A blupete Essay

Robbers' Rules, Part 5 to blupete's Essay
"Legislation: Robbers' Rules"

Lysander Spooner:
"What, then, is legislation? It is an assumption by one man, or body of men, of absolute, irresponsible dominion over all other men whom they can subject to their power. It is the assumption by one man, or body of men, of a right to subject all other men to their will and their service. It is the assumption by one man, or body of men, of a right to abolish outright all the natural rights, all the natural liberty of all other men; to make all other men their slaves; to arbitrarily dictate to all other men what they may, and may not, do; what they may, and may not have; what they may, and may not, be. It is, in short, the assumption of a right to banish the principle of human rights, the principle of justice itself, from off the earth, and set up their own personal will, pleasure, and interest in its place. All this, and nothing less, is involved in the very idea that there can be any such thing as human legislation that is obligatory upon those upon whom it is imposed."6
Spooner was of the view that there is only one universal obligation: to keep the peace. He was of the view that there was one simple law that all are bound to keep or be penalized by the others, the state. The general observance of such a law means people hurt no one and leave others to collect what is their due. Why is it that this simple model is not at all reflected in reality. Because there are robbers in the world, people who would rather loot than work. These robbers were easy to identify as "civilized societies" formed and all one could do is to try to stay out of the path of robbers, or, better yet, find and join the strongest robber group in your neighborhood. Robber groups became stronger, and bigger, and increased their power by uniting with each other and perfecting their organizations. Peace treaties among robber groups were struck and broken depending on whether a power equilibrium existed, or not. "All the great governments of the world ... have been of this character. ... their laws, as they have called them, have only such agreements as they have found it necessary to enter into, in order to maintain their organizations ..."
"All these laws have had no more real obligation than have the agreements which brigands, bandits, and pirates find it necessary to enter into with each other, for the more successful accomplishment of their crimes, and the more peaceable division of their spoils. ...
Thus the whole business of legislation, which has now [mid 19th century] grown to such gigantic proportions, had its origin in the conspiracies, which have always existed among the few, for the purpose of holding the many in subjection, and extorting from them their labor, and all the profits of their labor.
And the real motives and spirit which lie at the foundation of all legislation - notwithstanding all the pretences and disguises by which they attempt to hide themselves - are the same to-day as they always have been. The whole purpose of this legislation is simply to keep one class of men in subordination and servitude to another."
We should not optimize against the imaginable, and certainly not against the impossible; at times we might try to deal with the probable. There are no limits to most people's imagination; and, if, they are given access to people's pockets -- why, then, these dreamers will see no limits in respect on how "we" are to cure their perceived problems. Think of it: if we were to design all of our policies around the worst thing that could possibly happen, then, what kind of world will we have. If our objective is that each of us should proceed in absolute safety in that which we do, we will, each of us, have to be locked up in our respective cubical and put under twenty-hour surveillance. Absolute safety can be achieved only if liberty of movement is absolutely forbidden. Each of us will have to be told (by whom or who, we might wonder) not only what we cannot do, but what we can do. The relationship of the governors and those governed will be, as Frédéric Bastiat observed, as that which exists between "the clay and the potter." Such people, as Bastiat further observed, do not "recognize a principle of action in the heart of man - and a principle of discernment in man's intellect." People do not go around purposely trying to do themselves or their neighbours harm, nor do they normaly proceed in their affairs in a negligent manner (and, if they did, there is a remedy to the injured person at law). It seems, as if, if "the legislators left persons free to follow their own inclinations, they would arrive at atheism instead of religion, ignorance instead of knowledge, property instead of production and exchange." It is a wrong idea, but as Bastiat writes: "Open at random any book on philosophy, politics, or history, and you will probably see how deeply rooted in our country is this idea - the child of classical studies, the mother of socialism."

Legislation always proceeds on the false notion that the majority is in the right. The only thing a majority has for sure, is the power to sweep away the rights of the minority. A wrong idea is a wrong idea no matter how many should want to believe it. History has proven, time and time again, that those who believe in the right idea are often in the minority. Professor Bruno Leoni:

"Whereas scientific and technological results are always due to relatively small minorities or particular individuals, often, if not always, in opposition to ignorant or indifferent majorities, legislation, especially today, always reflects the will of a contingent majority within a committee of legislators who are not necessarily more learned or enlightened than the dissenters. Where authorities and majorities prevail, as in legislation, individuals must yield, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. ...
Too many vested interests and too many prejudices are obviously ready to defend the inflation of the legislative process in contemporary society. However, unless I am wrong, everybody will be confronted sooner or later with the problem of a resulting situation that seems to promise nothing but perpetual unrest and general oppression."8
What is better: the living law of the people, common law; or, legislation enacted by the "representatives" of the people. The plain truth is, that the collectivists in our midst, would like to have their ideas written up as legislation and thus to bind us all to their particular philosophy. The process is at the general expense; and, often to no one's benefit except those who are running the program.


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[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]
[Subject Index]
Peter Landry

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