Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Purpose of Law

Recently, in response to a post on this blog, my dear Brother Howard Roark mentioned that law is designed to keep the peace. This sent me on one of those thought trains that I have a tendency to free load upon.

What is the purpose of law? Some would argue (I am in this group) that law exists to ensure the rights of individuals and that the only laws that we should have are those relating to force and fraud. Others would argue that law exists to keep the peace.

If we are to approach the "keep the peace" idea we will at first be inclined to agree. Then the ugly human element enters the picture. The old saying of "the Nazis made the trains run on time" comes to mind. While gloomy in substance we are introduced to a law and order society that was designed to protect the state and to keep the peace. The problem with this idea is that eventually the society would be burdened with government (which will have to grow just to enforce the laws).

The problem with the "ensure the rights" approach to law is that it requires and needs the citizens to be active participants in the exercise of their rights. It also requires a respect for the rights of others.

Comments? Thoughts?

Brandt

23 comments:

Howard Roark said...

Perhaps a distinction should be made between "the laws" that men pass and "the law" that is the guiding force they try to emulate with the passing of those laws. Like the Egyptian idea of ma'at, there is the law that regulates the universe and transcends human legislation. This is the law with the purpose of peace. This does not mean it is passive or aggressive or good or bad, it just means it keeps the peace. This law is not the problem. The people who try to interpret it with their flawed grasp of it are the problem. The Nazis gave it a shot, but their idea of peace was order at all cost and beyond reason. Their interpretation was doomed the moment they filtered it through their prejudices. Luckily though, and we'd agree on this, there are those that believe this peace is strengthened by manifesting and ensuring the rights of individuals. It's not the purpose of law, it's the method of law. We do this by standing up to injustice, either by passing laws, fighting the metaphorical Nazis we run into every day, or sitting in the front of the bus. But you are absolutely right when you say active participation by the citizenry is a necessity. Universal participation is what creates the balance that is the law of peace. Regardless of what our beliefs are -- conservative, liberal, violent, passive -- if we ALL participate actively in manifesting them they maintain stability. And the laws that men make need to be mutable to check and balance this stability.

John Galt said...

Though man is a social animal he is not a collective animal like some insects. We have personalities distinct as an individual. Human civilization is composed of individuals. We cannot count on the good will of humanity to ensure order or protection of any person's unalienable rights. We can count on the self interest of people. When protecting rights is the only sure way to protect one's own rights then we will have liberty.

Brandt

Howard Roark said...

I agree that civilization is composed of individuals, but I disagree that humans aren't collective animals. They have to be collective if they want civilization. Human civilization is what happens when individuals act collectively. Both are manifestations of our nature. To give too much credence to one or the other, individualism or collectivism, would be abbreviating what it is to be human. The liberty you speak of, the liberty that needs protecting, is a subjective liberty based on the needs of your role within the collective. Your individual self needs no such protection. It can exist within the collective, but is independent of it and is not limited by any of the collective definitions.

John Galt said...

Brother Howard Roark,
I must take exception to your logic in this matter. If my individual self exists as separate from the collective, as you so aptly stated, then the existence of an individual self is apparent. This leads us to the necessity of protecting the individual from the mindlessness of the mob. This the purpose of law. Order arrives as a result of law, not due to law.

We do not exist as a collective but as a society. There is, if you will allow me the grandiose statement, a vast difference between the concept of collective and the concept of society. Both of us being sons of the South can appreciate individuality. We can also appreciate the need of individuals to come together on the level and work together for mutual benefit.

Brandt

Howard Roark said...

It appears you may have taken exception to my definition of terms more than my logic. I never said the individual was "separate" from the collective, I said it was independent of the collective. This means it is not governed by the collective and therefore in no need of protection from it. Why protect one thing from another thing that doesn't influence it? That sounds like a recipe for paranoia. Where we disagree is that I believe the individual is autonomous from the "mindless mass" while you seem to believe it is threatened by it. I have no problems disagreeing on that point. And I'm not sure if I'm comprehending your statement that "order arrives as the result of law, not due to law". To me, that sounds like you are saying order is the consequence of law, but can't be attributed to law. Am I paraphrasing that correctly? If so, I believe you contradict yourself. How can one thing be the consequence of another thing but not be attributed to it? and finally, unlike you, I do not see a vast difference between the concept of collective and the concept of society. In fact, I see no "difference" in them at all, but rather one being an integral part of the other. For how well would society function without it's collective element? All of our societal laws are laws designed for the good of the collective. Laws for the individual do not come from society. They come from the bar of our own character.

