"Laws, good people don't need 'em, and bad people don't obey 'em, so what good are they?" ~ Utah Phillips
Aside from the sheer black and white philosophy of that statement, the old folksinger brings up a good point. What good are laws, anyway? Do they really serve a purpose in society? Some say that civilized society is impossible without laws. Do laws create order or impose harmful restrictions that devalue society? Many say laws create order, and do no harm.
Let's take a look at how society creates, abandons, and lives with law, order, and the justice system. And let me take the time to explain to you why all of this lawfulness is simply not necessary.
"Did you just try and tell me society can thrive without laws?" Yes, I did. You see, the average person uses history, and the overwhelming abundance of law as their rock solid argument for the benefits of it, as well as the reason for it's introduction into human society. I would like to argue however, that there is a difference between Law and guidelines or "rules".
The former is what we are accustomed to in modern day society on a broad scale. It is "Law and Order", it is "Crime and Punishment" it is a formidable justice system designed to take once reasonably resolved issues and relegated it to largely detached groups known and lawyers, and judges to determine one's fate.
The latter is what we know as "house rules". We are all quite accustomed to this concept, right in our own little nuclear villages known as our homes, and families. No one ever seems to connect the adaptability of "house rules" on a slightly larger scale to create a world of both order and stability without the nasty side effects of a State driven hierarchy.
Side effects? Yes, that nasty habit of power developing out of the need for law and order. Power is corruptible, ergo, hierarchies are also inherently corruptible. The two, of course, feed on one another and cannot really be separated. Corruption of course leads to oppression, and oppression leads to slavery, and well you get the idea. Laws also have a nasty habit of breeding into ever more constrictive policies, thus restricting humans from living even their own private life they way that they see fit.
Besides, laws don't even work.
Laws don't actually prevent very much at all. The threat of legal action looming over society's head does very little in the way of keeping people out of trouble. What it does do, is exact revenge for those who do not wish to conform to the laws of a society, no matter how arbitrary.
If law worked, we would have a nearly crime free society. Instead we are inundated with crime, even more so than before. Countries with liberal laws tend to have less crime over all. One reason for that is the mere fact that many behaviors are not criminalized so that people who are behaving in ways that don't affect society aren't clogging up the entire system, and preventing bigger problems from being rectified. There is another reason that I will address in just a moment.
Laws only react. Reactionary techniques have failed mankind on almost every level, for the most part. Specifically with regards to the prevention of anything.
Do laws harm society?
It is my opinion that they do. Give me a minute to make my argument before you run off screaming about silly Anarchists and their wild ideas. While the general premise of establishing some sort of ethical code is a commendable ideal, the forcible institution of said ethical codes based on the opinion of a few and possibly even the arbitrary can and does harm society.
First and foremost, the Law as we know it requires a force of people given the authority to decide what is right and what is wrong without the consensus of the people subjugated to that power. As I have mentioned, power is corruptible, as we can see in our legal system. The power to control these laws on a local level means giving enormous amounts of power to men and women who are just as corruptible as the next man. This kind of power holding and corruption is harmful to society. Just as the abuse of a person by their superior is abhorrent on a personal level - so too is it abhorrent on a larger societal level.
The second reason is because the Laws are ever increasingly restrictive. So much so that it delves into your personal life, and personal decisions that have little effect on anyone but yourself. By criminalizing otherwise harmless behavior the "system" is then overburdened with petty crimes and complaints and has to use what little resources it has on that, rather than on larger, more serious problems in society.
Third, it focuses on reaction and punishment, rather than prevention and reward. If we, as a society, could get our act together and actually teach people why we should behave in certain ways, rather than simply telling everyone what will happen if we don't, we could feasibly have a self sustaining crime free society. That of course, requires a great deal of personal responsibility however.
Speaking of personal responsibility...
Although many people disagree with me on this point, it's my point so I'll make it if I want to. Laws take the responsibility of behavior out of the people's hands, thus creating a black hole of personally developed ethical and moral codes beyond some very basic codes of character. It is, as some people call it, the "Nanny State". The governmental hierarchy that establish laws across any given country begin to take on the role of a parental figure, dictating what isn't acceptable behavior, and threating punishment if we don't behave ourselves. (This isn't the part most people disagree with, however). I personally see this increasing Nanny State as the reason and the need for more laws, and heavier restrictions. You know, to keep us from hurting ourselves, as it were.
