I was thinking about Donald Trump’s pledge to be the “law and order” president. I also just read about yet another terrorist attack on civilians, this time in Munich, Germany.
I got to thinking, what is “law and order,” anyway?
Frederic Bastiat, a 19th Century thinker and author of a classic book called “The Law” nailed it when he wrote:
What, then, is the law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. … since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individual groups.
Law is based on the premise that no individual may initiate the use of force against another. Yet these days, the law initiates force against its citizens more than ever before, particularly in the Western world, which used to be relatively free. Government takes more money in taxes than ever before; government regulates and micromanages our banks, our schools, our doctor’s office, our hospitals, even our children. After the next election the government stands poised to seize our guns and, after that, probably go after free speech, as Lorretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General Hillary Clinton promises to keep after she wins, has already implied she will do.
With all this unprecedented force government initiates against its citizens, how are we supposed to expect that same government to protect us from thugs, terrorists, rapists, molesters and murderers?
As Bastiat astutely goes on to say:
… But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.
Bastiat, who lived in early 19th Century France, is absolutely talking about the United States, as well as the rest of Western civilization, in our own time.
Law has gone way beyond its proper functions. Whether you support Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump (or neither), you can all agree that our democratic Western governments have become nothing more than pull-peddling bodies of plunder, where only the connected prevail and justice is largely irrelevant. We can no longer count on government to apply justice in a rational way, not when government has itself become an initiator of force — in short, another criminal. Criminals, terrorists and anarchists sense this weakness, and they do what criminals always do: Go in for the kill.
The law now acts against its own purpose. We saw a particularly ugly example of this when the FBI refused to indict Hillary Clinton for breaking laws for which others have been prosecuted and jailed. The law no longer exists to administer justice, rationally defined as protecting us from fraudulent or violent criminals. The law now exists primarily to protect the government.
What you’re seeing in the streets — the Muslim terrorism, the Black Lives Matter thugs, and all the rest — are the symptoms, not the cause. If government had not abandoned its original purpose, we could still count on government to protect us.
If Donald Trump, or anyone else, wishes to be a “law and order” president, we first have to restore the legitimacy of the law. And to do that, we have to return government to its original and only proper, rational and sustainable function: To keep human beings from imposing force on one another.
Until we put government as we know it out of business, we cannot count on any government to keep us safe.
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