America’s growing lawlessness

By Nathan Barton

I am seeing it more and more: people just plain ignoring the laws, at all levels.  More and more people are lawless.  Lawbreakers.

As a correspondent pointed out, it seems that the more laws that are passed, the more laws are ignored.  Broken, not just worked around.  People are, I admit, usually a bit cautious. People seldom drive 75 in a 55 mph zone if there is a state patrolman or sheriff’s deputy vehicle in view.  (Except that the cops themselves often violate the speed limit by 15-20 mph, when not running hot.)

But it is much more than traffic.  Recent articles, blogs, and correspondence tells me that many people are completely ignoring various laws in force in Colorado and California and Washington, to name just three states. In those states, what I am hearing about is gun laws, restrictions on buying/owning magazines, owning certain kinds of weapons, and giving/selling weapons (especially to family members and friends).

But there are many more laws that are being ignored, including federal laws.  More than one person has claimed that the average ‘Merican breaks at least a dozen laws every day. Federal, state, county, municipal, special district, tribal, you name it. Traffic laws, gun laws, food “safety” laws, financial laws, anti-discrimination laws, building and property management laws (codes are laws in most places), labor laws, smoking laws, smuggling laws, and so forth.

Of course, part of the problem is that we HAVE so many laws – and that we HAVE so many governments which have the power to pass laws. Who can keep track of them?  On an average trip through a large urban area, we might go through a dozen separate municipalities, several counties (and sometimes states), and dozens of special districts.  Each with its own laws.  It might be illegal in one town to use a cellphone without a “no-hands” device, but in the next town, illegal to use a cellphone at all!  And in the third (another 2-3 minutes), there are no restrictions at all. But under the wrong circumstances (like a checkpoint or an accident scene), those laws can result in fines – and even jail time.

Another part of the problem is that we have been boiled like frogs.  The situation has gotten worse over decades.  That old cartoon “There oughta be a law” was turned into an instruction manual and manners guide for town counselors, county commissioners, special district boards and every sort of “lawmaker” we have in the Fifty States.  And we take it for granted.  Many states have a specific date (often the 1st of July) when laws passed by their legislature become enforceable. Laws which many people recognize and “celebrate” – even knowing that more and more of their lives and their businesses have again been messed with and made worse. And this has happened year after year.

(But then they go and lobby the legislature for more laws to “help” them or some worthy group.  We expect it. And then, it seems, just go ahead and ignore the laws so many people worked to get passed.)

The exception, of course, is those laws that we know (whether they are moral or not) are likely to cost us money, personal liberty (staying out of jail), or more.  If we can, we try very hard to avoid breaking those laws, unless we think we can get away with it.

This is the attitude of slaves, not of free people. Professor Butler Shaffer (Southwestern University School of Law), back in 2003 wrote: “Because we fear the responsibility for our actions, we have allowed ourselves to develop the mentality of slaves. Contrary to the stirring sentiments of the Declaration of Independence, we now pledge “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” not to one another for our mutual protection, but to the state, whose actions continue to exploit, despoil, and destroy us.”

It is not just private citizens and private businesses that do this.  All too often, it is the governments themselves (well, the politicians in office and the bureaucrats and the actual government workers) who go out and violate the laws.  Time and again.  And all too often, because they are who they are, they get away with it over and over again.  Even when their violation of the laws causes harm to private citizens and businesses.  This is often the case when they violate the laws that supposedly limit their authority and what they can do to us.

A lawless private citizen, or even a company, may have little or no impact on society.  But a lawless political officeholder or government employee can have a very great, negative impact on their community.

So there are two kinds of lawlessness – at least.

Keeping all this in mind, especially in this period in which we supposedly celebrate our independence, our freedom, and our liberty, we should again consider that this kind of lawmaking and lawbreaking, and the entire subject of lawlessness.

The Declaration of Independence was read (even on NPR) on the 4th, in many places by many people.  But how many paid any more attention to the words than most of us do to those licensing agreements when we download a new app?

“But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Dear me.  Were the Founding Fathers promoting lawlessness?  Lawbreaking?  And revolt?
But never mind – that document is an excuse for picnics (gluttony) and laziness (day off) and fireworks.  It doesn’t really matter today.

Walter E Williams wrote once, “The War between the States… produced the foundation for the kind of government we have today: consolidated and absolute, based on the unrestrained will of the majority, with force, threats, and intimidation being the order of the day. Today’s federal government is considerably at odds with that envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. … [The War] also laid to rest the great principle enunciated in the Declaration of Independence that ‘Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed’.”

It isn’t just the fedgov: this is true of every level of involuntary, mandatory government in every one of the Fifty States.  And explains the reason that governments here are lawless.

And makes us again need to, and want to, heed the words of the Founding Fathers.  It is our right and our duty to “throw off” those governments and their foolish and immoral laws.

