Header Image (book)

aowheader.3.2.gif

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Nation of Laws

By Sam Huntington


Why must we accept the authority of government? There are actually three reasons: fear, tradition, or philosophy. If we refuse to obey the law, government will punish us. If we refuse to obey the law, we violate religious teaching (Give unto Caesar). If we refuse to obey the law, we break faith with our fellow citizens. Therefore, it is possible to postulate that government has a stake in maintaining its power over its citizens, even to the extent of fooling us into believing that we the people actually govern. We do not.

If this is true, then what must we think about this notion of natural law? There is actually more than one form of natural law: Divine, secular, and historic. Divine law is revealed to us from an all-powerful being. Secular law is the consequence of man’s understanding of physical, biological, and behavioral factors. Historic law has evolved over the course of human history, either because of accumulated understanding, or well-established practices and experiences. Of these three, historic law is most flexible.


Divine Law. We find divine law firmly encased in Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition —writings from the Torah, Bible, and Qur’an that claim divine inspiration. We find these claims legitimate because most human beings acknowledge the wisdom of commandments handed down, all of which appear to inspire us to create and maintain peaceful communities and that help us to delineate between right and wrong. We find general agreement that divine law is inherent, inalienable, indivisible, and universal.

Secular Law. These are laws of nature that we generally agree are unchallengeable, just as there are things in the physical environment that are given. As examples, we might suggest biology, physics, and mechanics. Physical laws are observable, repeatable, and measureable—and it is through this process that we understand certain truths about our physical world. So too does secular natural law depend on observation and measurement within human nature, and beyond government. It identifies uniform and fixed moral and ethical customs that not even government can change —among these, the supposition that inalienable and immutable human rights flow from human nature and exist independent of government.

John Locke observed that these fixed moral and ethical elements formed the basis of a social contract, within the confines of which human beings would behave reasonably and tolerantly toward others. Within this contract, mankind consent, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms, and submit to the authority of the social majority (government) in exchange for guaranteeing their remaining “inalienable” rights. Locke argued that in the absence of government, every individual possesses a right of self-preservation equal to that of everyone else —the fulfillment of personal needs consistent with the liberties of others.

Recognizing an inconsistency of self-preservation on the one hand, and human greed and narcissism on the other, people establish government —and laws— to protect life, liberty, and property (the pursuant of happiness). To the extent that government provides these protections, it becomes part of the secular natural law. When government actions extend beyond the consent of the government, it becomes illegitimate.

Historical Natural Law. Also called historicism, we based historic natural law upon the experience gained throughout human history. The individual responsible for creating this formal school of thought was Friedrich Karl von Savigny, who lived between 1779 and 1861. Savigny rejected out of hand the absolute nature of divine and secular concepts to the extent that the comprise customs and traditions; judges have determined the course of human relationships over time, as embodied by case law even so far back as Hammurabi’s Laws. Oliver Wendell Holmes embraced this school of thought: judicial wisdom is the most reliable source of law. Holmes argued that religious liberty is not “inalienable” at all —merely fundamental. This notion, by the way, occurred after the founding of the United States. In this sense, it is un-American.

Why this is important

It is my contention that the American people are soon to embark upon a new and dangerous ground. They do so quite unconsciously, and what I mean by this is that when we go to the polls to vote for the latest best hope for mankind, we do so without a clear understanding of his or her philosophy. Barack Obama is an example of this. What he actually believes is very different from what he acknowledges publicly, or stated in another way, his behavior does not reflect his public pronouncements. Consequently, voters choose him based upon incomplete or an inaccurate understanding.

Our Declaration of Independence affirms the legal basis of the United States of America is natural law. This precious document leads us to a mandatory recognition of rights beyond the Constitution, or the so-called unenumerated rights as set forth in the Ninth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

This guarantee recognizes that rights do exist outside the written positive law. As part of our nation’s formal philosophy, the Ninth Amendment affirms that while the Constitution limits government, the people are less constrained. It releases us to pursue happiness consistent with the laws of the states where we reside. We can feel good about the Supreme Court, for whenever it considers natural rights, it overwhelmingly comes down on the side of liberty.

However, this is not what our politicians want. They are leading us down the pathway toward historicism … the law as decided by the judges appointed by politicians.

