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Set of rules and guidelines intended to influence social behavior

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Notable Topics


America's Overprotective Sexual Harassment Law, by Joan Kennedy Taylor, Investor's Business Daily, 6 Apr 2000
Discusses how sexual harassment legislation in workplaces is not an appropriate solution and suggest of dealing with the actual problems
Current sexual harassment law — that is, the extension of anti-discrimination law to stifle and punish sexual speech in the workplace — is creating the very hostility between the sexes that it purports to correct ... The protective labor legislation in effect from 1908 until the 1970s mandated special conditions for women ... Once more, an attempt to protect women at work is doing them harm. Like the earlier labor legislation, sexual harassment protection assumes that women are too delicate to flourish in the workplace without government aid.
Related Topics: Society, Freedom of Speech
Annotated Bibliography of Frédéric Bastiat, by Sheldon Richman, Jul 2000
Opens with a biography, then discusses Bastiat's major works and concludes with a current perspective; includes short list of works about Bastiat and links to other sites
Philosophers have conceived law as resulting from a social contract with a paternalistic sovereign (Thomas Hobbes), as designed to effect the greatest happiness for the greatest number (Jeremy Bentham and the utilitarians), or as an arbitrary convention defining right and wrong (the legal positivists). In contrast, Bastiat is squarely in the natural law camp ... He locates the source of law in human nature ... Thus law that conflicts with liberty and property is not proper law, but legalized plunder, a constant temptation since men wish to achieve their objectives with the least exertion.
Barristers and Barriers: Sir Edward Coke and the Regulation of Trade [PDF], by Gary M. Anderson, Robert D. Tollison, Cato Journal, 1993
Examines Coke's impact on the regulation of the legal profession and argues that while he opposed royal grants of monopoly privileges, his efforts tended to enhance monopoly advantages of common law barristers
In early modern England, judicial services were provided in a competitive market, in which a variety of different courts and court systems, operating according to different sets of legal principles and precedents, adjudicated disputes. ... Beginning in the late 16th century, the court system based on the English common law had begun to achieve clear dominance in the market for judicial services by erecting various legal entry barriers which hampered the ability of other court systems to successfully compete. The three common law courts ... colluded together, and generated substantial rents for the privileged barristers.
Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832), by T. Patrick Burke, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
[Bentham] ... aimed to occupy the same role with respect to society and law that Newton had to physics, by reducing the multiplicity of phenomena ... through the discovery of a single ... principle of utility. The fundamental concepts of the law, he maintained, must be concrete and observable by the senses, not abstract, and they are two: pleasure and pain. The ground of the law is physical sensibility; everything men do is motivated by the desire to avoid pain or obtain pleasure, which are just two sides of the same coin ... An action or policy is rational to the extent that it possesses utility, that is, contributes to human happiness.
The Bill of Rights: The Rights of the Accused, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Feb 2005
Discusses the various clauses of the Sixth Amendment, with the rationales behind them and citing relevant court decisions
The Supreme Court explained in Powell v. Alabama (1932), "The right to be heard would be, in many cases, of little avail if it did not comprehend the right to be heard by counsel. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crime, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Left without the aid of counsel he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible ..."
The Bill of Rights: The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Aug 2004
Discusses the fallacies in gun-control arguments, comparing possible gun prohibition to the war on drugs, highlighting the behavior of U.S. officials in occupied Iraq and concluding with several quotes by Founding Fathers and Framers
[G]un-control laws would be effective in disarming peaceful and law-abiding people but would be ineffective in disarming people who have no reservations about breaking laws against murder, burglary, rape, and robbery. In other words, if a person intends to murder or rape another person, what are the chances that he's going to say to himself, "I can't commit this murder or rape with a gun because that would be against the law"? No chance! ... [I]f a person has no respect for a law against murder or rape, he's not going to have any respect for a law prohibiting him from possessing a gun.
Coke, Edward (1552-1634), by Stephen M. Sheppard, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
No one single conception of law is articulated in Coke's books, speeches, and writings. Yet his ideas about the law are consistent over his long career, and they may be summarized as taking the form of four principles: as a measure of human conduct applied by professionals, as a set of rules common to all, as a limitation on officials, and as a source of rights. ... Coke described the law as 'artificial reason' arising from the study and practice of the law's precedents and customs. He saw this study as taking 'new corn from old fields,' relying on long-established principles of reason and right to govern new forms of conduct.
