A question of laws and flaws.
So, a lot of stuff has been on my mind lately, that has inspired some thoughts. And, I figured I'd put out some questions to the members on this, simply because we're an international club, and we can see things from a variety of viewpoints, those both cultural, religious, and purely personal.
What are laws created for? And by that, I mean the very basic reasoning behind laws. Are they created to give power to the governments, to take power away from them? Are they created to define morality and justice for us? Are they created to empower our leaders, or to protect the citizens at their very foundation, and branch out to allocate power and authority to achieve the end of protecting the citizens?
And along that line of thought, if laws are created to protect the citizens as their basic nature, what happens if they are flawed? If a body of legislation is enacted to protect the citizens, and the laws cannot do that completely and effectively, do those inherant flaws negate that body of law? Would legislation incapable of intending it's desired objective invalidate itself, requiring new legislation to serve and protect the public?
Moreover, if a body of government creates and enforces legislation that is flawed and invalid, are those public servants guilty of crimes against the state for violating the needs and the rights of their constituents? Please, feel free to give comments and thoughts, open to everyone. I'm just curious about others' opinions on the matter.
Well, there is the Jeffersonian argument, that should a government cease to act for the people and by the people; that should a government place the interests of its member body before the interests of the least in our society; then the people have the right to revolt against the mockery of a government that no longer stood by the people and for the people.
Laws are created so that there would be boundries to what people can, and cannot do. They are a way to protect the people, and to control them, both. Laws are made so that the people in power have a guidline to follow, and so that the people in power have a way to maintain a leash over the masses. Laws are created to prevent chaos, to prevent anarchy, which is chaos embodied.
Laws are a means to achive an ideal, it depends on those who govern what that ideal is. It could be to keep a liberal, largly citizen driven government, it could be to solidify a select circle of people's position in the government, it could be to keep a single man on the throne, it could be to keep the religious order in power, it could be to wage war on others and to have your citizens believe that you have a right by "law" to do that. But the end result is that laws are both a tool of control and a tool of peace, it all depends on who uses it and how.
Laws are always flawed, because human beings are not perfect creatures, and what may seem perfect to one man may seem like heresy to another. There is no perfect law. Because there is no perfect man. There is no perfect form of government, because man is chaotic by nature, and thus ever changing.
Laws are both a tool of conrol, and a tool of peace. Laws restrain. In the end, the thing that makes laws "good" or "bad" is who how enforces them, and who is governed by them.
I'll tell you some of the things that have been on my mind, or that have been happening, that have provoked my desire for discussion.
A man named Paul Rusesabagina (I hope I spelled his last name correctly) recently came to my school to speak. I had never heard of him before, but he was either the creator, or a central figure in the movie "Hotel Rwanda." I haven't seen the movie, but it focuses around a period of unrest within that country. One of the things he said to us was, his opinion on the United Nations was that they were powerless, and on "peace-keeping missions," they weren't law enforcement, they weren't protectors, they were neutral observers. I'm no expert on the United Nations, but it seems to me, if they are a body meant to help establish and maintain global rights for mankind, if they cannot succeed in that mission, are they still a valid entity? Maybe some of you have a better understanding of the U.N. than I do, and have an opinion. Is there any such thing as global government? Are there certain, irrefutable freedoms that apply to all people, no matter the circumstances?
In my Advanced technical Writing class, we have established groups to write a book. The two other guys I'm working with and I all have a common background, or course of study involving public emergency services/fire/EMS. In our project, we're looking towards establishing a more updated, complete, (and more importantly) outreaching program to assist and empower citizens. One of the issues we've been trying to tackle is, where governments often establish aid programs, or training programs, the majority of them seem to be "reactive." Like, there are programs to teach people how to respond to community emergencies, but citizens have to make the effort to locate and enroll, and so forth. One of our proposals is that (community/city) governments ought to make those programs more active, and reach out to the community, and "go to them." Are governments supposed to make an active effort to provide what citizens want, or do our "democratically elected leaders" get to choose what we need, what we want, and what we can have?
As preface, I am a citizen of the United States; I say that because "American" implies that anyone else living in North America, or Central/South America, has no claim to that title. Most of the world recognizes "American" as a reference to U.S. citizens, but it's all semantics. In any event, the laws I'm more familiar with are the U.S. laws. In creating the Constitution, one of the first things established (in that document) is the rights afforded to the citizens (the Bill of Rights). I have no misconceptions about the U.S. government, I don't think it's the "best government," or anything, it's just "the best one I have." It's the only one I have; just one of many world governments. And yet, while the Constitution would seem to put the rights of the citizens first, and therefore, the citizens themselves, it doesn't always feel that way.
