Home > Uncategorized > Rule of Law Vs. Rule of Men

Rule of Law Vs. Rule of Men

I am creating this blog as a forum for having the debate that this country (and many others) ultimately need to have.  In the past year or so we have been getting close to identifying the real nature of the decision before us.  For generations the debate has been over right and left.  The right wants to use the power of government to keep people from using drugs, getting abortions, gambling and doing other things that they consider immoral.  The left wants to use the power of government to keep people from owning guns, making too much money, driving SUVs and doing other things that they consider immoral.  Both sides want to use the power of government for the purposes of social engineering.  They are only arguing about what to engineer us into.  This is the kind of debate that politicians on both sides are happy to have because it is never-ending.  People have some set of morals.  They are different for different people and most people are unlikely to change their mind about them at any given time for any reason.  A person who thinks abortion is immoral is not likely to be persuaded by an argument made by someone who thinks it is moral and the latter is equally unlikely to be convinced by any argument made by the former.  This is because these arguments are based entirely on values, there is no component of logic serving as a common ground.  It’s easy for a politician speaking to a group that holds one value system to make the people who hold the other value system seem like evil people and this belief causes their constituency to become skeptical and often downright hostile to the other constituency.  So long as you are talking to the people who make up 51% of the voters in your district this situation makes for fairly good job security.

Recently however, a lot of people are beginning to wonder if these are the only two choices.  Students of political science are probably familiar with the political compass which identifies political ideology on a two-dimensional space with right/left on one axis and authoritarian/libertarian on the other.  To illustrate the type of confusion that this paradigm tries to clear up consider the following quote from the link above.

“U.S. neo-conservatives, with their commitment to high military spending and the global assertion of national values, tend to be more authoritarian than hard right. By contrast, neo-liberals, opposed to such moral leadership and, more especially, the ensuing demands on the tax payer, belong to a further right but less authoritarian region. Paradoxically, the “free market”, in neo-con parlance, also allows for the large-scale subsidy of the military-industrial complex, a considerable degree of corporate welfare, and protectionism when deemed in the national interest. These are viewed by neo-libs as impediments to the unfettered market forces that they champion.”

This sort of thinking, along with a general alarm at the rapid growth of government  is causing a shift in the debate away from left versus right and toward big government versus small government.  In my opinion this gets us much closer to the relevant issue but there is a further refinement yet required to arrive at the heart of the matter.   The best illustration of this can be seen from the point of view of the big government types.  If you go to a socialist, communist, or other collectivist event and talk to people who believe in such things they usually will tell you that their idea of “communism/socialism/etc.” has never been tried, implying that the USSR, Cuba, North Korea, China, Vietnam, and so forth were all actually something different from what they are advocating.  Nonetheless, these countries (as well as many others) have certainly all had what we would consider big governments.  In short, it’s not actually big government that these people want.  They want the government to do certain things which require it to be big.  Similarly, the small government types would mostly like for the government to not do certain things.  Most of these things a government would have to be “big” in order to do but if a new technology allowed the government to spy on people and micro manage their lives with incredible efficiency and it did so with low taxes and few employees, they would not be happy.  Conversely, if a foreign threat arose which threatened to destroy the republic, there is likely no government, being necessary to defeat such an enemy, which these people would consider too big.

The real choice before us is between the rule of law and the rule of men.  The rule of law is the only system of government compatible with individual freedom.  The rule of men is the only system of government compatible with reallocation of wealth.  The reason is simple.  In order for men to live together in freedom (other than in a state of pure anarchy) there must be rules protecting certain natural rights such as life liberty and property.  But if they are to be free to live their lives as they choose and make their own decisions, they must know what the rules are and that they will not change unpredictably.  In this system everyone must be subject to the same set of laws, but the system cannot prevent some people from accumulating more wealth than others by virtue of either making better decisions, being more naturally talented, being born into better circumstances, or the accidents of random circumstance.  Nor can it even distinguish between the various causes of material success because such a distinction would be completely arbitrary and the difference between the rule of law and the rule of men is that only the latter allows for arbitrary judgement of circumstances.  Here are some examples of decisions the law cannot make:

Which companies are too big to fail?

How much money is fair to pay a certain executive of a private company?

Which people should have access to loans and at what terms?

How much (or how little) is it fair for an insurer to charge for health insurance?

Which crops should receive government subsidies?

Which green technologies should we invest in?

These decisions all come down to three basic judgements: who should gain, who should lose, and by how much?   They all infringe upon some personal right, they are all arbitrary and they are exactly what the rule of law is designed to avoid.  These types of questions require regulators and “czars” to make these arbitrary judgements.  In a rule of law society there is no place for regulators.  Now I will say up front that I am on the side of rule of law.  This is because I value freedom above all else.  I have complete confidence that freedom leads to much greater general prosperity than any system which relies on the rule of men and I am prepared to make that argument but even if I did not believe that I would rather be poor and free than a comfortable slave.  That being said, I acknowledge that some people may not share my values and may have legitimate reasons to favor this type of system.  I feel that now, like never before, there is potential to get down to the heart of the matter and have an honest debate about what we actually want.  In pursuit of this goal I will use this site to shout my opinions on current events and their relevance vis-a-vis the rule of law into the darkness of cyberspace and see if anyone shouts back.

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