May 3, 2009

The Law: Justice Alone is Enough

On the other hand, the way of liberty, and consequently justice, is morally sound as well as the surest path to progress. Law based on natural rights recognizes Oliver Wendell Holmes oft-quoted adage: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins.”18

Bastiat reminds us of the bounds of law when he writes, “Since law requires the support of force, its lawful domain is only in areas where the use of plunder is necessary. This is justice.”19 Just laws use force only as a deterrent for those who infringe on another’s rights, withholding their influence when plunder is not taking place. For, if government organized labor, education, or religion, it would only be perpetuating plunder. Having a standard of justice will bring integrity to government: citizens can regain faith in the law when it punishes plunder and lets liberty live.

A government that assumes its proper role will safeguard liberty, protect property, and uphold life. With these gifts, we are free to labor, to learn, and to worship as we see fit. We gain a sense of responsibility for our property and our life. In short, we have the best conditions for progress. In Bastiat’s words: “Since all persons seek well-being and perfection, would not a condition of justice be sufficient to cause the greatest efforts toward progress, and the greatest possible equality that is compatible with individual responsibility?”20

Government limited in such a way allows us choice. Being able to choose to give up our property allows us to buy, sell, and contribute. If we so desire, we can choose to submit ourselves to liberty-restricting rules. A criminal who chooses to murder receives justice when the law takes his life. Compare these conditions of choice with those of force. Too often, excused by the supposed promotion of the common good, the law takes advantage of the people, and steals away property and liberty. It goes beyond deterring injustice and begins to deter prosperity as well.

We must realize that citizens and lawmakers are, in the words of Jon Foreman, “equally skilled at perverting justice.” Citizens infringe on their neighbor’s liberties. Politicians wield the law to legalize plunder and use force unnecessarily. Even when they are seeking after the common good, they unintentionally sacrifice justice, morality, and prosperity. All in all, humanity is quite successful at failing. Yet since we have been given life, liberty, and property, and since, at the same time, people wish to abridge these rights, we must set liberty as the standard for lawmaking.

There are essentially two options open to us: justice, based on God-given rights to life, liberty, and property, or misguided human decrees. They are fundamentally different and cannot be followed together.

So let justice reign! Let furthering justice become the first and foremost priority of the law. This will require legislators to relinquish their control on education, labor, and morality. After all, what right have they to direct citizens’ actions? As Bastiat writes, “They are your equals! They are intelligent and free human beings like yourselves! As you have, they too have, received from God the faculty to observe, to plan ahead, to think, and to judge for themselves!”21

Justice realizes that every human possesses imperfections and rights. It furnishes law with the necessary liberties and restraints. Justice alone is enough.

18 “The right to swing my fis…” Random Quotes. 13 February 2009. .

19 Bastiat, p. 52.

20 Ibid, p. 20.

21 Ibid, p. 37.

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