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by Neville Kennard, preaching and practising capitalist

Among the altars that Classical Liberals worship at is “The Rule of Law”. This is the mark of a civilised society, they say, that “the rule of law rather than the rule of men” is to be respected, revered even. That laws imposed by wise and thoughtful legislators through a constitutional and constrained process are better than those of a whimsical dictator. But what about “bad laws” — laws that impinge on personal freedom, on property rights, on our rights to trade that get legislated by legislators who are not so wise, and even to the extent that they think it is OK to pass retrospective legislation?

And aren’t all our laws made by “men” — and, to be politically correct here — women?

Whimsical monarchs and dictators have been replaced by whimsical Prime Ministers, Presidents, Parties and Parliaments. In democracies, the majority-elected party in power gets to do pretty much what it likes, what it thinks it can get away with, what will fit within the conventions and constitutions. Sometimes when they want to enact some new law and find they can’t because it is “against the law”, they change the law, make a new law, so that what was “against the law” is now “lawful”.

Our system is almost replete with such laws that diminish our freedom and intrude on our lives and reduce our prosperity. (I say “almost replete” because replete means “full” — they still find room for more.) There are so many laws that no-one understands them. No-one could possibly know all the laws, yet ignorance of the law is no excuse. And many laws are subject to interpretation, to precedents and competing precedents, and counter-precedents. Lawyers, barristers and judges love to argue and debate all this, and get rich doing so.

The language of legislated laws is baffling not only to the layman, whose ignorance of the law and its meaning is deemed no excuse, but baffling to the legal profession itself. This cosy club in their funny gowns and silly wigs love their rituals, their monopoly, the mystique they seek to create; to an uninitiated outsider it must look like some strange tribal witchcraft.

And while all this is going on we wonder why there is diminishing respect for “The Rule of Law”. Could it be any other way? With such a mess of laws, many of which are about governments’ (read men’s) desire to impose their views on society or a knee jerk reaction to some unpopular events or a ploy to get (re)elected. Many of our laws are not about the protection of person and property — governments’ prime, and some would say only, job, but about imposing a narrow — or even a broadly supported — morality or code of behaviour on its citizens.

“If their ain’t know victim, their ain’t no crime” someone said. Yet we have volumes of laws outlawing victimless behaviour that by government edict becomes a “crime”. Prohibition of alcohol in the USA was an example of a silly law, as are our current anti-drug laws. They are unenforceable, create worse crimes and ultimately will, like prohibition, be deemed to have failed and be abandoned.

Natural Law and Common Law — the laws that people accept as being natural to our human species (Natural Law), and the laws that grow up and evolve and change in our societies as being acceptable behaviour (Common Law) are respected and, more often not, obeyed.

When we have fewer and better laws (meaning laws only to protect property rights), respect for “the law” will increase. Until then we can expect a growing and dangerous disrespect. Australians have a healthy disrespect for their politicians. It would be shame if an unhealthy disrespect became the case for “the rule of law”.

(in order of appearance on
  1. Welcome from Neville Kennard
  2. Think Tanks Don't Work
  3. "Market Failure": Just what the government ordered!
  4. The Tragedy of the Tax Pool Commons
  5. Corporate Welfare
  6. Citizenship for Sale?
  7. I Don't Vote
  8. Voting: Right or Privilege?
  9. Stockholm Syndrome and our Love-Hate Relationship with Government
  10. Civil Disobedience: The Rules of Engagement
  11. Should Respect for Law Extend to Bad Laws?
  12. Jaywalking as a Demonstration of Individuality
  13. Government Likes War
  14. Collusion is Our Right
  15. Why Not the Drug Olympics?
  16. Unconventional Wisdom
  17. Tiger Farming: An Alternative to Extinction
  18. Looking Backwards: Mont Pelerin Society Conference, Sydney, 2010
  19. Tax Avoidance is a Patriotic Duty
  20. Kennard Writes to IPA Review Editor
  21. Genocide by Welfare: A Tragedy from the Aboriginal Welfare Industry
  22. Separating Sport and State
  23. Your Home is Not an Investment
  24. Dick Smith, Celebrity Philanthropist
  25. A Libertarian's New Year's Resolution
  26. Extend Politicians' Holidays to Create Prosperity
  27. Entrepreneurs are Disruptive, and Bureaucrats Hate It
  28. What is a good Australian?
  29. Governments Like Employment But Hate Employers
  30. The Market Failure Industry
  31. Neville Kennard: The Tax Avoidance Imperative
  32. Wot if ...?
  33. The Tribal Chief and the Witch Doctor
  34. The Tannehills
  35. Democracy versus Property Rights and Prosperity
  36. Government Doesn't Work, and That's the Way They Like It
  37. Minarchy vs Anarchy
  38. Euthanasia and Self-Ownership
  39. The Right Policies to Fix a Depression
  40. Is Howard Our Best PM?
  41. Tax Producers vs Tax Consumers
  42. Where There's a Queue, There's a Business Opportunity
  43. Authoritarian Freedom
  44. Why Classical Liberals Should Debate Anarchocapitalists
  45. The Tyranny of the Majority
  46. If you could choose to whom you paid your tax
  47. Business Should Exploit Boat People
  48. The Immorality of Trade Unions
  49. "America" vs "The United States"
  50. Sweet Anarchy
  51. The Illusion of "Job Creation"
  52. Gold Is Money
  53. Guilty Capitalists
  54. Bureauphobia
  55. Prosperity vs Growth
  56. Capitalism vs Democracy
  57. More people = More fun
  58. Self-Ownership - the very idea!
  59. Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away
  60. The Australian Dollar Has Been Cowardly and Criminally Devalued, Harming the Poor Particularly
  61. Is Taxation Theft and Government a Tax Cheat?
  62. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  63. Government Needs Bad Guys –
    that's why they like wars
  64. What Is Obscene?
  65. Traffic Economics
  66. Wayne Swan stands on the shoulders of other intellectual pygmies
  67. Neville Kennard Obituary
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