Anonymous said...

Oh brother. What a bunch of garbage.

By the way, what did you think of the Superbowl? It appears as the only topic of interest this blog holds for me.

Good luck with your psuedo-sociology.

John Galt said...

Thanks for your participation.

Stay sweet

Howard Roark said...

Okay, now I see what you mean by the "mindless masses", Galt. Perhaps I was wrong all along :)

Anonymous said...

It is the mindless masses that ultimately make all the important decisions in this country. Just ask our wonderful president!

All the best to you and your efforts!!!

Howard Roark said...

Did anyone else feel that cold chill right then?

Anonymous said...

Hey Galt,

I see your lodge is now chartered -by the Grand Orient of the United States of America???

Is this what you meant by discourse on the level?

Apparently pride goeth before all else with you.

Good luck with you brand of masonry.

Anonymous said...

"Hey Galt,

I see your lodge is now chartered -by the Grand Orient of the United States of America???

Is this what you meant by discourse on the level?

Apparently pride goeth before all else with you.

Good luck with you brand of masonry."

What a moron...

Anonymous said...

I agree ...

Galt - what a moron!

John Galt said...

I was not aware that I was losing I.Q. points over this. Which of you are keeping score?

Please continue, I am interested and entertained.

Brandt

Anonymous said...

Interesting how you guys name yourselves after Atlas Shrugged characters. Unfortunately none of you could hold a candle to any of them. They were creators, not a group of windbags claiming to know all the gnostic knowledge in the world. Exactly what does your lodge do? Have you done anything for the community lately? Whenever a group of humans gets together there are always disagreements, but at least the legitimate Lodges are doing something! In my opinion you are all riding the San Sebastian Line and will crash and burn. My deepest sympathy to you all. Especially to Brandt whom I feel is talent gone beserk.

Tony said...

"Interesting how you guys name yourselves after Atlas Shrugged characters. Unfortunately none of you could hold a candle to any of them."

Homage - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homage

"a group of windbags claiming to know all the gnostic knowledge in the world."

I've not see Brandt or anyone else from Euclid make such an outrageous claim. Though I would be interested in seeing your source for this allegation.

Howard Roark said...

Howard Roark is not a character from "Atlas Shrugged", Howard Roark is a character from another Ayn Rand book, "The Fountainhead". I use the name to be ironic. The irony was obviously lost on you, since you seem to assume I am affiliated with Euclid Lodge by referencing me as one of "you guys". I am not affiliated with Euclid Lodge. I have no thoughts on the decisions they've made one way or the other. What they have done does not affect me. I am simply participating in a civil disagreement with John Galt (Brandt). I will not place judgement on him as a man, however I am not beyond speaking up when he expresses views I agree and/or disagree with. I believe that this type of argument is not about winning, it is about learning something new. Why else argue if there isn't a possibility of someone looking at a concept in a different way and learning something about themselves or the world? Sometimes I am the one that learns. Sometimes it is the other person that learns. What have you learned from your disagreements?

John Galt said...

What the real kick is, Ayn Rand would have referred to the Gnostics as superstitious and she would have dismissed them outright. That being the case it doesn't really work to connect my appreciation of Rand's work with my alleged claims to all gnostic knowledge (isn't that "knowledge knowledge"?????).

As to my "talent gone wild", I appreciate you saying that I have some talent though I don't necessarily agree. I still appreciate the sentiment. Regardless of how "wild" I might be is immaterial to what Euclid Lodge is doing. I can be easily outvoted by the Brethren of Euclid Lodge, so if they thought I was too wild they could put a stop to it.
As to what Euclid Lodge has done in the community, nothing. There is another, more appropriate, question that should be asked. What has Euclid Lodge done for the Brethren of Euclid Lodge?
Well, Euclid Lodge has provided an environment for the Brothers that is to their liking. It provides and intellectual challenge from which they grow as individual Masons. They take this back into the world and make a difference in their own life.
Regarding my Brother Howard Roark. I rather like not knowing who he is. It adds to the mystery. Regardless of the mystery he and I were having an excellent discussion, one that you are obviously unaware of, that I found most enjoyable. I suspect that Roark found it enjoyable as well.
Brother Howard Roark, thank you for your time and I do apologize for the riff raff. I look forward to an opportunity to engage you in a serious discussion without commentary from the mental giants that have graced us with their presence. Please contact me back channel and we could work something out. I have several things to discuss with you.
To the person or persons that have taken it upon themselves to offer their illumination here. Clearly Euclid is quite popular. I ask you as one man to another, unless you have something of substance don't say anything. IP addresses can be traced by the way.

