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A Lawless Society


President Elect Obama

A lawless society is a depressing place to live because it’s a place devoid of law. And while going lawless might be appealing, we aren’t talking about an end to laws requiring you to wear bicycle helmets or drink small sodas. Not even laws ordering you to recycle, pay taxes and enlist during a war. These are laws, but they’re also ordinances, commands and compulsions. They are not really any different from your parents telling you to wash behind your ears or a mugger ordering you to give him your money. They might be right or wrong, but they aren’t law.

Law exists apart from what a group of people at any given time want you to do. That is why the aged nature of the United States Constitution is a strength. The farther away we travel from 1788, the less that the foibles and frailties of the Framers affect us. The transitory human things fall away leaving only the essence of law.

A Bill of Rights drafted today would look very different than it did back then. Not only would there be no Second Amendment, but most of the others would read dramatically different. There would be few severe restrictions on government power. Nor would there be unlimited Freedom of Speech. The entire thing would run a few thousand pages and would be filled with all sorts of escape clauses, which when added together would render the whole thing meaningless.

Take for example the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which includes dozens of new rights, such as the right of asylum, the right to environmental protection and consumer protection, and the right to social security, in addition to the more basic rights familiar to Americans, but it comes with a simple addendum.

“Any limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by this Charter must be provided for by law and respect the essence of those rights and freedoms. Subject to the principle of proportionality, limitations may be made only if they are necessary and genuinely meet objectives of general interest recognised by the Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others.”

Which is to say there is freedom of speech, only until a compelling argument can be made why banning someone’s freedom of speech will help protect the general interests of the European Union or the rights of others to have environmental protection and social security.

That is the essence of a lawless society, which is to say that there are oodles and oodles of law, but it’s merely a complicated way for those in power to enforce their will on others. If you want to force people to do something, all you need to do is study enough clauses, lay out your reasoning and it’s done.

It’s law in the same sense that a mugger putting a gun to your head is law. He has a gun and he makes the laws. The laws don’t apply to him. They don’t apply in any larger universal fashion. The mugger can choose to suspend any laws at his whim, because he has a gun.

The United States has drifted into lawlessness, into laws that are the guns of government. Want to force everyone to buy health insurance? Pass a law. Ignore any questions of legality because legality doesn’t matter. If people come out to protest, send out your SEIU thugs to beat them. If you lose your Senate majority, use Reconciliation to pass it. If the Supreme Court threatens to investigate the Constitutionality of the law, threaten the Court.

The only thing separating tactics like these from the mugger on the corner is public interest. Which is to say that the government is playing Robin Hood. It isn’t mugging you because it likes the smell of money, but because it wants to help those less fortunate. Robin Hood was rebelling against the illegal authority of the Sheriff of Nottingham. And our government is rebelling against the authority of… the people and the law.

The government is the outlaw, doing what it likes because it must resist all the “powerful interests,” the most powerful of them being the Middle Class. The Revolution becomes permanent, with the Reds in power constantly rebelling against the bourgeois capitalists by raising taxes and outlawing soda. Every year, the outlaws swing out of the trees, rob the merchants and ride back to Washington D.C. for a glorious feast over the stolen goods, which they may in some small way share with a few peasants, to secure their support.

This farce can take place under the guise of law, but it represents a lawless society. Law limits power. It limits the power of individuals, institutions and governments. But in a lawless society no limitation on power applies if the power is being applied for the sake of the higher ideals which the society can be said to represent. If those higher ideals involve helping the poor, then every institution can act like Robin Hood. And it’s perfectly legal, because there is no law.

In a lawless society, law is a function of emotion. The one who screams the loudest gets his way if he can influence enough people to believe that he has a case. Laws get made from a sense of “rightness” that is entirely a function of emotion. Everyone operates in the egotistical “I feel” mode, sharing and feeling their mutual pain, and passing laws to outlaw anyone from hurting anyone else… unless it is in the interest of preventing pain.

Rights become entirely positive and empathy-based. Negative rights become associated with selfishness. Everyone has the right to a thousand benefits, but no one has the right to opt out. Everyone is free to speak their mind, so long as it is an expression of need, rather than a demand to be left alone.

Empathy makes for very bad law, because it isn’t law at all. It’s a subjective response to the suffering of others. And often those who excel at marketing their suffering aren’t suffering at all, while those who are genuinely suffering remain silent. Empathy-based law commodifies pain, but it’s empty of justice.

A lawless society is one where those who manipulate empathy gain power. Where temporary outrage substitutes for policy. A video that stirs anger and goes viral matters more than law. Everyone is a muckraker, and everything is a muck of competing narratives because everyone is a victim and everyone is dirty at the same time.

There is no law and so every case, every incident is political, because law is made on an ad hoc basis. One side projects grief, the other side charges cynicism. The side that manipulates the emotions of the crowd most deftly, wins. Every politician is an actor, every debate is a performance and every victory is a chance to gather more spoils.

The idea that there should be one law for all, rather than one law for the sufferers and another for those who aren’t suffering, is alien to a society where empathy trumps law. Rather than making it easier for the rich and poor to compete, the rich hobble the middle-class for the benefit of the poor. Rather than outlawing racial discrimination, it’s reversed so that it favors those discriminated against. Rather than doing the right thing, the left does the Robin Hood thing, leaping from the tree, looting the society, and writing songs about its own dashing courage.

The government-media complex acts out the empathy narrative. Its reporting has nothing to do with the facts, but everything to do with emotion. A law is bad when it protects the privilege of the opposition, but good when it protects their privilege. The powers of the Senate, the Executive and the Supreme Court are good when they serve their ends, but bad when they serve the ends of their enemy. The blame always goes to one side – the side blocking their agenda.

