Laws are unnecessary, ineffective

(My Clovis News Journal column for December 4, 2015)

If I had to come up with a short description of what differentiates libertarians from the rest of society, I might say while most worry about “what if”, libertarians focus on “what is”.

Those who believe in government, laws, and the state worry about “what if”. What if there were no stop signs? What if there were no law forbidding murder? What if someone cheats you out of money? What if people don’t make the right decision?

But consider what is.

Do stop signs actually stop cars? No. It’s a choice made by each individual driver. I choose to stop at stop signs, not because there is a law ordering me to do so, but because I don’t want to be in a wreck. You can choose what to do when you drive up to a stop sign, and there is no physical force there to take your choice away. If you approach a stop sign nothing can prevent you from driving on through, although it might be a bad habit to develop.

Would you commit murder if it weren’t illegal? How many murders do you believe are prevented by laws forbidding it? Do you believe a mugger thinks about the law before shooting an uncooperative victim? Do you believe those who find themselves committing a crime of passion will stop when remembering the law?

If so, what other fantasies do you believe are real?

Laws don’t do anything useful. They don’t stop bad people or prevent tragedies. They only give enforcers the tools to molest people and trample liberty. They give an excuse to punish, instead of pursuing justice. Punishment doesn’t even resemble justice, but is a childish substitute.

All this is an acceptance of what is, rather than imagining what if.

There are only two kinds of laws: the unnecessary and the harmful. Laws forbidding intentional harm to others are unnecessary, all others are harmful.

I understand better than you can imagine the wish to make bad things not happen. Believing government or laws can accomplish this is magical thinking; the belief in a real connection between a symbol, such as a law, and whatever the law addresses. This is the belief that rituals and chants can alter reality in defiance of the laws of nature. You might say this belief isn’t hurting anyone, but is “doing nothing”, but law and government are worse than doing nothing. They are harming you and your loved ones by hacking away at your liberty.

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