Libertarian Commentary, 04JAN2016, #16-01A
by Nathan Barton
Breaking the law? We do it all the time, either intentionally or unintentionally. Here are a couple of examples of INTENTIONAL law breaking.
A Dallas, Texas, group called “Don’t Comply” (as reported by Brett Sanders) defied a new city ordinance that requires a permit and training to feed more than 75 people, so that the group could provide an annual Christmas party and dinner to hundreds of homeless people, believing that their duty (as christians, as citizens, as humans) should not be subject to government control, and that people, not government, are responsible for caring for others. They were confronted by a city code enforcer, but refused to submit. Not only that, but the members of the group were ARMED to provide for their self-defense and the defense of those they were serving, and to prevent any intimidation. They made no bones about breaking the law. This group, these people, did their work openly, and deserve to be commended for their lawbreaking.
Mama’s Note: It’s always been so frustrating to see this kind of intimidation and thugish behavior in the name of keeping people safe from whatever, but I simply can’t understand the rationale for these arbitrary numbers games. If the people making sandwiches for the homeless are not clean and careful in their efforts, what possible difference can there be between seventy five and one? What about the “law” makes seventy four meals safe, but the seventy fifth sandwich unsafe? And if these homeless folks could choose, it seems very likely they’d choose to be less hungry even with a tiny risk of being less safe… every damned time.
The New York Times shows a different aspect of lawlessness. E.P.A. Broke Law With Social Media Push for Water Rule, Auditor Finds The Environmental Protection Agency engaged in “covert propaganda” and violated federal law when it blitzed social media to urge the public to back an administration rule intended to better protect the nation’s streams and surface waters, congressional auditors have concluded. And then they tried to hide what they did. This is, of course, scarcely the first or hundredth time that the EPA violated laws. In fact, last year (in 2015), the agency squandered or required additional spending of millions of dollars to clean up messes which they caused or contributed to by breaking laws – often laws that the EPA is supposed to enforce; and often then tried to keep from reporting it, lied about doing it, or blamed someone else for it. EPA is to be condemned, once again, for its unlawful actions.
Well, Nathan, some might say, you show what a hypocrite you are: you commend breaking the law in one case and condemn breaking the law in another. Let me defend myself: the EPA is a government agency, and the law they broke is a law intended (at least supposedly intended) to keep government honest and less of a terror to people. Don’t Comply is a voluntary association of people doing good and the law they broke was a BAD law intended to extend government control and generate revenue. Oh, but you contend that the law was supposed to protect the homeless by making sure that they did not get poisoned by bad food being improperly served, and to protect the peace by limiting assemblies. Constitutional issues aside, could not the EPA argue that their disobedience was also in a good cause: convincing people to “do the right thing: protect water and submit to the tyrant? Who decides what a bad law is?
The first questions and objections are answered by the answer to the last question: PEOPLE decide what law is a bad one, by whether we obey it or not. That might be a jury of six or twelve, who accept or reject a law formally. Or it might be each of us individually: answering to our conscience, to our God, and to society. Most of us accept that an act of aggression is NOT acceptable, whether or not it is against the law or not. The action necessary and morally acceptable to counter such an act of aggression MAY be itself illegal (as with the group in Dallas) and we must weigh individually whether or not that is acceptable and necessary, and whether or not we are willing to accept responsibility: individual and personal responsibility, for what we do.
Mama’s Note: The question is really, “by what authority?” Good law comes from rightful, rational authority. Since only individuals have legitimate authority over themselves and their dependents, the “laws” imposed on them from by others are automatically “bad.” The involuntary government, at all levels, has no legitimate authority to exist, let alone impose arbitrary rules and control over individuals or their voluntary associations.
Unfortunately, far too few people understand this and continue to comply with the “bad” laws imposed by impostors. Good people obey the “good” law of non-aggression and cooperate with their neighbors. Bad people may or may not. It is the responsibility of all people to negotiate disagreements with each other, and to defend themselves from aggression. It’s so simply, it’s sadly almost impossible for most people to grasp as a reality.
Warning: Here I get religious; be prepared:
For christians, the biblical basis for this answer should be clear. Paul addresses it in Romans chapter thirteen, where he states clearly what “godly government” consists of: that God ordained government to punish wrongdoers, evildoers, and that followers of Christ should be willing to submit to such a godly government in as far as that government carries out what God had ordained for it to do.
What is implied, but no less true, is that each of us must decide FOR OURSELVES whether or not a government is godly enough to be obeyed, and whether each individual action of that government is to be accepted or not: we, not a majority or a preacher or a king, but each of us. And also understood is that NO human government is truly godly, for it exists in rebellion to God. We have no moral obligation to support a government, but ONLY such actions as are in accordance with God’s will: it is a choice we must each individually make. If a law exists which is in accordance with the godly purpose for government, then we must decide whether to obey it or not, and answer to God for our decision. If it makes sense to obey a law, then we should do so; but again, it is a choice, a decision, which we must make. Whatever decision we make: to obey or not to obey, we WILL answer to God for it. Pray that we make the right one, one in keeping with His love and His will, and not to support an evil, wicked government that thinks that IT is god.