Dictators obtain their authority over the people by instilling fear of disobedience. The US government today exercises this dictatorial authority in a number of ways, which Alexis de Tocqueville described as soft tyranny. One of the more recent examples of this is the so-called Affordable Car Act; it is no more affordable than Nancy Pelosi is lucid. What Obama Care does is force Americans to succumb to the will of government, to behave in a certain way. If we do not succumb, if we do not behave in the prescribed manner, then government will impose arduous taxes until we finally come around to the government’s way of thinking. This is tyranny.

I believe that most of our citizens have not given much thought to our nation’s legal philosophy, but few things are more important toward the preservation of our great Republic. It is the very foundation of our relationship with government, and government’s relationship with us. Our public schools have not offered civics classes for many years … and this is the reason so many people are uniformed or unaware of our country's framework. I also believe it is still possible to achieve a better America —one that does not demand the institution of Marxist ideology— but with this one caveat: we can only achieve a better country when the American people do a better job choosing their political leaders.

36 comments:

  1. .

    "One of the more recent examples of this is the so-called Affordable Car Act; ..."

    The ACA is law. It was passed by USA people's Congress. Signed by the USA people's President. ACA is the people's law.

    "I believe that most of our citizens have not given much thought to our nation’s legal philosophy, but few things are more important toward the preservation of our great Republic. It is the very foundation of our relationship with government, and government’s relationship with us."

    One seems to have an utter misunderstanding of the fundamental foundation of USA. The USA government is of the people, by the people and for the people. The people's government is the people. The US government today, as it has since its beginning in 1787, exercises its authority by the consent of the governed.

    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Somebody has been swimming in the kool-aid.

      Delete
    2. .

      "Wow! Somebody has been swimming in the kool-aid."

      Yes, but Sam Huntington is not writing about your swimming habits. He was writing about government and authority.

      Ema Nymton
      ~@:o?
      .

      Delete
    3. Good morning, Ema!

      Your last paragraph is a clear and perfectly accurate description of what our particular form of government is, indeed, supposed to be. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work that way in practice.

      What we have, instead, is government by highly organized special interests of many kinds who work ceaselessly and spend huge sums of money to circumvent and subvert the will of the people. Also, we do, indeed, have individuals with powerful intellects who for reasons of their own -- not always monetary -- develop clever-but-often-unscrupulous methods of seducing great masses of people who become identifiable as FACTIONS into follow the lead of these "Pied Pipers," "Starry-eyed Utopian Visionaries" or corrupt, power-mad Demagogues.

      The THEORY that is SUPPOSED to govern us is beautiful. The REALITY is something other.

      Most people find it easier just to follow the loudest voice, the flashiest, sexiest image, the most enticing, mouth-watering promises of a life of greater ease and abundance, and so we have what we have.

      Give the great mass of lazy, ignorant, misinformed, unquestioning people the message that they have been exploited cheated,and ill-treated by those who have given them occupation and made it possible for them to survive. Then tell them they have the moral RIGHT to DEMAND that they be continually rewarded with more and more money in exchange for making less and less effort. Tell them these things in such a way as to get them ANGRY and REBELLIOUS by pretending that YOU are on THEIR side, and the majority will soon be eating out of your hand, and zealously marching behind you as you lead them straight into HELL.

      If "HELL" is The People's Choice, why then HELL is the right place to be, of course. Any who oppose The People's Choice are Enemies of the People -- TRAITORS -- and must therefore be put out of commission.

      Does anyone have a BETTER explanation for how it REALLY works? If so I'd be eager to hear it.

      "Democracies are most commonly corrupted by the insolence of demagogues."

      ~ Aristotle (382- 322 B. C.)

      "In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.

      The people themselves are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe their minds must be improved ..."

      “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”


      ~ Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)




      Delete
  2. Ema’s comment proves once more that she has a limited understanding about almost everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As do we all, Robert. We oughtn't to forget that we are no more in possession the truth than anyone else, since we perceive Reality only through the narrow prism of our own, particular vision.

      If we looked at The Globe only from one side and in one light all our lives, we would never become aware that there's a lot more to it than we'd been conditioned to think.

      Delete
  3. Those are NOT the "reasons" why we accept law. Collective self-interest is the "why".

    . . . the advent of Law entails a kind of ‘disalienation’: in so far as the Other itself appears submitted to the ‘absolute condition’ of Law, the subject is no more at the mercy of the Other’s whim, its desire is no more totally alienated in the Other’s desire. . . In contrast to the ‘post-structuralist’ notion of a law checking, canalizing, alienating, oppressing ‘Oedipianizing’ some previous ‘flux of desire,’ Law is here conceived as an agency of ‘disalienation’ and ‘liberation’: it opens our access to desire by enabling us to disengage ourselves from the rule of the Other’s whim.

