You either support the rule of law or you do not. Shelley Luther is a law breaker. If you believe in the rule of law, absolutely, as the oligarch puppets at MSNBC would have you do, what else is there to say? If your commitment to the rule of law is bottomless and unyielding, Shelley Luther was thrown in jail where she belonged, end of story. Yet most of us understand, even if in our gut, that this is not the end of the story.
The COVID crisis is a sterling example of how an excessive commitment to the rule of law can easily enable tyranny and serfdom. There are laws in North Korea and Red China, and there were laws in National Socialist Germany and the Soviet Union as well. That something is a law, which is to say some rule some low-IQ legislator drew up, is not a sufficient reason to follow it. It just isn’t. Further analysis is necessary.
Conservatives often say that a strict adherence to the rule of law is a powerful prophylactic against tyranny. Is that really so? Doubtful. Tyranny and totalitarianism are at least as likely to emerge via a careful adherence to the law as they are to arise from the flouting, circumvention, or disregarding of it. A general, fairly slender attachment to the law is basically sufficient to preserve the social order. With that said, obeying rules and commands rarely secures essential rights or liberates people. Obedience to rules written by those in power serves the rulers primarily, not the ruled. That seems somewhat self-evident to me.
Moreover, if laws should always be followed, there would be no America. The American Revolution was a revolt against the laws and hegemony of the British crown. Yet all day long the propagandists in the press tell us how we must all obey, how important the rule of law is for keeping us safe and free. But do you think your government is keeping you safe? And do you feel free? I certainly do not feel free going on my third month of house arrest.
To be clear, Shelley Luther is a patriot and a hero. She is also a criminal. And there is nothing paradoxical about those two claims. Because there is a point where government overreach becomes unthinkable and totalitarian. There is a point where following the law means doing something one’s conscience cannot countenance. And there is a point where a regard for the law is nothing more than a command to obey whatever courts or rulers decide, no matter how insane or contrary to your interests or values. At these points, the rule of law ceases to be an asset or an ally to the people, but becomes instead an enemy. That does not mean that a solid respect for the law is not, generally speaking, a good thing. What it means is that we all must recognize lines and exceptions to the general rule. In truth, an excessive deference for the rule of law is at least as dangerous as a lack of deference for it.
Unfortunately, so-called conservatism has become meek, servile, and excessively fond of the rule of law in recent decades. To be fair, not all conservatives have prostrated themselves before government power in this way, but far too many have. Yet there is nothing “conservative” about being a law-fellating peon when the powers that be are dismantling traditional values and traditional modes of living at an epic clip, or when the laws themselves become vicious, outrageous, or totalitarian. Our ruling class has already, largely through the law mind you, dismantled and disfigured America. There is really not much left of the Founding Era, culturally, ethnically, morally, etc. Even America of a mere seventy five years ago, is now all but gone.
So, I am sick and tired of hearing how wonderful the rule of law is. The rule of law is only as wonderful as the laws themselves, and as someone who works in the field of law, I can tell you most laws are not so wonderful. In fact, many, if not most, of the laws set down on paper by American legislatures, are perfectly idiotic. They are garbage.
They often create bigger problems than they resolve. A majority of them could probably be repealed tomorrow at no utility cost to the citizenry and most of those remaining should be rewritten in fundamental ways. The way they are interpreted by American courts is even more shameful. Criminal laws especially, are consistently interpreted by the courts to make prosecutions and convictions as easy as possible. As a whole, our laws enrich the rich and arm the powerful. And the faith most state legislatures have in the benevolence of government power is rather astounding. The Founders would not be pleased. The authority for state governors to issue tyrannical COVID directives originated in state legislatures after all. The American legal system today seeks to monitor, regulate, and control us by and large, rather than benefit and uplift us, as it was supposed to do. It is really not structured for, nor would it be endured by, a free people.
Those maintaining a childish reverence for the rule of law whilst also celebrating this Texas salon owner’s lawless actions, must engage in faulty hair-splitting and intellectual chicanery to do so. They say things like proclamations, directives and executive orders “aren’t really the law.” But they are the law. They carry the force of law. They can be enforced by law enforcement, just like statutes and court orders can. That is the hard reality of things.
Moreover, even if this argument had merit, it would still be a road to nowhere. After all, if Shelley Luther was defying some totalitarian statute instead, would she be any less right? Is a totalitarian decree better or worse than a totalitarian statute? Which should we be more inclined to lie down like dogs before? Thus, this particular argument (“it is not really the law”) is firstly not persuasive, and secondly, misses the point.
The political right needs to reflect deeply on its relationship with the law. Shelley Luther can be a hero or the law can be sacrosanct. Both can not be true. The right can not have it both ways without experiencing some level of cognitive dissonance. For my part, I think there are circumstances when it is quite acceptable, even noble, to be a lawbreaker. Samuel Adams was a lawbreaker. The British wanted to hang him for his crimes. Now I enjoy drinking beer with his shining visage on it. Most crucially though, let us not dance around that acknowledgment. Let us not be intellectual weasels possessive of two logically incompatible thoughts. Let us proclaim it loud and clear, because the times demand it: There are matters and interests that stand above the law, and disobedience to the law is not only tolerable at times, it is morally obligatory.
Finally, what is it with people named Luther and a contempt for corruption and abuse emanating from the echelons of power? When will Ms. Luther be drafting her own 95 theses? God knows America needs its own reformation.