“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session. “ –Judge Gideon Tucker, 1866
One does not have to be an anarchist to think this is generally the case. This is especially so in our time and place. There is so much ‘law’ that applies to us that it is impossible to begin to know it, let alone follow it – even if we so desired. So when more law is made, it simply aggravates the now unavoidable problem of our necessary disregard for the law. The mere practical problem of its sheer quantity makes this the case.
There is a principle of diminishing returns for law-making if the goal of law-making is the creation and maintenance of ordered liberty. As the quantity of laws increase, the effect of law very quickly and necessarily moves from the protection of individual liberty to the destruction of individual liberty. So when laws are being made, liberty is being decreased.
Unfortunately, the decrease of liberty is the stated goal of many today. For these people, legislatures making laws is the best means to their ends.
Before he became somewhat nutty, Barry Goldwater said something about this that bears repeating:
I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is "needed" before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' "interests," I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.
- The Conscience of A Conservative (1960), p. 1
Here’s what I’m wishing for this Christmas season: more people who, loving liberty, think like this.