The Moral Law versus Tyranny
It struck me recently just how frequently we use the word “law” in our conversations. I read or hear, “That’s against the law” when someone wants someone else not to do something, and “There ought to be a law” when someone wants to further restrict others. I read arguments about what it really means to say that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. But few people seem to be thinking more than a millimeter deep about law—is there any law beyond civil law? What do we mean when we say “law” in a particular context? What are the current limitations on law? What should the limits on law be?
In particular, as Bruno Leoni wrote in Freedom and the Law, “Individual freedom … has been gradually reduced … [because] statutory law entitled officials to behave in ways that, according to the previous law, would have been judged as usurpations of power and encroachments upon the individual freedom of the citizens.”
Leonard Read considered such issues in “Law versus Tyranny,” in his 1975 Castles in the Air. At a time when even muddy thinking on that subject is uncommon, and clear thinking all but unheard of in popular discourse, that topic deserves more careful attention, because if “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Americans have been insufficiently willing to pay the price of vigilance, forcing us to pay a far higher price in liberty as a result.
Moral law or legal edicts?
What is law? Is it a body of legal edicts backed by force? Or a consciousness of moral obligations? … Which takes precedence? … The latter … [not] an outpouring of legal edicts …designed to control the affairs of society.
All man-made laws—legal edicts—which go beyond codifying and complementing the moral law serve not to bind men together but to spread them asunder, creating chaos rather than harmony, tyranny rather than peaceful order.
Who is sovereign?
Fundamental to my faith is the rejection of government as the sovereign power. This puts me on the side of the writers of the Declaration of Independence…. By proclaiming the Creator as the endower of men’s rights, they proclaimed the Creator as sovereign, denying government that ancient and medieval role…. We agree on being moralists … moral values being the correct vantage point from which to look for improvement, refinement.
What are the foundations of morality? … My foundations are the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. The Golden Rule, in my view, is the prime tenet of sound economics and, doubtless, the oldest ethical proposition of
Article from Mises Wire