The rule of law evokes the admiration of humanity and its social achievement. Law is considered human reason, weighing the public versus the private, and vice versa. By its very nature, law trespasses on the possibilities of human action and even thought, curbing some liberties to fulfill the greater liberty of all. It is a means to an end, the ends being whatever is decided to be the highest good at any given time and place â€“ these days voiced as the protection of the life, liberty, and happiness of the people living under law.
The rule of law is not without its irony. Here we all live on this world, born mortal from this earth, legislating and enforcing laws to regulate ourselves so that we can continue to live together. We construct cages, so to speak, and live in them lest someone enters into our cage and strips us of human rights.
More than a few humans have noted there is something wrong with this picture. To begin with, an intuitively good man might not be able to recite one law, yet spend all his life and not break one good law; though perhaps he might break bad laws and go to jail. A violent man will break good and bad laws, though he may consciously know he is doing so. Worse yet, a greedy man will involve himself in the legislative process and work to enact laws that cheat others out of wealth and transfer that wealth to himself.
The argument for the use of laws is that they are deterrents. We can never know how many crimes society avoids because a good law was enacted. This may be the argument to continue making and enforcing laws, fear-based as it is, but it is also the problem. Measuring the efficacy of laws is next to impossible because even if a law is enacted and the rate of a particular type of crime reduces, there may be a thousand other conditions that lead to this result. Meanwhile, billions of dollars are spent in enforcing questionable laws, and billions more on a legislative process mired in greed, incompetence, and cronyism.
Laws themselves work on fear as well. A law is nothing without some compulsion to obey it. Where people are violent or greedy from want of right nurturing or a particular disposition, it is unrealistic to trust people to act in keeping with the intuitive capacity to expand the sense of self and identify with everyone else in society.
But instead of educating children with examples of expansive individuals, our entire society is structured to glorify the narrow self. We then look at the ensuing violence and establish laws as an excuse to organize more violence. The death penalty and prison sentences are naught but violence answering violence, thus compounding the crime.
As simple as it is to make a good law, such as one that prohibits murdering human beings, it is conversely impossible to make people good by law. The more laws written, the more laws broken. This is not because laws are there, and so the odds of breaking them increases, but because when laws multiply, it is a sure signal that society is declining. After a very short time, the ratio of bad laws to good laws increases beyond sanity.
A society truly interested in proper conduct could get by with ten or fewer laws, call them principles even, and leave the rest of the details of an incident to the parties involved, and a neutral judge. If the parties had the intuitive capacity to identify with one another, even the judge is superfluous.
Instead of focusing on conduct, the rule of law focuses on consequences. Society spends billions combating symptoms and nothing on understanding and combating root causes. Laws are useless to the ethical individual and inconsequential to the unethical individual. The ethical person requires no rescue from his intuited disposition by the rule of law, and the unethical person will either find a way to break the law without consequence, or rig the legislative process altogether.
The very institution of law making is ultimately harmful to a peopleâ€™s ethical development. Laws are able to catch small crimes, but notoriously unable to catch the big ones. The most criminal man in the world can sit in the highest office of government, and be responsible for enforcing laws in a society dependent on laws for its harmonious existence. The criminal mind, situated in high governmental, religious, or corporate offices, will seek to commit larger crimes. The biggest crime is, of course, a war of aggression, hence the saying, "In war, laws are silent."
Though the principle of the expansive sense of self never changes, laws are required to change from one generation to the next. But some of the changes, and some of laws that remain the same, are not salutary. For example, laws are used in the service of protecting exploitation. This is not a rare occurrence, but a common aspect of law. Laws shift as the interests of power shift. Religion-based laws are the codifications of cultural prejudices, maintained to protect the power of religious authority. Secular law also protects the centralization of power. Frequently we find the so-called wisdom of the ages was in reality the folly, pride, convention, rationalization, lust for one thing or another, or intolerances of the past. Modern governments that legislate from a theological point of view will reflect these archaic limitations.