As the Nanny State continues to tell us what we cannot do, for our own good, it fails to tell us what we can do. It lures us into a false sense of safety, many times making life more difficult, and even more dangerous. Many people have adopted an ideology that is "If it isn't against the law, it must be OK to do". When pondering a situation they ask "Is it against the law? No, OK then, I guess we can do it". It seems to me that I rarely see people actually examining the situation, and behaving in a way that is beneficial to society, regardless of what the law says.
As more and more people adopt this ideology, they continue to do things which are without any sense or thought, they get hurt, and thus create a new need for a new law. We are tainting the learning curve here and creating a vicious cycle.
"Well the company never told me I couldn't use this product this way...". "Well, gee I didn't know it wasn't safe to do that, there was no law saying I couldn't...."
There oughtta be a law!
As fun as that is to say, the unfortunate truth is that many people see other people doing dumb things, and they say it, and sooner or later, wouldn't you know, there is a new law, or regulation addressing that same idiotic behavior.
What was my point again? Oh yes - by continually telling people what they cannot do, and creating more laws when people think they can do something they really ought not do, we are dumbing down society, and all but relegating personal responsibility to the far reaching corners of the globe. This is very harmful for society.
Responsible behavior is much easier to lose, than it is to regain.
So what then, you ask. Do we dive into a world of animal instincts? No, of course not. True "lawlessness" is not possible in modern day society for the very reason I mentioned above. It's like a drug, we can't seem to live without it. It could be possible, with an awful lot of work and a serious weening period, but we would descend into chaos if we tried to go cold turkey.
It can work however. Remember those "house rules' I mentioned in the beginning? Yes, you can use those, and begin to recreate or reestablish a society that is ordered and communal, lawless yet safe. Since many people think that it is the law that separates us form the animal kingdom, I would like to say one thing: Animals don't have laws, but they do have "house rules" and the animal kingdom does seem to be doing better than humans, at the moment.
What does separate us from the animal kingdom is our ability to learn, and evolve and progress through those evolutions in rapid fashion. Humans adapt to new situations very quickly, and have a creative and ethical streak that when combined with some old fashioned common sense should be able to moderate themselves.
At the very least.
We, the individuals who make up society, are selling ourselves short and underestimating our ability to do the right thing every time we make, or support a Law. Throughout history we have been told, sold, and forced into believing we cannot live without it to the point that the notion of necessity has been bred right into us.
Don't believe me? Take a look at remote tribes who function in a manner that is so foreign to us Westerners that we call them "primitive" or we pity them in some way. Yet the are surviving, living, evolving, and create worlds to live in that are nearly free of "crime" justice systems, regulations, and even gender and race barriers. They live fulfilled lives without everything we have right here, right now, and seem to be happier and safer because of it.
In many ways, they are better off than we are.
Stop selling yourselves short. You decide what is right for you.
"Laws, good people don't need 'em, and bad people don't obey 'em, so what good are they?" ~ Utah Phillips
Posted by Anok at 11:26 AM
Why are we convincing ourselves and others, our children, our neighbors, our coworkers...that when a criminal or other ne'er do well comes along to harm them and steal from them, that we should cower until someone comes to help us?
Think about this for a moment. We are taught to "go along" with whatever the person wants until we can escape, or be helped by the authorities. Muggers? Just give up whatever he wants. Don't try and defend yourself, let the authorities handle it.
Too many American citizens these days are afraid of things like guns, they don't want them in their house, or on their person - which is fine, but they don't want other people to have them either. Let the authorities handle guns, they say. Let the authorities have the guns, and let them handle the bad guys with the guns. But for the good of all, keep those dangerous things out of the hands of law abiding citizens.
We teach our children from the word go, "Tell an adult, right away!" I have noticed that the "tattletale syndrome" has blossomed from telling an adult when something is really wrong, and can't be resolved (or something very serious) to telling on each other simply to tell, or because they cannot resolve the problems on their own anymore.
I can't help but wonder if we are creating a complacent nation on purpose?
