November 13, 2013

Should bad legislation be supported simply because it is the “law of the land?”

By In C.Jay Engel

That is the question that Richard Ebeling asks in his recent column.  He writes:

In a recent editorial Summers argues that in spite of the false start and misunderstanding surrounding the implementation of ObamaCare, everyone in Congress should do all in their power to help it to be a success.

 Why? Because otherwise “government loses the ability to deliver for citizens and citizens lose respect for government. Our Democracy is the loser.”

Mr. Summers uses the analogy of war. “Everyone understands that when the country is at war, even a war they oppose, vigorous oversight is essential, but, in the end, there is an obligation to support American troops. In the same way, history will not judge kindly those who, having lost political debates, go beyond vigorous oversight and seek to subvert enacted programs. “

This is a common argument.  It is an easy argument to make, especially in light of the psychology that the American masses have.  A great majority of Americans have this idea that if the government makes something into a law, it is most ethical to support it.  That is to say, their principles are based on the legislation passed by the State.  Rather than have principles by which laws made by man are judged, the laws themselves are the principles.  Oh how far we have fallen!

Ebeling points out that, if given any thought at all, this is a horrendous tendency.  He used the mid 19th century Fugitive Slave Act.  Since it was the law at the time, was it not most ethical to refuse to hide any fugitive slave?  He writes:

Should every American have done his best to track down and turn in runaway slaves, and inform on neighbors, friends, and even relatives who were hiding such slaves? After all, it was the law of the land; it was meant to maintain the “unity” of the country against the dangers of regional division.

Most people today would say that it was not wrong to disobey the Act.  The freedom of the individual was more important than the legislation.  That is to say, there existed a principle outside of the man-made law itself.

Thus, it is not wrong to oppose a bad law at all.  It is good and it is healthy.  We ought to share the truth with others and not stay silent when evil is being done.  Three cheers for Ebeling.  Go check out the article here.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com