23 January, 2007

The Scariest Thing I've Read In A LONG Time

Honestly, Ned, I don't mean to keep picking on you. And I would address this in the comments of your post, if only it were applicable to the original discussion. However, I'm moving far afield and longer winded so the conversation is here for now.

In the comments of your Why Rally For Life post you say

But the law is often most useful in protecting us from others (and yes, occasionally ourselves in this interdependent society) who would be tempted or inclined to make a decision based on what felt right to them at the time.


Let's look at that, shall we? (As soon as I pick myself up from the floor.)

Shall we begin with a brief look at the Purpose of Law? Of course, this is something people have written long-winded doctoral theses on, so we'll only touch on it here. But my understanding of The Purpose of Law is to protect and EXPAND freedom. Forgive me, then, if I do not view laws passed "to protect me from myself" as an expansion of freedom.

I think, as I read through the writings of you and others in your common set, that at some point your group came away with a fundamental misunderstanding of Thomas Aquinas' four laws. In a nutshell, these four laws are thus:

1. Eternal Law

The world order as conceived by the mind of God.

2. Natural Law

The role of humanity in the participation of Eternal Law, discovered through Reason. Or as Aquinas said:

this is the first precept of the law, that good is to be done and promoted, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based on this

3. Positive (or Human) Law

The implementation of Natural Law (#2) by Governments. In short, how we mutually decide to codify good and punish evil.
Remember #3, because it will be important in a minute.

4. Divine Law

Since God is God, He has a right to change things. Aquinas and I both believe that Mercy Under Grace is completed in the Divine Law. This is that lovely area where Christ's sacrifices come into play, and where God in His mastery creates a new covenant with man. Also important.

Those are the basics. And here, I think, is where I differ with the yous and the Terry Franks and the Phil Valentines of the Conservative world. (Perhaps this will also answer some questions of Aunt B.'s, now that I think about it...)

As I see it, here in America we've elected to have a State governed solely by #3--the Positive Law. You can thank Locke, Jefferson and the Enlightenment for that. We've taken a few looks around, sat down and formed an agreement about what is good (freedom) and what is bad (the limitation of freedom.) We decided that it was important to provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty. That was what was important to us. Yes, there have been hiccoughs along the way--Great Compromises, The Volstead Act, that kind of thing. But we're young and finding our feet and striving toward the goal of the blessings of liberty. Like we said we wanted to.

Unfortunately there are a lot of folks around these days who are confusing Divine Law (Aquinas' #4) with Human Law (Aquinas #3). The way I've always understood it, the Divine Law can only be know through the revelation of Grace. That's why it's called "Divine".

I am an odd breed, I'll admit. When it comes to the governance of the United States, I happily take a Locke-ian Enlightenment position. This does not mean I disbelieve in God's ultimate law. It merely means that I believe there is no way possible to translate the perfection of God's law through the designs of Man. Any attempts to do so ring false, and seem as though the Men who would desire to pass those laws are trying to elevate themselves to the position of God.

All of that was a watch-making way to say this. Conservatism, in its truest form, should be about pursuing the ideal state of Human Government through the rule of Law. Our goals should be to EXPAND freedom by conserving our impulses toward larger government. At no point do we have the right to look at other free men and say "Brother, I am here to protect you from yourself by limiting your freedoms with this Law." That is nothing short of slavery, and should not be tolerated.

I would thank you to protect yourself from your baser impulses through the taming of your personal nature and leave me to the tending of my own weeds.

7 Comments:

At 8:31 AM, January 23, 2007, Blogger Dan Trabue said...

Very interesting post. I touched on this on a previous post, but would like to ask the question here.

You argue "At no point do we have the right to look at other free men and say "Brother, I am here to protect you from yourself by limiting your freedoms with this Law."

And I agree with that to a degree. I wonder what you do with looking at other free folk and saying, "Brother, I am here to tell you that you can't impose your garbage, poison, noise, violence...upon others."