Does anyone believe that criminals fear the legal system? Do they fear being caught, detained, or even sent to jail for a short period of time? Perhaps people committing atrocious crimes do, and mayhaps even the white collar criminal who fears the damage to himself and his reputation that a messy tell-all trial and jail time would bring upon him.
But the average criminal? I think not. As a woman I was taught, by various means, not to fight back. I mean in the heat of the moment. I was told that if a mugger wanted my wallet, my shoes, my purse - just give it up. If a rapist came after me and I couldn't get away - don't fight, it will only make it worse. And I believed it. Interestingly enough, the less I fought, the more I endured. Why is this?
Here is my theory, and believe you me, it is only a theory. If the average criminal thought that the average person was well equipped to handle some criminal act, by physical means, perhaps they may be armed, I firmly believe that the average criminal would rethink his or her line of work. Sure, there might still be some easy marks to make, but if the general population were as feared by the criminals as the criminals are currently feared by the population, I highly doubt there would be anywhere near as much crime.
The second part of my theory is that this is not by accident. Crime pays. And not just for the criminals who don't get caught - but for the city, state, and federal government. Police enforcement, lawyers, judges, bonds bailsmen, bounty hunters - everyone in the process is getting a his or her cut of the deal. Of course, prisons and jails cost us money, and keeping criminals locked away keeps them off the streets, which cost us money - hence you have "rehabilitation", probation, and early releases.
What you also have, in a bigger picture, is a complacent, compliant society. One that is full of fear, a fear that fuels criminals to be criminals.
Now, I know what you are all thinking. "But, but, but Anok - those things are all just material things! They aren't as important as your life!" And to an extent, I agree. What are material things? Nothing, honestly. But it isn't the things that one would be fighting for, but rather the depth of character that one needs to survive in a world full of thieves and crooks willing to take every last thing you have, including your dignity.
If anyone can convince me as to why we should be a complacent, pansified society, I'll send them a famous Anok cookie!
In any society, those who are taught to be victims, will be victims. Being the victim perpetuates the cycle of crime and abuse so that ever more victims are created, ensuring that the profitable cycle will continue.
I have no qualm with pacifists, except that in a world without laws, or little regard for laws, pacifists will be among the first to go. It would be a wonderful place to live if there were no violence, no guns, no murders or robberies, but that Utopian world will not exist until we stand up for ourselves.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the "authorities" if they aren't corrupt - cannot instantly materialize to help you out in a dangerous situation. Ergo, you've just got to take care of business yourself.
Furthermore, just imagine how accommodating our government would be if they thought that the general population were just as dangerous, when provoked, as the very people they are telling us to be terrified of? I think politically speaking, the world would be a very different place.
Posted by Anok at 9:59 PM
I like listening to Jello Biafra's spoken word albums, not because his voice is oh-so-fabulous, but because he has a way of putting things. Between him and Utah Phillips, you start to get a real sense of simplicity in complicated matters, such as politics.
Some ideas sprang to mind tonight, while I was awkwardly cutting my husband's hair and listening to Jello.
What if police officers were not only elected by the community, but had to work in the same neighborhoods they lived in?
What if we had real Justices of the Peace?
What if politicians were paid minimum wage?
What if there were no such things as lobbyists?
What if there were no political parties at all?
What if candidates were totally anonymous except for their platform and voting record until the polls were closed?
What if your vote actually counted, as in a popular vote?
Just me, thinking aloud....
Posted by Anok at 9:52 PM
So I received a strange e mail yesterday, asking me to post a political survey on my blog. I have no idea where or why I was contacted, other than the fact that I have a political based blog. Not that you could tell that from my recent posts, or lack thereof.
That not withstanding, I took that survey, and although in the e mail I was asked to disable comments and not discuss it for fear of biasing the study, I will say this much. I have a feeling the study is biased anyway. For those of us with fringe political affiliations, religious beliefs etc... there are few answers in every category that would actually satisfy our political assessments, or social sensibilities. I will also hint at what I think the purpose of the study is, and that is to see what possible bias exists with regards to Republicans vs. Democrats during the current primaries, seemingly slanted towards what or how people view the republican party. Not that one needs a study to figure it out, but hey.