Mama’s Note: Yes, and it will take everything human beings can muster to even address the problem. The “consent of the governed” must be understood to be an individual thing, not a collective “will of the people” that has been so badly perverted since the beginning. A truly voluntary society, with actual liberty and justice for all is the only viable answer.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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10 Responses to America’s growing lawlessness

  1. kirk says:

    ‘selective prosecution’ can be engaged in when one cannot live daily life without breaking some laws. this is the ‘why’ for so many laws, most ridiculous and without actual harm being done.


    • MamaLiberty says:

      A big part of the problem, of course. They define the “harm” as well as everything else. Ayn Rand talked about the proliferation of “laws” so that the rulers could “cash in on the guilt.” The wonderful thing is that more and more people are repudiating those laws and refusing to accept any guilt at all for breaking them. There is hope… that they will recognize one day that the rulers, the “state,” has zero legitimate authority to make or enforce those “laws.”


  2. Tahn says:

    Nathan and Frank, I agree with MamaLiberty, nice articles and thank you. I do believe however, that you both left out one important distinction about “Law”, and that is, not the volume but the difference between “mala in se” laws and “mala prohibita” rules. A free people can and should honor and obey one, while despising and ignoring the other. Thanks again, keep on writing.


    • MamaLiberty says:

      Maybe, but I think that the point is that “law” – of any kind – is not what keeps people from harming others. The “law” is very useful for untangling things after the fact, but it never has and never will prevent real crime from happening. I don’t refrain from robbing or shooting innocent people because of the “mala en se” nature of the law… but because I have absolutely no desire to aggress against anyone. The prohibitions “laws” are aggression itself, and those who propose and enforce them are among the greatest aggressors on earth. Free, self owning individuals don’t need any kind of codified “law” in order to choose non-aggression, to tell them what is and is not right to do.

      So, since the very nature of “law” -especially the aggressive and destructive kind – is being recognized and challenged, people are more and more ignoring the prohibition and vain regulation type. Those who want to indulge in aggression, of course, have been ignoring the “law” for a long, long time. 🙂


      • Tahn says:

        MamaLiberty, Many of us were brought to respect others and do not “need” a law to stop us from aggressing. However there are many who do not have such an upbringing and the “fear” of punishment, keeps them from aggression, while of course there are also those who do not fear punishment. The sad fact is that many of todays youth, see the “rules” against so called “victimless crimes” as the outrage they are and then proceed to disrespect ALL laws, not recognizing the distinction.


      • MamaLiberty says:

        I know you believe that, my friend. I simply don’t recognize anyone but the intended victim as having legitimate authority to enforce the mala en se “laws.” We’ve discussed this at length elsewhere. Nothing is going to stop some people from aggression. I think that all of the “laws” and the massive attempts to enforce them in places like Chicago prove the point rather well. The laws have not stopped the carnage there by any means, and it will only get worse. Those young men are certainly not deterred from their crime by any laws.

        The sad fact is that there will always be some who have no fear of the “law” or even death at the hands of their intended victims. Most young people consider themselves essentially immortal and many already don’t survive that bad judgment. Again, the question is authority. Who but the intended victim has the legitimate authority to enforce these laws?


    • Nathan Barton says:

      Another thing is that in modern times (and especially here in the Fifty States), many “mala in se” crimes, according to the many law codes, have no logic or reason to them. (And often have many caveats written into them that favor the government, government employees, or other special interest groups. For instance, it is wrong to kill except in defense of self or others, but the law (and its application) often exempts “law enforcement officers” and gives them immunity even when their act of killing IS murder – an act of aggression. Too many governments (and their employees) have “sovereign immunity” to do things that are wrong, immoral, and illegal for anyone else to do. It is one (of many) reasons that we have juries; and that there are fewer and fewer jury trials.
      As Mama Liberty points out, law is very limited. And so is its use.
      And of course, the criminals (including government officials and employees) ignore the law anyway.


      • MamaLiberty says:

        I think it is important to make clear the difference between “mala en se” and the rest of the body of government “laws.” Mala en see simply means something that is wrong on it’s own, apart from anything else. Such as murder, assault, theft, rape. One of the big problems is, however, the fact that many, if not most people interpret that short list from their own beliefs, culture and background. Murder can mean several very different things, and people in general will never agree totally on the details. Mercy killing? Abortion? Revenge for terrible wrong? Lots of differences, and written “laws” don’t really address that except with a straight jacket that mostly ignores what is actually right and just for victims and everyone else.

        And yes, non-voluntary governments will always write in exceptions for themselves and their minions on top of all the other injustice. I honestly don’t have all the answers, of course, but trusting any sort of non-voluntary government with enforcement of ANY “laws” is obviously not any sort of answer at all.


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