Fraternally,
Brandt

Anonymous said...

"I agree ...

Galt - what a moron!"

I'm sure they were talking about you not Galt.

MG Pierce said...

Anonymous:

To expound on what Galt said about not doing anything for the community -

you are absolutely right, as of today, we have not CHIP'd any children, but a billboard is definitely in the works.

Although Euclid only has 14 members (or do we?), I'm pretty certain that none of us will be carrying wallet-sized petitions to maximize masonic revenue.

And please, anonymous, against Brandt's pleas to you to bring something of value to the discussion, KEEP POSTING! You are very entertaining. I read everyone of your posts with the same enthusiasm that I give to funny monkey videos. With every post you reaffirm our decision to follow our consciences.

To think, we used to toast together. Now you throw stones from the shadows. If you can't see beyond your dues card, what caliber of mason are you?

MG Pierce
Junior Deacon
Euclid Lodge #3

Anonymous said...

strange that those with no name have got their knickers twisted in such a way by Bro. Brandts doings. People in glass houses should not throw even small stones. cut/paste the link - read and then ask yourself just who is regular?http://www.hfaf.org/ugle.htm

John Galt said...

I never realized that I was that important. Is it me or what I say? If it is what I have to say then you Brothers just wait. There is so much more to come.

I am sure that I can introduce a decent topic of discussion that will be picked up and intelligently discussed by Brethren from several jurisdictions that will illuminates us all.

Brandt

Brian said...

Within a civil society, the law exists in order for citizens to know what is permissible or prohibited, for police to know what to enforce, and prosecutors and judges can know what punishments they can meet out, and all can agree on how the law applies to a given situation. Even in tyrannical regimes, the leaders know that if laws are not known and understood by the people that are expected to obey them, compliance will be poor.
The purpose of law is certainly not well served by a system in which the side with the best lawyer wins in tort and criminal cases, rather than the side who has the facts on their side.
At what point, is there so much law, or contradiction within it, that it becomes impossible for a conscientious citizen to know the law, how not to break it, and still have some degree of liberty.
Latin law, or any foreign language, though useful in historical study of law, runs against the principals of a civil society in an English speaking nation. If the purpose of law is to make it known to conscientious citizens what is expected of them that they may conduct themselves accordingly, having law, and the legal community regularly use terms from a language other than the “de facto” language of the nation runs against these principals.
The redefining of words in the law in a manner that is particularly divergent from common dictionaries and usage such as defining “driving” in DUI to include sitting in a parked car with the keys out of the ignition, but accessible “selling” as in drugs to include selling, trading, or giving does not serve to allow people to understand the law and conduct themselves accordingly.
Penumbra, precedent, and the use of little known case law further obscure what is to be expected of a person in a given situation. Lawyers, academics, and commentators regularly argue about the meaning, and applicability of particular case law. The fact that well educated individuals who study law regularly so often disagree suggests that individuals primarily engaged in business outside of the study or practice of law will often lack a clear understanding of what the law requires, or prohibits. The cases that contain applicable precedent to a given situation are neither written nor cataloged as indexed statutes, and when overturned, they are not deleted as a statute would upon repeal. In fact, case law or precedent, often conflicts with statute or regulation, yet the statute, though rendered void by precedent, remains on the books without so much as an asterisk.
Pecuniary penalties and the potential conflict of interest for the state: Speed Traps and Asset Forfeiture: Fines are a convenient means by which individuals can be punished for minor offenses without a serious impact on their jobs to include all that depend on that job to include employers clients etc, and there is relatively little cost to administer unlike confinement. There is a significant potential for a conflict of interest in which enforcement is no longer prioritized based on the significance of the infractions, but rather as a means to generate revenue for the jurisdiction or department conducting the enforcement. This can lead to "speed traps" in which officers aggressively patrol areas where the speed limit is unusually low or unclear due to a change, or obscured sign, and cite large numbers of conscientious drivers, rather than focusing on drivers who are clearly and deliberately speeding.
In most competitive sports, disputes of the rules are easily settle with a quick look at a small rulebook. The real disputes are about what the referee saw.