The Origin of Law
by Gregory Allan
It's long past time we explore the meaning of the word "law."
I can't say I know how this knowledge will effect your day-to-day life. I know it has effected mine, but listing the ways would be tough. I only know it's important to me. I hope it is also interesting to you.
I've always been a rebellious sort. It used to get me into trouble a lot. Still does sometimes, though not as often now that I've gotten a little smarter. Wisdom comes with age, or it's supposed to. By the time we know enough to be useful, we're ready to turn in our spurs.
I was born in the sixties, and lived my teenage years through the seventies. It was a time of rebellion. Of resistance to authority. I wasn't the only one. Everybody I knew was that way. We didn't have a particular target in mind; we rebelled against everything.
Most of the children of the seventies eventually grew up. They got "real" jobs, and real families, and surrendered to the establishment. Whether they made money or went broke; raised their children themselves or paid to support their broken homes, they gave up their crazy rebellion.
Not me. I held on so long, I actually figured out the source of my craziness. I didn't have a problem with legitimate authority, only illegitimate authority. I'm not opposed to law. I'm opposed to illegal acts done in the name of the law.
Until a few years ago, I used to speak every month to a group of a hundred or so people. All these people were interested in law reform. There were a handful of us who would pick a topic and study it. Then we'd talk about what we'd learned.
One day while I was preparing a presentation, I looked up the word "law" in Black's Law Dictionary. The definition takes up a little more than one full page. But there was one paragraph which stood out for me:
"Law. [... 6th Edition, 4th paragraph:] In old English jurisprudence, "law" is used to signify an oath, or the privilege of being sworn; as in the phrases "to wage one's law," "to lose one's law."
It took awhile to sink in, but this definition caused an epiphany in me. I've never looked at the law, government, or the legal system in the same way. And it brings me to the main point of today's lesson, which is this:
All law is voluntary, and most laws don't apply to most people.
I know, that sounds stupid. Doesn't it? After all, we live in the United States of America, and this country has a long history of laws going back for more than two centuries. Not to mention that those laws are mostly based on English jurisprudence, going back much further.
This is just a bunch of that "Patriot crap," isn't it? Maybe. But I don't think so.
Does that mean we can just go around, willy nilly, ignoring every law on the books? Of course not. We wouldn't even want to. Society has developed a lot of those laws for our mutual protection. Some of them are important. So how do we know which ones to follow, and which to ignore?
What Law is Not
Before we explore further into what law is, let's clear up what it is not. There are lots of definitions, and we need to be speaking the same language. Blackstone's Commentaries has this to say:
"Meaning of law.-- Law, in its most general and comprehensive sense, signifies a rule of action; whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational. Thus we say, the laws of motion, of gravitation, of optics, or mechanics, as well as the laws of nature and of nations. And it is that rule of action, which is prescribed by some superior, and which the inferior is bound to obey." (Jones' Blackstone, Bancroft-Whitney Co., 1915)
Laws of nature have long been lumped in with laws of man, and termed collectively "The Law." I believe this is done to intentionally confuse the masses. A deep-seated subconscious belief is created in a man's mind, that the whole body of man's law is as unbending and absolute as the law of gravity. As surely as the sun rises and sets every day, all of a king's subjects must follow the king's laws.
Violating one of the king's laws is therefore subconsciously compared with the planets suddenly spinning out of alignment. The universe must be put back into balance!
It is this confusion we must erase, before we can understand the nature of law. We must separate in our minds the "facts" of nature, which are absolute, from laws made by man. Otherwise we'll never understand the truth about law.
Look at the second part of Blackstone's definition. It presupposes the existence of a "superior" who has the authority to tell people what to do, and what not to do. Where did such a superior get his authority?
Sir William Blackstone was a British subject, so he recognized the British Crown as his superior. What about Americans? Who are our superiors?
The American Declaration of Independence declares:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . ."
I didn't see any part in there about an earthly superior.
The Origin of Law
Who made the first law, and why?
No one can say for sure. The Bible says the first laws were established between God and Adam. That may be true, or not. I wasn't there, so I can't say. I have my beliefs, and you have yours. If earlier laws were made, it must have been done long before Man developed a written language. In which case the event is lost beyond memory.
So let's examine God and Adam for a moment. The earliest law we know of was when God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Most people think this was a command that God laid down. They assume a sovereign authority of God over his creation.
I see this as a reasonable assumption. The creator has authority over the creation, as the owner has control over his property. But if you leave off here, I believe you'll miss the point of Man's covenants with God.
God seems to want us to understand the proper order of things. So, if you examine the Scriptures with this idea in mind, you'll discover that God treats us pretty much as equals. He acknowledges our sovereignty. He does this by granting us free agency.
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)The verse says "God Commanded," but really He made a deal with Adam. He had created Adam, and given him eternal life. Then He told Adam, you may keep your eternal life, so long as you never eat from the forbidden tree. Adam agreed. This is the essence of a contract. When Adam breached the contract, God was generous. He could have killed Adam right way, but He didn't. Instead, He again acknowledged Man's free agency:
"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." (Genesis 3:22)
He decided to make Adam a different deal. Instead of killing Adam immediately He basically said, "I will spare your life, for a time, if you will go forth and multiply."
