Today I want to explore whether it is possible for laws to be just.
On a previous post of mine (link), one of my readers contested that there is no such thing as a just law. This post is not a response to his arguments, but instead my own exploration on the notion of just law and rulership.
The problem is this: how can one person be justified in manipulating/dictating the behavior of another. The problem seems to immediately admit to an easy answer: the wise should rule, and this will benefit everybody. Surely wisdom is better then whatever nature has in store for us if left to its own devices? This is not, of course, the end to the problem. We are immediately confronted with the challenge of separating the wise from the dullards, and if we ever succeeded at that task we’d still most likely be left with a myriad of wisdom that pulls in far too many different directions. All of that, however, is kind of superfluous because wisdom is likely not the primary determining factor when it comes to who is in charge. Maybe that makes me a pessimist, but probably not. I do not mean to belittle leaders here – maybe the best course of action is to separate wisdom into wisdoms. We all have different skills and talents. Some people are good economists, some are good policy makers, and others are good leaders. Acquiring the skills to be a leader and maintaining a hold on leadership is a challenging task, it does not lend itself well to also keeping up to date on all the relevant science and research about what should be done. This means that in practice a leader must rely on experts in other fields for advice. But which experts? Since the leader doesn’t have knowledge in the many fields, there is no real way for the leader to know who is worth listening to and who is not.
This is, of course, a major simplification of a governmental system. Most governments do not rely on the leader for most of its activities. The more that it is the case that a government does as it does, though, the less distinct from nature it becomes. At a large enough scale, a government loses the autonomous nature of a human being, and instead becomes a force. The nature of this force is not an act of any individual, but instead is propelled from its previous state. If we conceptualize government this way, then it is no more or less just then any other state of nature.
So, to return to the original question – can laws be just? The challenge with this question, for me, is that I’m not sure if ‘just’ can meaningfully be applied to anything other than an individuals actions. To judge a system ‘unjust’ seems to me simply the judgement that one would like the system to be otherwise (and therefore the autonomous judge will have a certain compulsion to work upon the system). To the question as a whole (are all laws unjust), my answer is that I would subsume all governmental states (from anarchy to totalitarianism) as states of nature that we can potentially act upon.
I feel this is one of my stranger posts, but let me know what you think 🙂
Also, if you have any topic that you’d like me to write on, let me know,
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