A Nation of Laws

OR: A Nation of Men

A pal gave me the first book in A Game of Thrones. It’s quite readable [good popcorn book], though the characters tend to get introduced en masse, which is somewhat confusing. It’s not so important a work that I’m gonna make a flow chart to keep ‘em straight. If Martin can’t distinguish them one from the other as he goes along [sooner rather than later] I’ll probably drop it as soon as I find something better [good meat 'n' potatoes book].

But it did put me in mind of The Way Things Were — and have been for quite a lot of Human History: All Justice Flows From The King.

Which means that One Fella makes the rules and can remake them at any time, for any whim, and for — or against — any person. Leads to a lotta arse-kissing and a lot of uncertainty. And not much else.

Cicero said, “We are all servants of the laws in order that we may be free.” Meaning that if everybody knows the Law, and it is consistent and consistently applied, everyone can make their own choices for their own reasons, based on their own Values and free from the whim of Other People.

Flash forward through the Magna Carta to The Constitution. That was the whole point of this Great Experiment: Individuals are Free to make their own choices once the Social Contract is settled in The Law which supports Private Contracts between Individuals and prohibits General Mayhem which would get in the way of Daily Business.

I think we’ve wandered pretty far afield.

Finish your assignment! »

Federal regulations are the actual enforceable laws authorized by major legislation enacted by Congress. The Clean Air Act, the Food and Drug Act, the Civil Rights Act are all examples…

Agencies, like the FDA, EPA, OSHA and at least 50 others, are called “regulatory” agencies, because they are empowered to create and enforce rules – regulations – that carry the full force of a law. Individuals, businesses, and private and public organizations can be fined, sanctioned, forced to close, and even jailed for violating federal regulations.

1998, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the official listing of all regulations in effect, contained a total of 134,723 pages in 201 volumes that claimed 19 feet of shelf space.

In 1970, the CFR totaled only 54,834 pages.

…in the four fiscal years from 1996 to 1999, a total of 15,286 new federal regulations went into effect.

Clearly the process is accelerating. And it has become impossible for any Individual to know what is legal and what is not. 15,286 new regulations in four [4] years?!? Who could read all that and still have a life, make a living or raise kids?

Any complaints about a “Do Nothing Congress” are absurd.

So what do we get for all that law-making? Since no one could know all 134,723 +++++ pages, we ignore them; leading to lack of respect for The Law. Those of us who are forced to read certain parts of it that apply particularly to our own businesses or situations are struck by the idiocy of many of the regulations [grey water should run uphill?!?], which leads to contempt for The Law. Not to say deep and abiding contempt for the Law Makers, both the bureaucrats and the legislators who are supposed to be in charge of them.

We don’t even have the luxury of a visible King to look to; those who make “The Rules” these days are faceless and unaccountable.

There’s even a big push for the social laws to be different for some people than for others.

[from The NYT Opinion Pages:]What is a double standard? It’s a double standard when you condemn an opponent for doing or saying something you would approve or excuse if it were said or done by one of your buddies.

…If you are going to get on your high horse when Limbaugh says something inappropriate, shouldn’t you also mount the steed when commentators on your team say the same kind of thing? …Ed Schultz was only mildly criticized (and suspended for a week) for characterizing Laura Ingraham as a “right-wing slut,” and Bill Maher emerged relatively unscathed after he referred to Michele Bachmann as a “bimbo” and labeled Sarah Palin with words I can’t mention in this newspaper.

…These questions come naturally to those who have been schooled in the political philosophy of enlightenment liberalism. The key move in that philosophy is to shift the emphasis from substantive judgment — is what has been said good and true? — to a requirement of procedural reciprocity — you must treat speakers equally even if you can’t abide what some of them stand for.

That was the idea behind the First Amendment: protection of speech from government regulation. Right?

But this fella is talking about Social Regulation; the response of “commentators” which leads the response [they hope] of The Common People to things in the National Discussion.

In an ideal nation, the Idea that is good enough to regulate the Government response ought to be Good enough, practical enough and workable enough to govern the Social Respones, too No?


So if you come down hard on Limbaugh because he has crossed a line, you must come down hard on Schultz and Maher because they have crossed the same line; and you should do this despite the fact that in general — that is, on all the important issues — you think Schultz and Maher are right and Limbaugh is horribly and maliciously wrong.