Again, a contract. In every instance throughout the Scriptures, you will see the same pattern. God never dictates commands. Instead He says, "If you will obey My Laws, you will have My blessings." That's why it's called a covenant. Covenants are contracts.
Maybe you reject the Biblical version. For the sake of argument, let's look at the "desert island" analogy.
If one man is alone on a desert island, he has no use for any law. He can do as he pleases, without complaint from any soul. He is subject only to the "facts" of nature. If he doesn't eat, drink, sleep, and have sufficient shelter from the elements, he will die prematurely. This goes to the "facts" of nature already discussed. Everything else is entirely up to him.
He can live his entire life without law, and without problems. But as soon as a second man appears on the island, they've both got problems. They will inevitably have arguments. One may be dominant; another submissive. Or they may get along wonderfully, as equals (yeah, right). But if they do, it will be because of mutual agreements.
Whatever the case, in the end they will either agree on rules of behavior, or else one will kill or dominate the other. That is the fundamental truth of Mans' existence. There are only two ways for men to avoid and/or settle disputes: violence, and contract.
So, the two men agree to rules of behavior. This works out fine, as long as both men follow the rules, and as long as no one else arrives on the island.
Sooner or later, one of the men violates his agreement. When this happens, the violator can voluntarily make restitution. Maybe even accept a punishment. Or the victim can voluntarily look the other way. Either of these is an example of contract. The only other alternative is war.
The situation is further complicated when other people start arriving on the island. Women show up too. That means children on the island, who grow up into adults. Since each new adult has his own free agency, he/she can contract, or not contract.
Some may agree to follow the same rules agreed to by the first two men. Some will make their own alliances, and their own contracts. Others may refuse to agree with anyone.
After awhile a few of the stronger men decide it's easier to steal than work. Weaker men with something to lose band together for strength. More contracts.
Some of the more industrious build a common wall around their homes and call it a city. The decide that all denizens of the city (citizens) have to agree to certain rules if they want the protection of the wall. Those who refuse either leave, or are killed. Those who stay, agree to the contract.
Cities promise other cities they will send men to aid in time of attack. Men who promised to fight to defend their own city are now compelled to defend other cities, and people they don't even know. Compelled by what? Contract.
Alliances form and dissolve. Countries are born. "Born," as though they are living creatures. We always say, "France did this," or "England did that." But countries are not living beings. They are groups of people who share many common contracts.
The United States of America has a Constitution which few of its own people who are alive today have ever read. Even the members of its Congress, who we can presume have read the Constitution, don't follow it. Each time they vote to pass a "law," it is supposedly done with the authority of the Constitution. But no matter how carefully one might read the Constitution, they won't find any section empowering Congress to pass those so-called laws.
I have searched the Constitution, and I can't find a single line in the whole document that tells the people living in America what they can or cannot do. The document is nothing more, or less, than an instruction manual for government. It presumes to grant certain powers to the people who work in government capacities. Mostly it limits what they can do, and what they can't. But it doesn't say a thing about you, or me, or anyone else living in the country.
I have asked literally thousands of people this question: "Did you, or anyone you know, actually sign the Constitution? How about the Federal Statutes? State Statutes?" Without exception, everyone answers "No."
"Did your parents, or event their grandparents sign any of those things?" Again, "No."
And here's the kicker: Even if your parents had signed a contract, agreeing to all the "laws," would they have had the authority to obligate you, once you became an adult? The answer is "No, not if each adult has free agency."
"Well then," you ask, "how can any laws apply to me?" And the answer is, "They don't, unless you agree to them." It's all voluntary, right up to the point where you enter into some kind of contract.
The contract can be written, such as an application for driver's license. Or it can be as easy as accepting a "free" handout. Nothing in this world is free. Any time a benefit is given, you can be sure there is an obligation attached somehow.
Many of the things people do, day in and day out, obligate them to contracts without them realizing it.
For example, people register a birth-certificate for their children; get them a Social Security Number, and send them off to "free" government schools. Then they cry out in anguish if the government takes their children away for the slightest infraction. They cry, "These are my children; they're not property of the State!" But they are wrong. Their children became property of the State when the parents put them in the State's care.
Governments resort to this kind of trickery out of necessity. Remember, laws are voluntary. Without law, the only means of compulsion is violence. Governments are good at violence, by their very nature. But government agents are always outnumbered. So they bluff.
They tell us we are subject to laws, and we believe them. They lay benefits at our feet, and the moment we pick them up, we become subject to their quasi-contracts. They tell us we must apply for a license to do something we have the right to do without the license. But once we obtain the license, we are obligated to the rules of the contract. Here's a real-life example:
My father was a land developer most of his life. He started a large development in Michigan, in the 1970s. He didn't have much cash, and he was using all the leverage he could. At the time, even by commonly accepted "laws," he wasn't required to have a real estate broker's license, because his company owned the land.
There are many of us today who are being bled dry by unjust "laws." Does anything I've said here help bring some relief? You be the judge.
I don't think, at least at this time, we can escape the law buzzards completely. But we should be conscious of what contracts we enter into. Try to limit their number and scope, as much as possible. Realize that the biggest impediment to our success and freedom in this world, is the wall we build around our own minds.
Later we'll explore other terms. Escheat, adhesion, and authority come to mind. Until next time...
(Isaiah 33:22) For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.
Copyright 1996, 2014, by Gregory Allan; All rights reserved.