I had talked to a young lady from Canada who moved to the States, and she despised the U.S. It caused a lot of issues because, when she'd express her opinion, a lot of people would just reply, "If you didn't like it here, you shouldn't have moved her." Or, "If you don't want to live by our laws, go back to Canada." She didn't move here to "get to a better country," or anything like that. She fell in love with, and got married to someone in the States, and they decided this was where they are going to live. One of her issues is the lack of health care being provided, or some such. I can't remember how Canadian health care is established, so maybe someone from Canada can mention that. But one of her main issues was, they weren't very set financially, they had no health insurance, and she couldn't go see a doctor unless it was the E.R., because no free clinics were even within driving distance, and some other issues.
She's assured basic freedoms of speech and religion, etc. under the Bill of Rights, but does that really help her any if she can't afford to be healthy? Does the government (of any country) have a right to provide for the basic necessities of citizens along with basic rights? There's so much room for personal interpretation about "what people need," and "what is right." What is right?
Honestly, I don't know. A teacher of mine once said, "If you're not involved in the world, you don't deserve to be a part of it." If you're not taking an active role in trying to comprehend, and better the world you live in, you're taking it for granted, and you're not respecting your responsibilities as a citizen. Is that true? I'm honestly curious as to what people think; that's why I'm put out queries. I'd like to know what people think, and I'd love to have a better understanding, at least for myself.
Andan Taldrya Marshall
Very interesting topic, BF, I don't think I've seen something like this on the MBs in a long time. I'm going to be talking from the viewpoint of Tomas Aquinas, FYI.
Laws are created, according to Aquinas, to realize a common good through leading people to proper virtue. A law must also be based on reason, not the whim of those who are making it. That reason should relate to some virtue, either to disallow people from engaging in an activity contrary to one, or many, virtues or to allow and encourage the citizens to act in a way that expresses a virtue that should be reinforced. They aren't created specifically to give or take power away from the people or government, but transfering powers to certain people and institutions is one of the ways that laws are created and made enforcable.
As Ceric said, humans are flawd creatures. We do not posess eternal and perfect knowledge, nor do we posess eternal and perfect reasoning. Therefore humans will create laws which are not perfect, because nothing can be made more perfect then that which made it. We have, are, and will make mistakes in our laws.
There are two ways in which a law can be unjust. The first way is if the law is not in accord with a common good or virtue. This can be because incomplete information or faulty logic has brought us to an improper conclusion or that the person who wrote the law did not have the power to do so.
As Aquinas quotes Augustine as saying many times in his writings "A law that is unjust is considered to be no law at all." An unjust law should not be followed, save in situations where to not do so would create disorder or scandal. The only times where an unjust law is to be disobayed under any circumstance is if it contradicts divine law, but I will leave divine law out of this discussion.
Andan Taldrya Marshall
I'll tell you some of the things that have been on my mind, or that have been happening, that have provoked my desire for discussion.
You posted that as I was making my last post, so I'll reply to the more specific issues you brought up in that post.
Let me preface this by saying that I do not study political science, so I could very well be wrong in my analysis. Anyway, moving on.
International law is more or less just a set of guidlines that countries are expected to follow. The countries, however, are free to choose if they want to follow international law or not. If you'd like your country to be well recieved and liked by the rest of the world then it's probably a good idea to follow the UN and other international law, but it still isn't required.
The UN in and of itself has virtually no power. It has no standing army, it doesn't even have a provision to raise an army of its own. The UN's power comes from voluntary compliance by the member nations. The UN can only send an army into a country when the other member countries agree to send part of their armies in under the command of a person not appointed by their country. So in that regard the UN is an ineffective organization.
However, when everybody (or at least a good number of countries) decide to accept the UN as a legit authority and follow the guidlines that it sets forth then the UN can be an incredibly powerful organization.
As to "rights".
No one has a right to the goods or services of another without paying the provider for it. All rights ever granted are rights to action.
A person may voluntarily give up their time and effort for the betterment of others, but never can someone reasonably *demand* such things. We call that burglary.