Or the other way around. Whichever. The Principle is the same. Right?

The idea is that in the public sphere (as opposed to the private sphere in which you can have and vent your prejudices) you should not privilege your own views to the extent that they justify treating those with opposing views unequally and unfairly. (Fairness is the great liberal virtue.) This idea is concisely captured by the philosopher Thomas Nagel when he says that in political life we should regard our most cherished beliefs, “whether moral or religious … simply as someone’s beliefs rather than as truths.” In short, back away from or relax your strongest convictions about what is right and wrong and act in a manner that grants legitimacy, at least of a formal kind, to the convictions of others, even of others you despise.

IOW, the National Discussion benefits from the participants approaching one another’s Ideas — no matter how silly — with respectful, reason-based, fact-based argument. Everyone learns from that and we all achieve better understanding of the Ideas on the table. Squabbling, mud-slinging and name-calling just cloud the waters, raise the emotions over the Intellect and cause confusion. Right?

It does not involve “relax[ing] your strongest convictions about what is right and wrong” but a rigorous and difficult adherence to the strong conviction that all Individuals are to be treated equally, and that Ideas are to be supported by Factual Evidence and Rational Debate. That ain’t easy, but it’s the most useful, fair and self-respectful way forward. Right?

Wait for it…..



But there is an alternative way of looking at the matter…

What counts is who your friends and allies are. You keep your word to them and not just to anybody. Your loyalty is to particular people and not to an abstraction.

…Your faith is not binding simply because you have pledged it; it is binding only if it is pledged to the right people.

…Obligations are not owed to everyone, but only to those who are of the right sort.

He cites for justification the movie The Wild Bunch, Richard. J. Daley’s nepotism, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Apparently without understanding any one of them.

So we’re back to the Who, not The Law equally applied to all.

If we think about the Rush Limbaugh dust-up from the non-liberal — that is, non-formal — perspective, the similarity between what he did and what Schultz and Maher did disappears. Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?

So it’s not the behavior — using the word “slut” to describe a female holding an opposing view — it’s the Who that performed the behavior. “The right sort” can do anything because they are “on the side of truth and justice.” Those who hold opposing views have an entirely different set of Laws to answer to.

Fairness is the great liberal virtue.


Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.

What sophomoric, utter crap. Any Phl. 101 Professor would fail that thesis on lack of logical consistency alone.

I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.

Will you be able to “live with that” if/when those you consider “not the right sort” take over? You claim to be terrified of the “theocracy” you envision the “Relgious Right” wants to impose on you, yet you embrace the same methods you attribute to them; the might of Right Thinking. The only difference is you define “Right,” “right” and “rights” differently.

Yet this philosophical retard describes accurately and well what I see even on the street-level of the #Occupy-ers: Might Makes Right. The “Right Sort” [of The Left] with the “Right Beliefs” are given a pass on anything from public pooping to rape — because they have “The Right Beliefs.”

We don’t even have the luxury of a visible King to look to; those who make “The Rules” these days are faceless and unaccountable — because it is “only” the Public, Social Discourse.” And they get away with that childish crap because we allow it.

It’s up to US to hold them accountable; that is, those of US who see the Value of an adult and Reason Based public discourse. Everyone – same rules. It is not OK for anyone to poop in public and leave it for someone else to clean up — either literally or figuratively — by slinging mud instead of presenting Rational, Fact-based Arguments on the merits of the question at hand.

That was the major point of Rush’s apology; that he allowed himself to descend to the methods used by The Left — The Destroyers. I understand the temptation. I have given in to it myself. It’s easy, and it’s satisfying to a certain, juvenile part of myself — particularly when I’m feeling hip-deep in base slurs from The Dependent Class.

But we can’t “go there.” Not if we don’t want to accelerate the decline from a society of Self-Supporting Individuals with Self-Dicipline and Capability into a society only fit for for the Dependent who have the Self-Dicipline of a kitten and the Capabilities of slaves.

This rant is more a reminder to meeeee than a cautionary to others. Gotta quit punching down.


  1. geezerette
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 7:48 am |

    Wow Claire that was great—so true — so scary because I can see it happening everyday— If I ruled the world—-
    I’d make the 10 commandments the laws of the world— and enforce them — who ever gets that thru their thick skulls — and lives by them– are on their own—

  2. MCPO
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:14 am |

    Claire – I’ve read the first 3 books in the first 3 books in the series and following the characters isn’t difficult after awhile. I’ll start the 4th one in a bit, as I have 2 other books going as well.

