Thursday, March 11, 2010


As this hypothetical society grew more populous, the number of thieves also grew. Folks had to go about armed, and stay alert at all times. It’s hard to fish while you’re looking over your shoulder for a claim-jumper. Someone noticed that old Joe, over there, was one tough cookie, and the claim-jumpers left him alone. “Say, Joe. If you’ll keep these creeps off my back, I’ll give you two fish a day.” Joe says that’s okay with him, and you have the first military – and, coincidentally, the first protection racket.

There are side-trips involved in this particular bit of social Darwinism: things like the invention of hemp rope, whereby hangs more than a tale, and the invention of shooting irons. But those are for a different story.

As things evolved, someone decided that in his little corner of paradise, they could put the thieves on notice by posting a sign that said, “No thieves allowed.” Such a sign would have no impact unless everyone in the area agreed to beat the crap out of any thieves that came around. The locals agreed, and they put up a sign, and the law was born. Joe noticed the sign, sauntered over and said, “I’ve got some tough boys here with me, and we’d be happy to enforce that sign if you’ll pay us.” And that was the first police force. It worked pretty good until Joe or one of his shoulder-strikers decided to hold the people up for more pay, at which time the whole community rose up and lynched the overly ambitious ones. When the lynching was done, they remembered what a pain it was to have to go armed and looking over their shoulders all the time, so they reestablished a police force, hopefully with better, more clearly defined terms and conditions.

One of the principles they recognized was that an appointed law enforcement agent could be much more objective in enforcing the law than could individual citizens. If enforcement were left up to each citizen, no two people would do it the same, and the potential for law suits (in those days, pronounced “Doo’- uls”) was great. I’m sure there was some smooth talking and some serious negotiation, and no end of false starts and hemp resets, but the process was on its way.

The documented portion of the evolution of human government begins ‘way after the actual beginning. Who knows what permutations it went through? I’d be willing to bet, though, that the main force driving the development of government was a desire for loot and power. The looting and rape would have gone on forever but for the advent of a few enormous, almost tectonic forces: population growth, travel and commerce, the invention of the longbow and firearms, and the discovery of the New World, to name a just a few. But tyranny has never given up, for one of the greatest failings of our kind is the desire to rule over others – to take their property, their wealth, their sons and their daughters. And much that is noblest in our kind has been done in resistance to that tyranny. The Scriptures tell us there must be opposition in all things. Indeed, basic epistemology tells us that we distinguish one thing from another by the differences, or opposition, between them.

Great virtue can be seen only in the company of great vice. Freedom can be seen only in the company of tyranny.

So now we have an economy based on the specialization of labor, we have boundaries, custom-become-law, we have rudimentary government, and we have police. Remember this, though: the first and true repository of the law was the people. The law started with the desire of the people to be free from the burden of constant vigilance and arbitrary standards. The people voluntarily gave enforcement of the law to the police. The police never owned the law. They were custodians of it, holding it in the name and interest of the people. When some college-educated fascist sonofa… JERK starts wringing his hands about people, “…taking the law into their own hands…” it makes me want to puke. In the hands of the people is precisely where the law was conceived, born, and raised. When the government becomes the enemy of the law, whether through neglect or tyranny, or pure-dee thuggish desire for power, it is the right of the people – nay, it is the solemn responsibility of the people - to take the law from the government, beat the crap out of the government, and set up a new government.

Is there a more eloquent, succinct way of saying all that? Let’s try this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

I love that! In case you don’t recognize it, it’s from the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson in the summer of 1776, and I’ve never seen a better, more powerful exposition of the principle.

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