This article was originally published at americanchronicle.com on July 27th, 2007.
I’ve heard many a politician claim that we are a nation of laws. I thought we were supposed to be a nation of free individuals. Wasn’t this country set up to make individual freedom the most important factor in government? Didn’t the original English settlers come to this country to get away from unfair laws that persecuted them? In fact, didn’t people from all over the world travel here for much the same reasons? So what does it mean when the politicians in this country claim it’s a nation of laws? What, exactly, is the rule of law?
Laws are manmade constructs. They are rules by which society operates. Every country in the world is a nation of laws. The differences between nations’ governments isn’t whether or not they have laws, it’s how they apply their laws. The difference is in how many or how few laws a nation has. The difference is in how much say the individual has in his own life and how intrusive the government is in making his decisions for him. The difference is in how just or unjust punishment is and to what degree the innocent are protected from false accusations. The rule of law is simply a matter of legislating law, enforcing law and then punishing lawbreakers. Every country is ruled by law. Not every country is ruled in a just manner.
Iraq was a nation of laws. It was governed by Islamic law. Islamic law can be very cruel to those who violate it. They have been known to cut off the hands and feet of thieves and kill those accused of other crimes such as adultery and homosexuality. These people are very strictly punished for choices they made. Iran is in much the same boat. So is Syria. These Islamic countries use the law to rule the individual from cradle to grave. They do not let the individual do much in the way of making his own decisions as most of what he needs to do is spelled out for him in religious text. China is also a nation of laws. They have laws against certain religions being practiced, specifically one called Fulan Gong. People caught practicing Fulan Gong are arrested and tortured in Chinese prisons. There have even been accusations that some of these people are used to provide human transplant organs for westerners willing to pay the price. Nazi Germany was a nation of laws. They had all kinds of laws to keep their people in line. Everyone knows what happened there. The former Soviet Union was a nation of laws. Again, the people of that country were oppressed by the law. The law was equally applied to everyone, no matter how small the infraction. Who can say how many suffered and died in the gulags in Siberia? I can say this, it’s was more than just a few.
The governments of these nefarious nations have always claimed that these laws are necessary to protect the people. They have claimed that these laws are needed to safeguard “The Fatherland” or “Mother Russia.” They have claimed these laws were necessary for “national security.” It seems to me that the laws were made for political purposes. They were made to keep the people in line. They were created to identify, punish and nullify possible dissenters. Anyone who questions the government or the power structure in these countries is suspect. Anyone who accuses government of corruption or questions motives in these nations are punished. They are put away so their ideas can not spread. It seems to me that perhaps some laws aren’t meant to protect the people, that some laws are meant to protect the government.
Perhaps being a nation of laws isn’t such a good thing. The only laws that should matter are those that protect individuals from being harmed. Many laws protect not people, but corporations. Many laws prevent individuals from making their own decisions about such things as what to put in their bodies, what they can read or view, what they can spend their money on, who they can see, be with, or associate with, etc. Many laws take personal responsibility away from the individual and put that responsibility in the hands of the state. These laws create victimless crimes and unintended consequences. These laws are aggravated further when they are backed up by sentencing guidelines which take the person best able to understand the unique circumstances of a case, the judge, and make it so he may not be able to apply real and helpful sentencing that might better serve everyone involved. Many laws passed recently in an atmosphere of fear and paranoia need to be re-examined.
This country, the United States of America, was unique in history in that its law, the supreme law of the land, was not a law to dictate how people should behave, but it was a law to dictate how government should behave toward the people. I’m talking, of course, about the constitution. It acknowledges the rights of man that human beings have always possessed. It states that the government shall not create laws that infringe upon those rights. This law has been broken time and time again by those now in power. The checks and balances written into the constitution that were meant to prevent such things from happening have failed miserably. This is the law that should matter. This is the law which prosecutors should defend vehemently. Those who break this law, particularly those who have sworn to uphold it, should be held accountable for their heinous actions. These men who recklessly disregard this document are the real danger to this country. It is time for this country to rethink the laws we make. We need to remember that when we tread upon the rights of one man, we tread upon the rights of all men. We need to stop thinking of our nation as a nation of laws and start thinking of it as a nation of free individuals. We need to accept personal responsibility for our actions and our safety and stop expecting the government to provide for us. In this way we can forge our own destinies, and our destiny as a nation. In this way we can once again become a nation of freedom and justice for all.