  3. Jay
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:19 am |

    Speaking of laws, check this little Executive Order out.

    Sounds like it’s set for the Federal Government to take over private industry and private supplies during an “emergency.”

    Did nobody in government read Ayn Rand?


    Executive order National Defense Resource Preparedness

  4. Fat Baxter
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:33 am |

    I watched the first season of “The Game of Thrones” on TV. Very well done. The second season starts soon.

  5. DougM (jackassophobe)
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:47 am |

    “The Game of Thrones” on Showtime makes the characters easy to get a handle on (Season 2 starts 4/1). Personally, I see no reason to read the book, when it’s so brilliantly done on TV. Sure, it’s a fantasy, but it’s human and compelling.

    Re: Stanley Fish’s blither
    His tripe can be boiled down to “the end justifies the means.”
    Since their ends are the ultimate morality, their opponents are evil, and any means used to achieve this ultimate morality must also be considered moral, even if they appear immoral to those who foolishly believe in some kind of objective, consistent, or absolute morality.

  6. dick, not quite dead white guy
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 8:53 am |

    Keep punching down Claire; they need it, we need it. I think things beyond mere voting will be needed to stop this plague.

    Jay – Looked at that. Seems to me that the lack of definition of a ‘National Emergency’ therein would let Uhbama declare whatever he wants to be one and seize anything and everything he wants, Congress be damned. How about Uhbama in danger of losing an election for an ‘emergency’?

  7. mech
    Posted March 17, 2012 at 11:06 am |

    There’s a reason the classical image of Justice showed her with a blindfold (no respecter of persons or preferred group du jour), sword in one hand and scales in the other.

    Now she is in the corner, her hands bound with the blindfold, watching the left hacking away at everyone not them and measuring their drugs and CO2 with the scales.
    Claire, you make me smile and breathe a bit deeper with a glimmer of hope…

    It should be springtime in America again soon, where there is some serious pruning of the bureaucracies and dethaching of the regulations. The Tree of Liberty’s roots are being strangled by the weeds. (and aerating of bureaucrats?)

    Just as Narnia waited for Aslan, we are waiting for another Reagan or maybe even one greater. Or Father Christmas to dispense various tools and courage while breaking the Winter so we can finally band together to educate the dull voters to make a better world for our and their progeny. . .

  8. Spin
    Posted March 18, 2012 at 1:54 am |

    This book series, “A Song of Ice and Fire” of which Game of Thrones is the first book is a terrific read for folks who want to keep their sanity and. like me, read before bed.

    George R.R. Martin (draw your own assumptions there) makes it very easy to keep the characters straight. His trick is every is chapter is the comings and going of that character. The next chapter… same thing, different character. It sort of reminds me of the old soap opera of the 50′s and 60′s. He does this through 5 books and almost 6000 pages. And he never flubs up. As a matter of fact the last 10 or so pages of every book is a heraldic breakdown of each royal House.

    And it will never give you heart burn or cause you to loose sleep.

    King Barak, first of his name, House of Progressive. Ruler of the Eastern Corridor and the Left Coast.
    May his reign be brief.

    DougM, can you really compare over 1000 pages of decently written prose to 10 one hour episodes on HBO?

  9. DougM (jackassophobe)
    Posted March 18, 2012 at 11:29 am |

    spin (8)
    Yes, but it has nothing to do with value.
    I’m never gonna read a 1000-page fantasy, again, ever;
    but a brilliantly filmed epic? Youbetcha.
    (What? Bared boobies have nothing little something to do with it.)

    I got bored with “literature” as such a long time ago, so spent my limited time absorbing information and ideas rather than appreciating artiness. I’m actually reading paperized words only about an hour at a time, but I can listen to audiobooks on my iPodNano in snippets and slathers whenever I don’t need need to remember something visually/audibly (driving, shopping, eating, choring, iHammocking, etc.). Heck, I listened to Atlas Shrugged during my cross-country trip last Summer; but I never would have read it again, even though I can read a lot faster than listen.

  10. Spin
    Posted March 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm |

    DougM (9)
    Different strokes for different folks it would appear.

    That hour or so reading before sleep is my shrink and my Ambien™ combined.