Is that a statement that you can live with? One problem I've had with libertarians is their tendency to vote for impositions of liberty in the name of liberty (that is, the neighbor can pollute, for example, because it's his stuff to pollute with or not - gov't shouldn't get involved between a person and their stuff).

Where do Libertarians draw that line?

 
At 8:55 AM, January 23, 2007, Anonymous Vol Abroad said...

Good post.

 
At 10:04 AM, January 23, 2007, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I wonder what you do with looking at other free folk and saying, "Brother, I am here to tell you that you can't impose your garbage, poison, noise, violence...upon others."

Well, I think that's the only reason to have law. To make society tolerable for all, within reason. That's part of the "common defence" and "General welfare" purpose of Enlightenment Government.

Where this gets bad is when people start inventing offense in order to legislate away freedoms.

Take Kelo for instance. Someone says "It's offensive to me that you have an old house on this land. I'd rather look at a new shopping mall." So they decide that the "community would be better served" by a shopping mall and take away the old house.

That's not right.

Or, more controversially, let's take smoking.

I'm in favour of smoking bans in government offices or private buildings. If I own a building--my home or my office building--I think I should have a right to say "you can't smoke in here." It is, after all my building. Government buildings are, by definition, EVERYONE'S building, and buildings that are necessary for everyone, or of potential necessity. So, ban smoking in those places all you want.

Where I've got a problem with anti-smoking ordinances is in the places where cities are lobbying to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. Here's the thing. If the owner of the restaurant wants to say "you can't smoke in here", then fine. But no person should be able to say "I don't wish to be bothered by smoke at any place I go, and someday I might wish to go to that restaurant over there, so let's make a law saying that restaurant over there can never have smoking in it, in case I choose to eat there and would rather not be bothered."

 
At 12:00 PM, January 23, 2007, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Dan, if they are polluting the water I drink and air I breathe, that's the line.

You are free to exercise your liberty so long as it does not infringe on mine. If someone's actions have no impact on anyone but themselves, why should anyone else get involved?

 
At 12:34 PM, January 23, 2007, Blogger William said...

By all means, pick on Ned.

Check out Ned's post where he states "men guilty of statutory rape or incest are certainly big supporters of "abortion rights" and "Pro-Choicers".

 
At 4:43 PM, January 23, 2007, Blogger Ned Williams said...

Kat, impressive post, but I think you misunderstood my point.

I was addressing your complaints that I had not demonstrated enough emotion in a post about abortion (or, more broadly, was not demonstrating enough emotion in the process of formulating my position on abortion). Laws protect us from others and ourselves being victim to vigilante justice and manipulative salesmen and having an accident while riding a motorcycle without a helmet or from doing something (when I'm in seventh grade) that may make perfectly good sense to me at the time.

I can't speak for Valentine or Terry Frank, but I try very hard to be consistent and principled in my "beliefs" and to have my actions follow what I purport to be my beliefs. That being said, maybe you're the exception, but there are inevitably grey areas in applying any ideology to the real world. So I don't quite view motorcycle helmet laws as "slavery."

 
At 4:44 PM, January 23, 2007, Blogger Ned Williams said...

Kat, impressive post, and good points, but I think you misunderstood my point.

I was addressing your complaints that I had not demonstrated enough emotion in a post about abortion (or, more broadly, was not demonstrating enough emotion in the process of formulating my position on abortion). Laws protect us from others and ourselves being victim to vigilante justice and manipulative salesmen and having an accident while riding a motorcycle without a helmet or from doing something (when I'm in seventh grade) that may make perfectly good sense to me at the time.

I can't speak for Valentine or Terry Frank, but I try very hard to be consistent and principled in my "beliefs" and to have my actions follow what I purport to be my beliefs. That being said, maybe you're the exception, but there are inevitably grey areas in applying any ideology to the real world. So I don't quite view motorcycle helmet laws as "slavery."

 

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