Related Topics: Edward Coke, Rights
Complex Societies Need Simple Laws, by John Stossel, 15 Mar 2012
Reflects on the "uncountable" number of laws and regulations in the United States as well as Britain, and elicits the views of Lǎozǐ, Hayek, Buchanan and Mises in favor of ending "the orgy of rule-making"
"If you have 10,000 regulations," Winston Churchill said, "you destroy all respect for law." He was right. But Churchill never imagined a government that would add 10,000 year after year ... We have 160,000 pages of rules from the feds alone. States and localities have probably doubled that. We have so many rules that legal specialists can't keep up. Criminal lawyers call the rules "incomprehensible." They are. They are also "uncountable." Congress has created so many criminal offenses that the American Bar Association says it would be futile to even attempt to estimate the total.
The Courts and the New Deal, Part 1, by William L. Anderson, Freedom Daily, Jun 2005
First part of a four-part series examining how Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal affected federal courts and other legal practices; contrasts the thoughts of Blackstone and Bentham
The federal courts did not grow on their own ... the Leviathan we see today has come about because groups of intellectuals and lawyers actively sought to change the very meaning of law in the United States. It was and is a sorry episode of U.S. history, one of many such affairs that have turned the nation's legal system from a marvel to a slough of treachery, deceit, and unpredictability. The system of justice that once protected the innocent and held contracts and private property to be near-sacred entities, has become a mechanism through which lawyers legally loot businesses and rogue prosecutors regularly charge, convict, and imprison the innocent.
Crime and Punishment in a Free Society, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 6 Dec 2013
Describes how customary law and the principle of restitution were corrupted by English kings into a system of government laws and punishment of crimes (originally, violations of the "king's peace")
Thus the criminal justice system as we know it is a product of state arrogation and a repudiation of individualism. This perverse approach to law was inherited by the representative democracies ... in England and then America ... a system of justice aimed at restitution makes eminently good sense. Someone is wronged, so the perpetrator should, to the extent possible, make things right. (In the case of murder, the victim's heirs would have a monetary claim against the killer; in the case of an heirless victim, the claim could be homesteaded by anyone who puts the effort into identifying and prosecuting the killer.)
Related Topic: England
Democracy Versus Freedom, by Jarret B. Wollstein, Freedom Daily, Jan 2006
Compares the definitions of democracy, collectivism and individualism, explaining why democracy and regular elections do not guarantee freedom, substantive rights nor peace, and that democracy is not a precondition for individual liberty
[F]or centuries much of the world had law and order without legislatures or elected rulers. Instead they had what might be called "free-market justice" provided by traveling judges adjudicating disputes, with decisions enforced by local communities and sheriffs. This nonelectoral legal system (explained in the book, The Enterprise of Law, by Bruce L. Benson) created what is today known as "the common law"—thousands of collected decisions that provide the basis for law in America, Europe, and much of the free world.
Elizabeth de la Vega, Bringing Bush to Court, by Elizabeth de la Vega, Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, 27 Nov 2006
Foreword by Engelhardt, followed by excerpt from the introduction of de la Vega's United States v. George W. Bush et al, where she compares the Enron scandal to Bush's words and actions in bringing about the invasion of Iraq
... modern-day spin has vanquished substance so thoroughly that even the most well-grounded charge of deliberate deception is often considered more despicable than the deception itself. One forum where that's not true is the courtroom. The court system is far from perfect, but there we at least expect that people will not substitute personal attacks for argument. We expect a reasoned exploration of fact versus fiction, honest mistake versus deliberate fraud. We also expect, and the law requires, that people hear all the evidence before deciding, thereby avoiding the rapid volley of sound bites that so regularly masquerades for debate on television.
Emergencies: The Breeding Ground of Tyranny, by William L. Anderson, Freedom Daily, Nov 2006
Examines the long history of "emergency powers" claimed by U.S. Presidents, including recent examples such as sanctions stemming from the International Economic Powers Act and the so-called War on Terror
While many commentators have openly questioned the legality of Bush's actions, there are deeper questions to be asked than simply "Is this legal?" Indeed, as federal and state laws become more expansive and historical liberties are routinely crushed, perhaps it is time to look at the laws themselves, as opposed to seeing only whether President Bush's actions are legal. Even if one is keeping to the letter (and even the spirit) of a law that violates individual rights, the larger and more pertinent question is not "Is it legal?" but rather "Why does this law exist anyway?"