Now, while in the context of Canada's Health program, I understand that their income taxes and such are much higher than here in the states. This counterbalances the system. Just as our taxes in the states pay for libraries, roads, schools, and police, the canadians also pay for their health coverage as well.
From what i understand from several canadian friends, in order to get elective, or non-critical procedures done, the scheduling with the hospitals can take excessively long periods of time. So again, there's a counterbalance.
as to the United Nations.
The UN is more of an alliance than an entity by itself. It has become kinda the global senate for Earth. As such, it has no teeth... no army, no power save what it's members give it. And since participation in it is pretty voluntary, it doesn't make it much more than an exercise in foreign relations.
So, why do we have laws?
One of the biggest reasons rules are made are to determine who will be the ruler
. People for many reasons want to be led. Maybe because we are at heart, a herd animal, but that's a seperate issue. It's likely because we want to be taken care of, for someone to make all the hard decisions about what is best for us... and to take the blame when things go wrong.
The rest of the rules are things that guide this selection, and lay out the various levels of rulers...from congressmen to governors to policemen.
It's only *AFTER* authority has been assigned that we get into the rules against behaviours... and then, those rules may be just for the benefit of public safety...or for the despotic leader's gain. For those, it depends on each individual rule.
let's look at an example: We'll take a religious set first...the 10 commandments (judeo-christian)
1.) I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
a proclamation of authority, plain and simple.
the second and third commandments (no graven images or taking the name of god in vain) are rules regarding the authority, now that it's been established.
4-10 are behaviours, largely regarded as common sense and generally good things to follow. Murder is bad, stealing is bad, and on and on.
Now to a more secular example...we'll use the U.S. Documents... The constitution is a document which first and foremost ("We the people...") defines the authority with which it claims to act. It then proceeds to spend the rest of the document laying out exactly *how* it will establish and divide said authority....all before bothering to make rules or grant rights (in a seperate document, no less) to the average person.
So what does this mean?
Well, there are benefits to living with a government...we pool our resources and get great things available to everyone, like schools, armies to defend ourselves with, roads to drive on, etc... but the first order of business, the first rules instituted are the ones that decide who is the ruler.
(and yeah, even back in the day, in simpler times, this was the case. it was "he who kills the king becomes the king.
anyway, that's how i see it.
The question that one has to ask oneself is what is a bad law? Or too much law? Or too little?
For example, The Commandments told you what you couldn't do. That means you could do whatever it did not forbide you from.
The Communists that I am familiar with told you what you could do. That means that you could ONLY do those things.
What if there was a government that didn't tell you anything? Because everything was forbidden?
Which is better? Which is worse? How do you define "good" and "bad". Or "too much" and "too little"? How do you know when a law is protecting you and when it is suffocating you?
those are the questions you must ask when questioning laws.
Well, one topic brought up was "establishing rulers first," and such. Why would it be good to establish who rules before everything else? Take the U.S. Constitution. Aren't the first ten Amendments the Bill of Rights, which establishes the citizens rights and freedoms? Shouldn't our priorities be the people? And shouldn't we express that in a visible, adequate, effective manner?
It is a possibility.
You need a strong ruler/rulers to guide those masses, however. Unless everyone in your perfect society is well educated, you can never trust in a true democracy, or a true communist community.
If your people are ignorant, then you must fall back on strong leaders...the problem is that they must not only be strong, but also honorable enough not to work only for their own avaricious ends.
Then again, there is nothing wrong with a dictatorship/monarchy if the ruler is firm, honorable, and good for the prosperity of that society. Of course, those kinds of people come along once every hundred years, so its a long shot at best.
Once again, we are led back to man's chaotic nature, we are ever changing, and what one may promise on moment, may no longer apply the next. Then again, hopefully, because of the changing, we are moving toward a brighter future as a people.
I'd like to think that.
I view laws, affiliations, governments, etc. -- indeed everything touched upon in this thread -- as falling under the umbrella of the "social contract" as first defined by Socrates and later refined by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The basic philosophy is the view that persons' moral, legal, and political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement between them to form society, which exists, morphs and expands as a necessity of our mutual survival; i.e., a sophisticated animalistic impulse. We can even find such behavior -- though far less defined -- in "lesser life forms" such as apes and other pack animals. We inherently know that we must have laws to guide our interaction because without them we would falter as a species. So whatever the shading, laws represent our imperfect struggle to do what is the natural imperative to cooperate for mutual benefit.