|When personal responsibility was a given|
No phrase in the American lexicon grates on my nerves more than 'there ought to be a law'. Usually this phrase is uttered by some well meaning, yet ignorant person in response to some sort of perceived injustice. The thought process is that some law should be in place, or proposed to limit the behavior which caused the perceived injustice. The only problem is... this reasoning flies in the face of our system of government.
There are a few inherent flaws with this reasoning, and I'll show you how I came up with this.
- The United States Constitution was designed to limit the government. It was a document to restrain government from exercising too much power and influence over our lives. The founders understood that 'men are governed best, when they are governed least'. They knew that in order for America to be a prosperous and free nation, men must be able to govern themselves responsibly without interference from some all powerful referee. In the event that man was unable to do so, a justice system was established to settle grievances. However, it was understood that the justice system was a system of last resort. Should free, self-governed men not be able to settle their disputes on their own, the final recourse was to take the matter before a justice of the peace to arbitrate the matter for them. However, by creating laws, inherently freedom is diminished, and the role and power of the government are expanded. If you take away my right to 'X', then you've removed my freedom, and expanded the government's role in policing the enforcement of that removed right.
- I've read through the United States Constitution, and nowhere can I find where it limits citizens rights to, well, anything. There was the 18th Amendment which outlawed the manufacture, transport and sale of liquor, however, that was overturned by the 21st Amendment. Therein lies the beauty of our system of government. The limits were placed solely upon the governing powers and not upon the citizenry. John Adams framed it this way, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." In other words, he knew that in order for our society to exist and flourish, men had to understand that there was a universal right and wrong, and had to accept a morality superior to themselves. Without the ability to do so, the nation would dissolve into chaos and anarchy specifically because there were not (and never intended to be) laws which prohibited behavior of the citizens of the United States. Prohibition by definition is preemption, and preemption does not exist in the Constitution. Our system was set up so that men were free to do whatever they wish, but that they would have to bear the full consequences of their actions. This novel concept is known as personal responsibility. When you create a law which preempts behavior, personal responsibility is limited or removed altogether.
Now, you may be asking yourself, why I felt the need to write this. If your curiosity is so piqued, I would point you to this column by a local newspaper associate editor which is nothing short of breathtaking ignorance on display.
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