Daniel Ust wrote a good piece containing a number of solid pronouncements.
(Especially lucid excerpts below.)
> Laws which support [abusing people] are wrong and need not be obeyed.
> In fact, to obey them is often to aid and abet the rights violations.
> Of course, it depends on the situation one finds oneself in.
What do you say to the retort that we all should be biased towards
obeying the law (out of principle, not fear) for the sake of compromise?
There are very few laws that everyone likes, especially the less important
Let's not restrict ourselves to the internet's favorite whipping boys, if
you are going criticize or rebel against some law, generally you're going
to do it from some rival standard -- i.e., not from the positivist view
(simplifying here) of what is _is_ right. It could be from from a natural
law perspective, which underlies a lot of different thinkers from Aristotle
to the Pope. It could also be from some other standard, such as
majoritarianism a la Bork, pure formalism a la Kant (who also has a foot in
the natural law tradition), economic efficiency as many economists do,
Constitutionalism, or something else. You can't expect people who believe
in any of these to be legal positivists. Again, it's like quoting Scripture
at the nonbeliever. (And, as you know, I'm one of the nonbelievers.:)
> but I'd be interested to know
> whether you do or whether Jerry does.
I would argue from the libertarian and Objectivist positions here.
Basically, killing or abusing people is wrong. Governments that do such are
wrong and have no legitimate reason to be. Laws which support such are
wrong and need not be obeyed. In fact, to obey them is often to aid and
abet the rights violations. Of course, it depends on the situation one
finds oneself in.
(I don't agree with Michael Lorrey here. Some people are innocent and
should not be condemned just because they didn't join the partisans or the
revolution right away. Others are innocent through ignorance. Of course,
some people are Quislings and the like, but my political goal is freedom NOT
[One needs] to look into the conceptual foundations of the Law. If you can't
do that, then you will be stuck with no way to answer the question. Ask
yourself, Why government? What necessitates government? Do humans need it?
If so, what is the best form of government for them? Are there any forms
that are bad for them? There's a whole area known as political philosophy
(much as Molloy might despise the term) that attempts to answer these
> In what circumstances is the imposition of
> an obligation by the state legitimate?
You can't impose an obligation. Obligations are freely entered into or they
are not obligations but duties or coercions. But aside from this, the state
can only [should only] prohibit activities which abrogate individual rights.
> what is the effect or significance of a law that should have been
> enacted (or should not have been part of the common law if it
> comes to that)? How should we respond to such a law?
Any institution evolves. I would hope that from here on that the law would
change in the direction of protecting individual rights through objective
law as defined by Rand in her "The Nature of Government" -- whether it be
privately or "governmentally" arrived at or enforced.
My view is [that] individual rights, including those to property, precede
government, logically, morally, and historically. If government's only
legitimate raison d'etre is to protect these rights, then it is illegitimate
for any government to use force to trample rights. Taxation is one such
instance of such trampling. Ergo, taxation is not legitimate.
When most people are forced to be part of something or to fund
something, they tend to become antagonistic toward that something
or the people involved. In the case, e.g., of affirmative action,
a lot of people tend to become more racist, sexist, ethnocentric,
etc. At the very least, it arms any irrational prejudices they
might have. (See Thomas Sowell's _Preferential Policies: An
International Perspective_ for many more examples of how such
policies have destabilized societies around the world, from Sri
Lanka to the South.)
With taxation, it should be obvious that people often feel it hurts them --
because it does!:) -- and also feel animosity toward tax beneficiaries.
With government in general -- and I mean real world governments -- a lot of
people come to see this as their means to whatever they want. Governments
use force to get what they want. That's their nature. So, if people use
government, it means they are using force against someone else to get what
This applies even if you don't buy the individual rights thing. After all,
when you force people to do something, you are generally not going to make
friends. One of the worst possible things that can come out of this is not
that you'll get a bunch of libertarians running you out of the country, but
that people will come to adopt your ways and also use force to get what they
want. This seems the lesson of the last century as governments grew bigger
and bigger, coming to control more and more aspects of human life.
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