People v. State

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Our current neglect of Law

July 17, 2011 By: John Kindley Category: Albert Jay Nock, Aldous Huxley, David Gross, Henry David Thoreau, Religion, Tony Serra

To me, the fundamental truths of anarchism have become blindingly self-evident: The politicians and lawyers who make, interpret and enforce “the laws” are, on average and as a class, less honorable, wise and just than are people in general. The State is designed, not to protect and serve, but to steal from the poor and give to the rich. The State has no moral authority. There is no law other than the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. The State is in its essence an usurper and an imposter. We are morally obligated to obey only those of its “laws” which happen to plagiarize the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, and are morally obligated to disobey those of its “laws” which violate the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

But as a practical matter what do we do with these truths? The people are not yet ripe for Revolution, and if the history of the American Revolution and of the United States is any indication mere regime change does not necessarily lead to an increase in liberty or justice. We can hope for and/or fear the outright collapse of the State, but there’s little we can do to either bring about or prevent such a cataclysm, and if it were to happen there’s a very good chance a new band of robbers as bad as the ones in power now would arise to form a new State. No, as Thoreau wrote, only “when men are prepared for it” will they have the kind of “government . . . which governs not at all,” and men are not now prepared for it and probably won’t be for some time.

So again, what do we do with these truths? It is something simply to communicate them to others, since they are not often heard, and thereby do our part to hasten the day when men will be “prepared.” Doing so is not without risk in these United States, and I for one have to be concerned that just by expressing these truths publicly I place my license to practice law in jeopardy. (Fortunately, while I’ll defend on principle my right to practice law if it comes to that, I’m largely indifferent to the prospect of losing my law license, and part of me feels like the powers that be would be doing me a favor by disbarring me.)

Beyond that, I can commend as practitioners and exemplars of practical and constructive anarchism people like David Gross and J. Tony Serra.

But most importantly, we who love liberty can’t allow our lives to be defined and consumed by our opposition to the State. Our lives are greater than that. I’m reminded that life is both fleeting and “charged with the grandeur of God.” The State, like Sin itself, has been poisoning the world long before I got here, and more than likely will go on poisoning it long after I’m gone. Yesterday I happened to be reading an “autobiographical sketch” written by my favorite political philosopher, Albert Jay Nock, shortly before his death in 1945, and noted these words in the penultimate paragraph:

My only failure in emotional self-control which so far has seemed unconquerable is brought about by my hearing a certain order of music or by reading prose or verse that is composed in the grand style. Not even as a child have I ever shed tears for grief or pain, but a suite of Bach or certain quartettes of Haydn will put them beyond my control. So also will choruses of Aeschylus and Sophocles, as passages from English prose writers such as Bishop Butler, William Law, the Cambridge Platonists.

Nock’s reference to William Law in particular reminded me that Law was featured prominently in Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy, a book which impressed me greatly when I read it a few years ago. Huxley wrote there of Law:

Granted that the ground of the individual soul is akin to, or identical with, the divine Ground of all existence, and granted that this divine Ground is an ineffable Godhead that manifests itself as personal God or even as the incarnate Logos, what is the ultimate nature of good and evil, and what the true purpose and last end of human life?

The answers to these questions will be given to a great extent in the words of that most surprising product of the English eighteenth century, William Law. (How very odd our educational system is! Students of English literature are forced to read the graceful journalism of Steele and Addison, are expected to know all about the minor novels of Defoe and the tiny elegances of Matthew Prior. But they can pass all their examinations summa cum laude without having so much as looked into the writings of a man who was not only a master of English prose, but also one of the most interesting thinkers of his period and one of the most endearingly saintly figures in the whole history of Anglicanism.) Our current neglect of Law is yet another of the many indications that twentieth-century educators have ceased to be concerned with questions of ultimate truth or meaning and (apart from mere vocational training) are interested solely in the dissemination of a rootless and irrelevant culture, and the fostering of the solemn foolery of scholarship for scholarship’s sake.

Huxley noted in his Bibliography of Recommended Books that “many of Law’s finest works, such as The Spirit of Love and The Spirit of Prayer, have not been reprinted in recent years and are hard to come by.” Thanks to the power of the internet, that is no longer the case:

The Spirit of Prayer

The Spirit of Love

3 Comments to “Our current neglect of Law”


  1. Yes, political leaders and lawyers and judges are of lower character than the general population. Especially judges. The seemingly obligatory vilification of criminals by the judge when they are sentenced is largely psychological projection.

    Yet like sin, government is with us always. The world we are in exists, meaning it moves and changes and goes in this direction or that. Perfection, where none of that occurs, is both intellectually mandatory and practically elusive. Life is where the struggle between the perfect and “what is” takes place.

    One rule, then, it to judge neither yourself nor others too harshly. This is not the same as having no standards at all; it’s just a concession to the human condition, and a recognition that to some degree we are all in the same boat.

    You might like Kierkegaard. Especially the Philosophical Fragments, the Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Either/Or. The Sickness Unto Death. Fear and Trembling.

    1
    • John Kindley says:

      Well said. I suppose it’s all too possible to judge others too harshly for judging others too harshly. One of the worst things about the seemingly dispassionate cruelty and favoritism that characterizes government is the passionate bitterness it engenders in those who behold its works.

      2
  2. Norm Pattis says:

    Great read.

    P.S. Screw the insiders; the view from without is always better

    3

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