A society that lives by law can have laws that mean something, but in a lawless society, a law only matters so long as it serves the purpose of those in power. When it doesn’t, then it’s ignored or tossed aside.

Last week we witnessed Obama playing Robin Hood by casting aside immigration law and transparency to the jubilant cheers of the media, whose fondest wish is for politicians to play Robin Hood, cut all the Gordian Knots and just carry out their agenda without regard for the law. That is what they wanted, that is what they got. But a lawless society cuts both ways and takes the system out of the protection of the law.

Law is impartial. It states absolute principles that apply regardless of faction and position. But in a lawless society, there is no law, only power. The left has ushered in a lawless society, but we will all have to live with the consequences.

About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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9 Responses to “A Lawless Society”

  1. Gil Gilman says:

    Interesting babble considering the recent Supreme Court conservative activism. If Greenfield was a Manhattan dweller, I would be afraid he had added too much scotch to his tea. But since his organization is in lala land he was probably taking it neat.

    David Horowitz accused the SCPL and Chip Berlet in particular, of being "so tendentious, so filled with transparent misrepresentations and smears…" So then Greenfield in being tendentious, himself, has slapped himself on the right cheek, and followed that with a slap on the left to make sure his face is pointing in the right direction withal.

    So what we now have is that the Sheriff of Nottingham and his brother the Abbot of St. Mary's, apparently representing the conservative side, in constant battle, with Robin Hood and his overly merry fellows, apparently representing the liberal side, over who will receive the benefits from fleecing the common folk.

    Greenfield, apparently, is in favor of the kind of freedom wherein the Robber Barons control the wealth and everyone buys their goods from the company store. "Last week we witnessed Obama playing Robin Hood," and this week we witnessed the Supreme Court playing The Sheriff.

    He claims, "The left ushered in a lawless society…" Really? In Minnesota it is the conservatives who are doing the ignoring and tossing aside. I wonder if Greenfield realizes how many of his comments pertain to himself and his ilk as well as to the hated enemy. The blog posted here resembles nothing better than the ramblings of a paranoiac.

    I am neither a conservative or a liberal, nor anything in between, nor anything at either extremity (if it is a linear path at all). I am merely a member of the common folk, calmly hoeing my potatoes and watching these giants gnashing their teeth at each other and hurling stones to see how many of my potatoes I can keep.

  2. Gil Gilman says:

    It seems that I must define "lala land" in my usage since it appears not infrequently in my posts. LaLa land refers to a mythical world of ones personal imagination, where everything exists solely as imagined, and reason is what ever one happens to be thinking at the moment. Lala land is where not a few reside, though the inhabitants may not agree entirely with each other at every instant, and may be totally opposed to each other ;-)

  3. Gayle Gilman says:

    I know all about Lala land. It has a door that you can enter & exit by. I go there to paint, sketch, be alone. I can invent my own reality & turn the music up good & loud to tune out

  4. Gayle Gilman says:

    I hate facebook!! Things disappear & hide on me when I'm right in the middle of saying something. And the enter button presses itself. So where was I … Yes, when I visit Lala land I know where I'm going & know when I'm leaving ( at least I hope so) even though I don't know what time it is when I'm there. And I think it keeps me sane, silencing all the voices screaming for attention with their half truths & colossal lies.

  5. Gil Gilman says:

    William Haworth After reading, your link, I can't decide whether you agree that each one has dirty hands of the non-hoeing potatoes variety, or that you believe the common folk are to blame for putting them there. If the latter, then I must say in my defense that I am only a member of the common folk as pertaining to the LaLa land of Greenfield's mythology. ;-) If the former than I need merely quote יְשַׁעְיָהוּ,
    ה וַנְּהִי כַטָּמֵא כֻּלָּנוּ, וּכְבֶגֶד עִדִּים כָּל-צִדְקֹתֵינוּ; וַנָּבֶל כֶּעָלֶה כֻּלָּנוּ, וַעֲו‍ֹנֵנוּ כָּרוּחַ יִשָּׂאֻנוּ. ו וְאֵין-קוֹרֵא בְשִׁמְךָ, מִתְעוֹרֵר לְהַחֲזִיק בָּךְ: כִּי-הִסְתַּרְתָּ פָנֶיךָ מִמֶּנּוּ, וַתְּמוּגֵנוּ בְּיַד-עֲו‍ֹנֵנוּ. ז וְעַתָּה יְהוָה, אָבִינוּ אָתָּה; אֲנַחְנוּ הַחֹמֶר וְאַתָּה יֹצְרֵנוּ, וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדְךָ כֻּלָּנוּ.

  6. William Haworth says:

    Only that (1) societies have always been lawless and governments oppressive (2) because most people don't want to expend the effort lawful self-government requires of them–therefore choosing oppression. (3) The rest of us are along for the ride but what most people think are the great controversies of the moment don't affect our real being.

  7. Gil Gilman says:

    I see my role as a voice crying from the potato field, (peas, beans and squash also) hoping to wake up a few people lest they continue in their zombie like trek to the emotional beat of all the current wannabe gunmen. Since farmland is the latest Hot Commodity, that can only mean one thing… ;-)

  8. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    The lawlessness isn't new. It was brought by the US Supreme Court, when it designed G. Bush Jr. as President of the United States, even though the US Constitution doesn't allow such a move. That document mandates instead that the Senate and the House speakers be insuring a joint presidency pro tem, until either a full recount is achieved, or a new election organized.
    Ever since, from Patriot Plan to limitless imprisonment and from filibuster to executive privilege, it's been one fast tumble in which the Congress -both parties together- and the executive seem intent on destroying what's left of the US democracy.
    Please, don't agitate the scarecrow of Unions. I lived 30 years in the US, and unions have had less and less power.

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