    - Slavoj Zizek, "For They Know Not What They Do"


    Desire Street runs from the river. It dead-ends up at Law. Just one block up-river is Piety Avenue running back down to St. Claude.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Law" is merely the "justification" one in power gives for continuing to commit crimes against the rest of us. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. The ACA is but the most recent example of a crime committed by those in power over its' citizens to further consolidate and maintain their own privileges...

    ReplyDelete
  6. @ FJ … so your premise is that a social contract is not the underpinning our system of laws?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Self-interest and the threat of immediate and/or future use of force "underpin" our system of laws.

      When sustaining the laws no longer serves our self-interest, one will revolt/rebel. Individuals who rebel are most often labelled "criminals". Groups who rebel, are labelled "revolutionaries".

      Delete
  7. .

    "Why must we accept the authority of government?"

    Government exists in any and all activities that involve more than one person; two or more people get together you have government. Interactions of people are governed by mutually agreed upon civil, social, and legal customs, traditions, rules, regulations, and/or laws. The greater the number of people, the more complex civil and social customs, traditions, rules, regulations, and/or laws become.

    One of the duties of governments is to assure that industry/business/people operate properly and safely within established customs, traditions, rules, regulations, and/or laws. This is called ‘law and order’; its purpose is to assure for the open, regulated, and safe environment for people/business activities within modern civil society.


    One of the purposes of all government is to protect the people. Having a safety net under the high-flying trapeze artist does not prevent the artist from being any better or worse than the individual wants to be. It does not constrict a person’s sense of freedom, either.


    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Government exists for the sole purpose of both maintaining itself and keeping the possessions of the powerful in their own hands. And the only GUARANTEE that the citizens of our nation have to prevent the government and powerful elites from taking MORE than their "fair share" is the 2nd Amendment.

      ps - And that "guarantee" is becoming more and more "worthless" with each passing Administration.

      Delete
    2. In other words... only FORCE and/or the THREAT of the FUTURE use of FORCE underpins our "System of Laws"

      Delete
    3. Okay, Ema … you have two people and, therefore, a government. Which of those two gets his or her way?

      Delete
  8. The Founders certainly knew about the possibility of corruption and degeneracy, and did their best to warn against it, but apparently, they never anticipated the tremendous agglomerated power bound to come from increasingly sophisticated techniques in Mass Communication, massively Intrusive Surveillance of individual citizens aided, abetted and shaped by an Educational Establishment directed by self-anointed Oligarchs and run by The Bureau of Central Command and Control from the nation's capital guided, of course, by The Ministry of Truth.

    As a result of this tragic lack of foresight on the part of the Fouders apparently, the great mass people today have been persuaded to believe they are happier and better off growing more angry, envious, spiteful, captious, cantankerous, demanding and prone to violence while nursing their grievances and lusting for vengeance against the very people -- the ONLY people -- who have ever provided them with actual sustenance, a reason to hope, and a measure of security.

    A hate-based determination to bring down those with positive vision, discriminating tastes and refined preferences who are richer, smarter, cleverer, kinder, more productive has overcome and supplanted the once-prevalent desire to EMULATE those in better, more comfortable, more interesting, adventurous, and rewarding circumstances.

    Is it any wonder that Envy is listed high among the Seven Deadly Sins, and that we have been told for thousands of years the "Vengeance belongs to God?"

    ReplyDelete
  9. I wonder if the "Founders" ever anticipated that American Society would degenerate to the level of voting for B.O. twice or that there would ever be an AG as low as Eric Holder!

    ReplyDelete
  10. The reliance on divine law.

    Interesting that Pope Francis stated recently that there is a great danger in becoming too doctrinal.

    "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently," Francis said.
    "We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."

    Back to the Gospels.
    This Pope may make it possible for me to return to the Church.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Our Declaration of Independence affirms the legal basis of the United States of America is natural law.

    -----
    Does this mean we should continue at all costs what T. S. Eliot called the insane search for a rational ethics and continually worship Locke's cult of property?

