The Self Restraint of Principle or the Iron Fist of Regulation?


The biggest problem with government is the nature of government itself. It is impossible for Government to do anything except by regulation or legislation. This is both a description of the beast and a condemnation of its behavior.

Thus, if one looks to Government for help the result is predictably a new law or regulation on top of all that have come before. There is no logical end to this process but the consequences of it are comical. Violating your right to Life is no longer the worst thing someone can do to you. If you are murdered because you are hated, your “hate crime” murder is considered worse for you than being plain ol’ vanilla murdered. As has been noted regarding laws passed so politicians could be seen to be doing something, “Sad law is bad law!”

The alternative is Limited Government with self governance according to sound principle and morality as the order of the day. This is a hard argument to make, however, when so many, even on the political Right, see their first option as asking government for the answer.

This is not a theoretical exercise.

Here in Nashville, TN protesters “occupied” Legislative Plaza, a public site used by all for everything from protests to pictures, for about three weeks. Police were asked by protesters to address safety and property rights concerns due to thefts in the camp. Citizens voiced concerns over sanitation, property damage and morality. Eventually, the Governor issued a nightly curfew on the Plaza and police began arresting violators. Protesters dropped safety complaints; switched to 1st Amendment violations and all consideration of the valid concerns of non-occupiers vanished. The ACLU defended the interests of only some Tennesseans and gave occupiers a victory they used to bolster their numbers and resolve.

The problem is that the matter got that far before being easily resolved. I can’t find anyone who believes the curfew was a good idea. But government was being asked “do something” by both sides. What should it have done? It should have answered from principle and not added a new regulation!

It should have said, we respect the rights of all Tennesseans to speech and assembly and their reasonable expectation of services and equal protection under the law. Some asked for police to address thefts while others asked the state to protect and preserve a public Plaza it holds in their name. It should have noted the requests were for reasonable services provided to all Tennesseans at all times; not just those present at a specific place at a specific time. It should have sent police to address the expectation of public safety held by occupiers. It should also have informed occupiers they would be asked to briefly leave the Plaza on a regular basis for inspection and cleaning to serve the expectations of public sanitation and stewardship of property held in trust for all Tennesseans. Government would thus serve and respect the rights and reasonable expectations of all.

Had occupiers agreed, we could have begun a dialogue with reasonable people and an incremental return to being the self governed, moral people which the Constitution was intended to govern. If they disagreed, Government and Tennessee would then have the moral high ground to ask why they selfishly oppose recognizing the rights and interests of all Tennesseans. What we got was an increase of tensions and conflict and little expectation of a benefit to citizens. Not because there was no solution to the problem but because the government solution was to pummel a few citizens who were bent on being selfishly mindful of only themselves.

Living by principle requires wisdom and restraint from government. It must refrain from solving every problem with a new law and recognize that proper and respectful enforcement of laws already on the books will suffice in almost every case.  Citizens must respect themselves and others and practice self restraint and discipline as they exercise their rights as opposed to scoring political points or practicing political expedience.

I am trying to examine my life accordingly and personally bind myself and my activism to this approach. I could use some help, though. How does a people live by the gentle self imposed restraint of principle when so many demand the iron fist of government regulation and legislation? Comments are open … what do you think?

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Blue Collar Muse
Ken is an experienced 50-Something and has been married to The Much Younger Trophy Wife for 25+ years. They have 5 children, the oldest of which is currently serving tour #2 in Afghanistan. The rest share a home in Tennessee with their tyrannical dachshund, Rusty and an assortment of teens, friends, political crazy people and relatives ... His views are his own but he highly recommends they become your views ... No, really ...

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November 3, 2011 7:13 pm

The ones demanding the iron fist of regulation and legislation are the ones pushing the occupy movement. As you note, there are enough laws on the books to take care of it all. Equal enforcement is the key – that’s why the Tea Partiers in (Atlanta, Charlotte?) are suing to get the permit fees they paid to have a peaceful assembly returned to them, because the ‘Occupiers’ piad no such permit fees. Also, You say this Legislative Plaza is a public site. That means government property, even if it’s an open space. Government Buidings are closed to the public after… Read more »

November 4, 2011 12:16 pm

I recently learned that the average adult American breaks 3 felony laws or regulations with the force of felony law every single day. They don’t know they are breaking these laws, or even that the laws exist. Given that we are not all being locked up there is clearly selective enforcement of all these laws. And that is a problem. Because if you are already a lawbreaker, and there is no way to avoid breaking the law, that encourages intentional law breaking, under the passive-aggressive theory that “If I’m going to be judged guilty I might as well do the… Read more »

November 4, 2011 1:26 pm

These situations always make me think of Elric of Melnibone and Stormbringer. Michael Moorecock is a flaming leftist but in this series of novels and short stories his universe wasn’t centered on Good and Evil. He used Law and Chaos (absence of law). The heroes of these stories served “The Balance” between Law and Chaos, too much of either is a bad thing, carefully maintained levels of both creates the prime environment for mankind. We need to get back to our balance, too many laws lessens the force of all laws, as does capricious enforcement of the same.