E.R.A.: A Red Herring at Best, by Charles Curley, 1981
A rebuttal to an Association of Libertarian Feminists discussion paper in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment
Time and time again the history of man shows us that you cannot legislate what people think or how they think. Sexism can be ended. It will not be ended by passing another law, but by teaching, by example, by one-to-one discussion, argument and conversion. ... Working to pass a law does nothing to further the goal of changing people's attitudes.
Related Topic: Rights
The Essence of Government, by Doug Casey, 26 Oct 2001
Examines the questions "What is the essence of government?" and "Are governments necessary?", comparing mobs, organized groups and governments
Apart from common law concepts, legality is arbitrary. Once you leave the ken of common law, the only distinction between the "laws" of governments and the ad hoc proceedings of an informal assemblage such as a mob, or of a more formal group like the KKK, boils down to the force the group can muster to impose its will on others. The laws of Nazi Germany and the USSR are now widely recognized as criminal fantasies that gained reality on a grand scale. But at the time those regimes had power, they were treated with the respect granted to any legal system.
Related Topics: Government, Middle East, Politics
Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jun 1997
Biographical essay of Frédéric Bastiat, covering those who influenced him as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
Bastiat went on to attack what he called "legal plunder"—laws which exploit some people to benefit politically connected interests. He described how such laws tend to politicize private life: "It is in the nature of men to react against the inequity of which they are the victims. When, therefore, plunder is organized by the law for the profit of the classes who make it, all the plundered classes seek, by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter into the making of the laws." ... In The Law, Bastiat celebrated "... the restriction of the law to its sole rational function ..."
From Spencer's 1884 to Orwell's 1984, by Henry Hazlitt, Man vs. The Welfare State, 1969
Chapter 23 of Man vs. The Welfare State; extensive review of Spencer's The Man versus the State comparing the 1880s to the contemporary (late 1960s) social and political environment
It is entirely true, as Locke pointed out, that "the end of the law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom." But the only short formula we can use to describe the function of the law would be that it should maximize liberty, order, and happiness by minimizing constraint, violence, and harm. The detailed application of any such simple formula presents many difficulties and problems ... [T]he Common Law, developed from ancient custom and a hundred thousand decisions of judges, has been solving these problems through the ages ...
Hard Cases Make Bad Law, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 23 Mar 2005
Discusses the attempt by members of the U.S. Congress to have U.S. federal courts intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, already decided by a Florida district court
Heck, for argument's sake, let's just assume that this is most suspicious, corrupt, morally reprehensible judgment in history or that laws that permit oral "living wills" should be repealed. There's just one problem with all that. We are not the trier of fact or the judge whose job is to interpret the laws, not change or repeal them. Under our system of government, the judge (or the jury) determines the facts of a case. He listens to the evidence, watches the demeanor of the witnesses, weighs the evidence, and renders his verdict. He then enters a judgment based on those findings of fact and on the law.
Henry David Thoreau and "Civil Disobedience," Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Mar 2005
After some background and biographical material, describes the event (Thoreau's imprisonment) that led to writing "Civil Disobedience" and Thoreau's reaction to those who paid the tax on his behalf, his jailers, his neighbors and Ralph Waldo Emerson
[Thoreau] exclaimed in "Civil Disobedience,"
Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.
... He now returned ... to mull over two questions: (1) Why do some men obey laws without asking if the laws are just or unjust; and, (2) why do others obey laws they think are wrong?
Henry David Thoreau and "Civil Disobedience," Part 3, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, May 2005
Further examination of themes in "Civil Disobedience", including unjust laws, politicians and reformers, voting, when to resist the state and the influence on Gandhi
Thoreau's criticism is aimed at the form of obedience that springs from a genuine respect for the authority of the state. This obedience says, "The law is the law and should be respected regardless of content." Through such attitudes, otherwise good men become agents of injustice. Thoreau dissects the notion that "the law is the law and should be respected." ... Some laws exist for no other reason than to protect the government—for example, laws against tax evasion or contempt of court. Such laws often have more severe penalties than those that protect individuals against violence.