    ReplyDelete
  12. No, Ducky … of course not. We should throw off every aspect of our founding philosophies and embrace communist doctrine. Alternatively, you could follow the example of T. S. Eliot and find a country that more closely mirrors the darkness of your own heart —and move there. I was thinking of a place like such as Kyrgyzstan.

    ReplyDelete
  13. ...at least T.S. Eliot didn't, like WH Auden, pretend to have "found" a new rational ethic based upon the strict enforcement of a new belief system (Marxism/communism).

    But quite Suddenly, in the years 1930-5, something happens. The literary climate changes. A new group of writers, Auden and Spender and the rest of them, has made its appearance, and although technically these writers owe something to their predecessors, their ‘tendency’ is entirely different. Suddenly we have got out of the twilight of the gods into a sort of Boy Scout atmosphere of bare knees and community singing. The typical literary man ceases to be a cultured expatriate with a leaning towards the Church, and becomes an eager-minded schoolboy with a leaning towards Communism. If the keynote of the writers of the twenties is ‘tragic sense of life’, the keynote of the new writers is ‘serious purpose’. - George Orwell, "Inside the Whale"

    ReplyDelete
  14. You say:

    It is my contention that the American people are soon to embark upon a new and dangerous ground. They do so quite unconsciously, and what I mean by this is that when we go to the polls to vote for the latest best hope for mankind, we do so without a clear understanding of his or her philosophy. Barack Obama is an example of this.

    Exactly right. How do we reach the masses who will continue to vote this way?

    Debbie
    Right Truth
    http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is only one way to reach the masses, in my opinion: the people of states must reject such rubbish as the federal government’s core standards in education, and it must demand an education model that pays more attention to civics education than with multicultural studies. We might fix this problem in the next sixty years, if we start right now. Sadly, the American people pay lip service to education—and our rankings in the world reflect this.

      Delete
    2. .

      "Nominate Louie Gohmert."

      Kaaaaaaaaaching!!!!

      Nominate also MRS Bachmann.

      ~@:o?
      .

      Delete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  16. AI would enforce the current laws to the letter. In an "IDEAL" world, there wouldn't be any need to control immigration, because there wouldn't be a stampede over national borders like so many wild cattle on a rampage. Illegal aliens are human beings and they know full well the consequences of their actions. Illegally they should be thrown out and sent back to where they came from and be penalized form returning for a set amount of time. If they enter this country They know what they have done, and it is time to pay the bloody piper...I think American immigration laws are fair enough. It is the mindset of the new “immigrants” I question. That perhaps, is were the focus should be.

    We have great immigration laws already on the books, we just need to enforce all of them and protect our borders from illegal crossings.

    As far a Gun Control, the Liberals “Pet Dream”, we don’t need no stinken new laws we should try enforcing the ones we already have.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think that Emma is lost!
    The blog she’s looking for is this way
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    V

    ReplyDelete
  18. It would make life so much more pleasant and agreeable, if there some way to stop people from making personal remarks that do nothing either to inform or to advance the argument.


    --------------------> Katharine Heartburn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katharine,
      The chasm is such that what you suggest in an impossibility.

      Delete
  19. Ducky, the Pope did not say 'ignore abortion, who cares about gay marriage and homosexuality?' but he might as well have if we listen to the media.
    I guess there's really nobody left who will defend the rights of the unborn. I'm hoping he realizes how naive he was in those statements; how he let the media/secularists misinterpret and win. Sad.

    Sam, excellent piece. And, as I usually do, I'll remind us all that it's the MEDIA by which Obama has won. THEY know he's saying one thing and doing another. You are absolutely right about him. The media knows how America really can't afford any of what's happening now. THEY know the job prospects are bad. THEY KNOW. And Americans would have known had the media had the guts to tell the truth against someone who's of their ideology.
    Without a free and honest media, we're done, folks.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Z,
      I'm privileged to have Sam posting here.

      I have recommended to my American Government students that they check my blog every Thursday, Sam's usual day to post.

      Delete
  20. Nicely written piece. The state educates but does not teach. It is not in the best interest of the State to teach things which might contradict it. I firmly believe that teaching people how to think and reason is not in the best interests of the Government and it seems that fewer and fewer people are doing those things... they are simply mindless, uneducated consumers. Just the way the politicians like it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you have hit the nail squarely on its head. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

      Delete

We welcome civil dialogue at Always on Watch. Comments that include any of the following are subject to deletion:
1. Any use of profanity or abusive language
2. Off topic comments and spam
3. Use of personal invective