as in permitting enforcers of law to kill with impunity.
Justice does not deal in coercive action; it measures corrective response. Justice does not require forms in triplicate; it does require that one's actions be informed by respect for the equal rights of others. Justice is neither subjective nor objective: Justice holds the scales that weigh subjective against objective to achieve a balance between the two. Justice is capable of making fine distinctions and exercising discretion, and Justice is familiar with kindness. Justice is not in the business of making scandalous headlines: Justice goes quietly and calmly about the business of making clear-headed observations. Justice and Liberty are both wallflowers now; the Law has forgotten who it brung to the dance and is doing the two-step with Tyranny, and Uncle Sam has gone carousing with Privilege.
In Jesus' time, the Pharisees were noted for strict observance of the law, traditional or canonical (which today would equate to secular and religious), and for preoccupation with the myriad rituals and regulations attending the law. How ironic that many today who claim Jesus as Lord should themselves be a modern day equivalent of Pharisees: bound up in the formalities of law, yet unharmed by the casualties inflicted by the law. They have built a mausoleum for Justice, and called it a courthouse; they write a death warrant for kindness, and dub it a "minimum sentence;" they tar and feather the hapless innocent while the guilty look on approvingly, and call it law enforcement. They decide, via the law, what is sin and who is a sinner: Once in America, people were innocent until proven guilty. Now, through the metastasizing process of law, all are guilty until proven innocent. What healthy cell can successfully plead innocent in the court of the cancer?
If there is hope for contemporary American society, it lies within each of us to reject rule by the powers of darkness and embrace the light of freedom, which means renouncing power and privilege over others. Will history speak of America as a free society, or one that opted for the golden chains of privilege and the iron yoke of entitlement? Is America a society composed of equal people, or are Americans truly incapable of comprehending that equality is as equality does? If equality lies in the eye of the beholder, is it only skin deep, or is there an equality of spirit that can shine through superficial appearances? My hope, my prayer, is that most Americans have enough love-thy-neighbor in them to keep the peace through loving peace, and cherishing Justice and Liberty. It's a great dream.
To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius: Let peoples' politics and activism be what they will, my business is to mind my own. And make the same speech to myself that an honest person, liberal or conservative, could take pride in. Let people talk and act as they please; I must be a speed bump on the road to empire, and I must keep my honor. *
* "Let peoples' tongues and actions be what they will, my business is to be good. And make the same speech to myself that a piece of gold, or an emerald, or purple should. Let people talk and act as they please; I must be an emerald, and I must keep my color." - Marcus Aurelius