The Law of the Land
A proper law is a generalization of some moral principle that is formed from the rational consensus of a large number of people based on their life experiences. There can’t be too many of them else they become overly specific and prone to error.
If someone writes a tract of one million words … there will be logical contradictions within that tract. No one has the skill and experience to hold a logical line to that extremity and be totally consistent. So, when speaking of law in general, you are going to get into arguments very quickly. It is inevitable. I’ll take a stab at a few important ones. You may disagree with them.
All laws have two perspectives. There is the “spirit” of the law. And, there is the “letter” of the law. Law is generalization. It applies to a generic set of possibilities. It probably will not fit the case at hand perfectly. In applying a law to a specific case then, only the spirit of the law is important … never the letter (although the letter of the law is often adhered to in small matters as in the paying of small fines).
Here are the general laws of the land, as I see them, in common language.
- 1) You can’t hit someone over the head and take his stuff [Personal and Property Rights]
- 2) You can’t threaten someone when he’s minding his own business [Imminent Threat]
- 3) You can’t kill somebody over a girl [Proportionate Force]
- 4) You can defend yourself if someone attacks you first [Right of Self Defense, Non-Initiation of Force]
- 5) You can go wherever you want and do whatever you want as long as you’re not bothering anybody [Right of Free Passage and Free Association, the Commons, No Fraud]
- 6) Rules apply to everybody [Political and Moral Equality]
I believe that these are all that are needed to make a civilization. All fair laws stem from a perceived ‘value equality’ of all individuals. I like the French saying “One man’s rights end where another’s begins”. It’s not specific but it serves up the general spirit of proper law.
Some elaboration is required.
In 2, ‘imminent threat’ is the justification for a cop to stop someone speeding and weaving through traffic as well as for laws about storing explosives, etc. If there is a definite consensus among the people at large that a dangerous activity is being performed that may harm others, it may be justified to take preemptive action against that threat. Excessive fructose corn syrup in soda pop that may cause death due to obesity … is not … an imminent threat. Storing TNT in your garage next to the day care center … is.
In 3, ‘proportionate force’ means that a man illegally camping cannot be removed by police by means of shooting him to death. Force applied to an individual (the camper) by another individual (the police) must be approximately equal because 5 and 6 are in conflict with excessive force. That is, to remove the man, the police must commit a greater crime than the illegal camper. The police must violate the person of the camper for his violation of the property of the land owner. Personal violations are worse than property violations.
Understand this exactly ….
When police arrest someone, they are committing a moral crime against that person. The issue is whether their crime is justified by the crime of a supposed perpetrator. The police are, in effect, organized criminals authorized by the consensus of opinion of the people … to commit crimes on their behalf … only against other criminals and only after that criminal has committed the crime … and … the crime committed by police must not exceed the crime committed by the initial supposed criminal. Further, the initial crime is indefinite by definition because it must be reviewed dispassionately by a court of rational arbiters who weigh objective evidence concerning the crime … then … assign a punishment proportional to the crime if one is proven to have been committed. Hence, the police must be constrained by the strictest rules that proscribe excesses against both the guilty and the alleged guilty.
In 5, the ‘right of free passage’ means that the owner of land X cannot be surrounded by lands Y and Z whose owners refuse to let X move across Y and Z. This would make X a prisoner of Y and Z. An arbiter must find a fair access for X through Y and/or Z such that X can access the ‘commons’. Y and Z do not have to build a road for X. They must only allow X to traverse freely over their property in a manner specified by the arbiter (government).
This is why there are roads. We don’t often encounter this problem because there are commons … a road in common use owned and maintained by the collective as an arterial system. The right of free passage also establishes the commons through ’eminent domain’ wherein property is confiscated from individuals by the collective (government) to facilitate free passage (also for sewer lines, power lines, etc.). When eminent domain is used, it constitutes a crime committed by the collective against the individual (by 1). So, this aspect must be severely constrained just as the police must be constrained. A confiscation by eminent domain must include payment to the individual to compensate for the violation of individual rights. For instance, twice the assessed value of the confiscated property might be considered ‘fair’.
There is no way for individuals to live in proximity without friction. There may be no solution to a given problem so that management of the problem is the only option. That is, we don’t solve the problem … we manage it till all the plaintiffs die off or move away or just give up. We move on to the next problem.
In 5, is also the commons as an area of undeveloped land which is not an arterial system but rather a communal system. This is necessary because of 5 as well. If you can “go wherever you want” … there must be someplace to go as well as a way to get there (a common road). If everyplace is owned by individuals, there is no neutral destination and the “go wherever you want” aspect is moot. To be free, there must by a place to be free. If you are born politically and morally equal to every other individual but do not own land and all land is already owned … you are neither de jure nor de facto equal. By 6 then … there must be a commons.
Think of civilization as a very large watermelon vine. You and your property are melons. The vines feeding the melons are common roads. The land the vine is planted on is the commons. Anyone may become a melon by traveling along the vine and sprouting from the vine onto the land. When there are too many melons, there is friction among the melons and the commons is reduced and the vines cannot feed the melons as effectively. Overpopulation would kill civilization but fortunately there is an equitable answer. It is prosperity. The antidote to excessive population and its concomitant friction is that all become wealthy. And … as any knowledgeable demographer will attest … birth rates decline as prosperity increases.
We can then see that an income tax cannot be collected by force against an individual because that force is a worse offense against morality than the individual’s refusal to contribute to the maintenance of the collective. To collect a tax to fund government, we must entice payment with positive, objective and rational products.