May 2, 2009

The Law: The Injustice of Enforcing “Good”

Law based on what a politician thinks is good is destined to fail, simply because humans are imperfect. Bastiat points out that whether we witness grasping, “stupid greed,” or “false philanthropy,” such “perversion of the law”5 is idealistically wrong and pragmatically foolish. The Law provides an example of false philanthropy, when, “Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few.”6 In fact, there are many cases when greed and government philanthropy, acting through the law, violate not only citizens’ property, but also their life, or most commonly, their liberty. Bastiat calls any instance where “the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong”7 legal plunder. This is a detestable situation - the law encourages what it ought to condemn. It is “organized injustice.”8

The minimum wage, union laws, and caps on hours of labor are all instances of this organized injustice. Such labor restrictions, in search of equality, restrict the liberty and property of workers and employers. Bastiat writes, “Try to imagine a regulation of labor imposed by force that is not a violation of liberty.”9 Whether we search through imagination or practice, finding a liberty-protecting labor law is impossible. Labor restrictions in the form of welfare and healthcare benefits infringe on citizen’s property. Bastiat’s message is clear when he states, “Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other classes have been forced to send it in.”10 Funds must come from somewhere, and what right have we to take away what was never ours? All of these government-enforced labor regulations are legal plunder, regardless of their charitable intent. So let employers be free to set their employees’ wages as they see fit. Let laborers be free to work as much as they need to. Let employees be responsible for their own future, instead of benefiting from the salaries of others. The government has no place intervening.

We are becoming victims of legal plunder in the realm of education as well. Despite the fact that “the Supreme Court has declared time and time again that parental rights are among the oldest and most revered of fundamental rights, among the ‘liberties’ that are guaranteed to every American by the Fourteenth Amendment,”11 parents face a fierce fight to be allowed to educate their children as they see fit. New Jersey homeschoolers felt this acutely when State Assembly Bill 3123 threatened families with miles of bureaucratic red tape. Regulations proposed under A. 3123 allow the theft of liberty to be legalized, even encouraged, by the government. Or, if homeschool regulations aren’t severe enough, simply turn to the public school system to see a glaring instance of legal plunder of property. Through the government’s well-intentioned aim of an educated society, citizens are forced to contribute to the pay of the nation’s teachers, whether or not their children are enrolled in the public school system.

Finally, consider the liberty-restricting dangers of the law organizing religion. When laws bind us to a specific religion or dictates how we ought to worship, it takes away our rights and gives sinful, human, lawmakers control of our devotions. The history of our nation makes it evident that government mandates on religion, even in the name of morality, are intolerable. Was it not the quest for religious freedom that motivated the Pilgrims to seek America? The desire to worship as we see fit is not an irrational and selfish urge. It is a reasonable and beneficial instinct of self-defense. Even today’s fight against terrorism is part of the age-old fight for justice. Seeing liberty as a pathway to licentiousness and social decay, Osama Bin Laden and fellow al Qaeda leaders wage war on free nations. We must be careful not to commit the same error. No amount of excuses should permit us to accept a governmental promotion of religion.

This does not mean that laws should contradict principles of morality. Murder and theft are morally wrong, and the law does right when it prohibits them. But if we simply base laws on our morality, where can we draw the line between prohibiting murder and mandating church attendance? We need some kind of standard to be able to discern what laws would be overreaching, as well as help prevent misguided understandings from controlling the nation. Furthermore, we must keep in mind that liberty is a basic right upon which no government ought to infringe: in fact, it is the existence of natural rights that inspires us to create laws and establish justice. With that understanding, we are compelled to avoid any policies that legalize plunder and degrade justice.

The key word to remember is force: no legal plunder occurs when we willingly give our property to help those in need, surrender our liberty to follow our moral convictions, or sacrifice our lives to fight for our ideals. But when legislation demands that we to do so, it becomes unjust and immoral. Injustice breeds disrespect for the rule of law. No society should be founded on injustice.

5 Ibid, p. 4.

6 Ibid, p. 10.

7 Ibid, p. 13.

8 Ibid, p. 21.

9 Ibid, p. 20.

10 Ibid, p. 21.

11 “The Current Status of Parental Rights.” 13 February 2009.

Introduction // The Injustice of Enforcing "Good" // A Call for Realism // Justice Alone is Enough


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Hayley said...

I think a spammer found your blog. :-/