Wednesday, March 10, 2010

There oughta be a law...

Americans have a tradition of thinking “there oughtta be law” whenever we see something we want or something we don’t like. Well, maybe so. But think, what does “having a law” mean?

It means the government’s will – whatever is required or prohibited or mandated or ruled or standardized - is ultimately backed up by this:

This is a frightening picture, and it should be. But it is a picture of what we must have: government with the will to back up its laws – our laws – with the reality of deadly force.

All laws are backed by the threat of guys with guns showing up, guys whom we expect to use those guns if they are threatened or if there is no other way to gain compliance.

Agree or disagree with the rulings that led to this confrontation (yes, the picture is real, the child is Elian Gonzalez, a Cuban national and the man on the right had been, after weeks of appeals and legal filings, ordered by our legitimate legal authorities to surrender Elian to the U.S. government; he refused) this is the necessary end point of any refusal to go along with laws and government orders.

It has to be this way. We want it to be this way, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. This is what protects us and what makes the state possible – the state without which liberty would be impossible.

“But the U.S. isn’t like Nazi Germany!” you might exclaim. True, but irrelevant. The differences between the U.S. and Nazi Germany are in the kinds of laws we have, how those laws are decided, and how long it takes from the initial defiance until the guys with guns show up, not in the force that ultimately backs the authority of the state. In a totalitarian state (Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union) the confrontation shown would have occurred weeks earlier, the guy with the gun would have his finger on the trigger rather than beside it, and shots might have been fired already, even if the resisters were unarmed. In a totalitarian state, this picture wouldn't exist, let alone be available on the web.

My point is, don’t be all warm and fuzzy thinking we all pay our taxes, stop at red lights, and obey court orders because we recognize they are the right things to do. Every law passed by Congress, a state legislature, or a city council, every court ruling, every executive order is ultimately backed by the reality that guys with guns, eventually, after all appeals and arguments are ended, will show up and point a loaded weapon at you if you don’t obey.

Until all men are angels, civilization depends on it.

For every law you think is a good idea, ask yourself whether this “good idea” ought to lead to a scene like the one above if there are people who think the law is a bad idea. If you don’t think guys with guns ought to enforce your “good idea”, don’t advocate or support a law.

No comments:

Post a Comment