That of course, is only my two cents. I will leave you to judge the survey for itself. There is a section at the end that asks for comments and suggestions, if you have any, I strongly suggest you take advantage of that opportunity. I know I sure did.
Without further ado, the link to the study can be found here and you can read the e mail below:
I am a graduate student in Political Science at Stony Brook University.
I am working on a project researching online political discourse during
political campaigns. I have created a survey designed to examine who
visits political blogs and how blog readers think about the 2008
election and respond to online political discussions. Any results I
find will likely be presented at national and international political
science conferences and hopefully published in national political
science journals. In addition, I plan to use this data as part of my
All survey responses will be completely confidential, and all
identifying information will be stripped by the survey collection
Previous versions of this survey have been posted on a few blogs, and
both liberal and conservative readers seemed to really enjoy taking it.
It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
I would appreciate it very much if you could post the link to this
survey on your blog and encourage your readers to participate. I am
happy to send you the results of the data I collect. I attach to this
email some of the *initial* results of a previous version of this
survey. Please do not share these results with your readers until a
days after you have posted the survey. If they see the prior results
before taking the survey, it could bias my current results.
Also, any suggestions you may have for me would be very welcome.
Bloggers are far ahead of political scientists in thinking about the
role of blogs in American politics.
If you choose to post it, please let me know, and please discourage
readers from discussing it (disabling the comments section would be
ideal, but if you can't do that, it's fine). Like I said above, it
could bias my results if people go into it with specific expectations.
Stony Brook University
Department of Political Science
Posted by Anok at 8:42 AM
All of the bipartisan bashing in the last six or so years has just started to get under my skin. Now, that's not to say that I won't be allotting blame for a certain sect of people who just so happen to belong to a particular party, and who have gone above and beyond to not only tarnish the reputation of said party, but also put the final nail in the coffin of ethical politics...wait, was there ever such a thing?
The fact of the matter is that the only reason either party can get away with any sort of bad behavior is through the indifference of the other party - the opposition. Furthermore, the only reason either party involves itself with bad behavior in the first place is due to the morals, or lack thereof of the current party members.
Let's not mince words, while politicians have always been a corrupt bunch, this latest batch's moral compass is so far off they couldn't storm their way out of a wet paper bag. Surge or not.
So what is the solution? Well for one, we need to stop the knee jerk reactions for five seconds, and let our minds do the work it needs to do before opening our mouths. Then we need to sit down and realize that party affiliation means exactly nothing. It's a word on a piece of paper. It carries no weight until someone decides to load it up.
Which brings me to the problem of loading words, particularly words that describe political affiliations. "Liberal" and "Conservative" and "Fascist". These words are being loaded like a sawed off, double barreled shot gun. The repercussions of such behavior is far more damaging than I believe most would like to admit.
The use of "guilt by association" is a typical loading procedure these days. Phrases such as "Fascist Liberalism" or "Fascist Conservatism" can be seen strewn all over the media, political blogs, and websites. They roll of the tongues with a disturbing ease of friends, neighbors, and passers-by. What does that mean you ask yourself? Oh, it must mean that Liberals or Conservatives are Fascists, run for your local opposition party headquarters!
Of course, I'm beginning to think they all are, but never you mind what I think.
The point here is that by adding that dreaded political F bomb, Fascism, the other party has just destroyed anything that the opposing side has to say, or offer. I will make this perfectly clear however, that while a hard right Conservative can certainly have Fascist tendencies (in the political order of things, it is a natural progression), if they are still working inside a Democratic Republic, and still operating under the rules of said government then they are not, in fact Fascists. And if they are so far to the hard right that they are Fascists, then just call them Fascists.
Same goes for the left side of the debate, only one thing needs to be made clear once again. The pairing of Fascist and Liberal is utterly absurd. It doesn't even make sense, there is no logical progression or comparative qualities here. If the person in question is acting like a Fascist, then I highly doubt they are a Liberal.
Again, it's all about the mud slinging.
In the meantime, while the two parties are hell bent on destroying each other We, The People are left with the very large task of creating at least a third party. That which will take the other two to task - not by loading words and slinging mud - but rather by taking this country back.
Political affiliation be damned.
Posted by Anok at 7:54 PM