When corruption infests government, laws feed off selfishness and partisanship. Politicians don't care if society loses so long as their party wins. The interpretation of law becomes a matter of personal, political, or economic preference. Through the interpretation of a law, even the honorable individual can be condemned and the scoundrel can triumph. The troublesome individual can be killed without much ado from law enforcement, such as when the law turns a blind eye toward the public execution of a social activist.
Eventually, laws will be enacted to make certain opinions illegal and exalt the holder of property to an exaggerated, lofty social station. This will polarize the populace and affirm counterintuitive living and poor education. Children will be convinced that happiness and wealth are the same. They grow up with an eye on wealth, measuring their success by their accumulated wealth.
How can a death sentence be legal because a court of human beings wearing robes says it is, but illegal when a mob wearing hoods pronounces a death sentence? How can we say in full faith that one is free of prejudice and the other is not? How can murder be sanctioned in war, a wealth-seeking enterprise if ever there was one, but wrong elsewhere, though the motive is exactly the same?
All authority in this world is a convention, a chimera we machinate to keep us afraid of leaving the cages weâ€™ve constructed for ourselves.
With every execution, the human race commits suicide and affirms, "I am despaired. I can't win against ignorance. I give up on myself." With war, the human race says, "I cannot check my desires and ambitions. I cannot identify with others. I cannot learn to communicate." Yet these are precisely the fear-promoting tools of centralized power, and we find ourselves defending these tools as if we are defending our lives and livelihood, for we believe the latter are dependent on the former.
The rule of law throws morals into the blender of relativism and transforms them into an explosive absolutism. If the individual is not responsibly able, moment by moment, to judge his or her own action through reason, expansive feeling, and the intuition of the larger self, then society is doomed to fail and laws offer no solution. Indeed, laws will be the symptom of its demise.
Law demands an inequality, but nature says we are all born from the earth and equal in that regard. To create an inequality, weapons are given to some, while incarceration is given to others. Once the prison population is seen as a wealth producer, those who gain from it will enact and enforce laws that increase this population. Yet we wonder why those who trust the government least, love guns most.
The very presence of a system of laws implies that human beings are living in a degenerate state. When law is bars, gun barrels, and nightsticks, fear is the only thing left to teach virtue. And since fear, like everything, teaches by example, laws teach us not to do the right thing at the right time, but to avoid consequences. The entire Judeo-Christian moral system is based on negative consequences, while a positive afterworld existence is promised by a feared god. Followers do the work of enforcing this immoral scheme with their own sense of guilt.
No one, not even the murderer, needs a law to tell right from wrong. Ethical training does not so much teach right from wrong as it teaches the methods to curb the narrow self. What is needed is to develop the strength of discipline to live by what is intuitively known to be right. Billions of dollars and millions of hours spent to invent laws cannot replace the simple adherence to a discipline aimed at increasing the human intuitive capacity toward the ideal of the expansive self.
"What a cage is to the wild beast," wrote Herbert Spencer, "law is to the selfish man." If laws are necessary for us, we are not free. We are chained to both our selfishness and the laws that instill fear in us. If laws are not necessary, then it is because we have taken responsibility and assumed our own regulation. The narrow self is not free in us; as we do not identify with it, we are free from its cravings and the fear of lawsâ€™ compulsions. When we obey our larger nature, which is the only law of necessity, the highest level of liberty is assured for others and ourselves.
If children were taught the philosophy behind the sense of self and the ascetic injunctions that, without any otherworldliness, naturally limit the narrow self, only one thing would remain to teach them. In order to avoid the possibility that an individual will feel free to rationalize actions that promise expansive ends but use narrow means, the maxim that the means color the ends must be inculcated in children. Even life, liberty, and happiness are only means. Even happiness is quantitative. The only qualitative use in them is the expansion of the sense of self. It is the only end for which narrow means could never be justified. Treating obeisance to laws as an end will eventually result in further means that not only undermine the selfâ€™s expansion, but undermine the ends themselves.
Once the largeness of the self is understood as the only good, people will not fear the loss of laws. All the billions of dollars we spend on voting on laws, interpreting laws, trials, courts, law enforcement, and jails can be spent on furthering education, scientific and medical research, and combating disease, poverty, and overpopulation worldwide.