An Independent Judiciary, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Lengthy biographical essay of Edward Coke; first chapter of section 9, "Protecting Liberty"
Coke had a gift for expressing common law principles in unforgettable ways. "The common law," he wrote, "is the best and most common birth-right that the subject hath for the safeguard and defense, not merely of his goods, lands and revenues, but of his wife and children, his body, fame and life.... No man ecclesiastical or temporal shall be examined upon secret thoughts of his heart.... The house of an Englishman is to him as his castle." ... Common law ... included Saxon legal customs, standard commercial practices for resolving disputes, parliamentary statutes, judicial decisions and some royal decrees.
Is Edward Snowden a Lawbreaker?, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 28 Jun 2013
Considers, in the light of the writings of Lysander Spooner in his "A Letter to Grover Cleveland", whether Edward Snowden "broke the law" by his disclosures of NSA telephone and internet data collection
In his 1886 "A Letter to Grover Cleveland," Spooner elaborated on what natural law is: "Let me then remind you that justice ... does not derive its authority from the commands, will, pleasure, or discretion of any possible combination of men, whether calling themselves a government, or by any other name ..." ... the obligations of natural law ... preexist and are not the result of anything that legislators say ... Statutes forbidding murder, rape, torture, and theft, then, are redundant, adding nothing to our natural obligations as human beings. But legislation consistent with justice is the exception, not the rule.
Law as 'Reason' or as 'Violence'?, by Butler Shaffer, 17 Nov 2001
Compares modern "law" to ancient "law merchant" and describes various rationalizations used to justify the violence in the modern system, highlighting the USA PATRIOT Act and similar legislation
The idea that modern 'law' substitutes reason for violence as a means of resolving disputes is but another of these propositions that camouflages its own contradictions. ... There have been times in which 'law' was, indeed, a means for peacefully resolving disputes. The ancient system known as the 'law merchant,' for example, developed among men of commerce as a way of settling quarrels in the marketplace. ... The pressures of the marketplace – such as the ostracism of those merchants who would not abide by a judge's decision – provided the most effective means of enforcement.
Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution [PDF], by Murray N. Rothbard, Cato Journal, 1982
Examines the principles of tort law, how to determine what is just property and how to deal with invasions of property such as air pollution
Law is a set of commands; the principles of tort or criminal law ... are negative commands or prohibitions, on the order of "thou shalt not" do actions X, Y, or Z. In short, certain actions are considered wrong to such a degree that it is considered appropriate to use the sanctions of violence (since law is the social embodiment of violence) to combat, defend against, and punish the transgressors ... The law says that action X should be illegal, and therefore should be combated by the violence of the law. The law is a set of "ought" or normative propositions.
Liberalism, by F. A. Hayek, New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas, 1978
Chapter 9; originally written in 1973 for the Enciclopedia del Novicento; covers both the history of both strands of liberalism as well as a systematic description of the "classical" or "evolutionary" type
Rome, ... gave at least to the European continent a highly individualist private law, centring on a very strict conception of private property, a law, moreover, with which, until the codification under Justinian, legislation had very little interfered and which was in consequence regarded more as a restriction on, rather than as an exercise of, the powers of government ... [T]he belief in a law which existed apart from and above government, ... in England existed as the Common Law which was not the product of a legislator but had emerged from a persistent search for impersonal justice.
Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections, by Roderick T. Long, 6 Aug 2004
Transcript of informal talk given at the 2004 Mises University. First makes the case for anarchism and then responds to objections others have raised against it
Hobbes is assuming ... that there can't be any law unless it's enforced by physical force ... But ... you can have a legal framework that isn't backed up by force. An example would be the Law Merchant in the late Middle Ages: a system of commercial law that was backed up by threats of boycott. Boycott isn't an act of force. But still, you've got merchants making all these contracts, and if you don't abide by the contract, then the court just publicizes to everyone: "this person didn't abide by the contract; take that into account if you're going to make another contract with them."
The life and times of F.A. Hayek, who explained why political liberty is impossible without economic liberty, by Jim Powell, 2000
Lengthy biographical essay, with extensive quotes; alternate version of "The Worst on Top" chapter of The Triumph of Liberty (2000)
Hayek went on to summarize a legal framework for liberty. First, laws should be rules rather than commands dictating specifically what people must do ... "The rationale for securing to each individual a known range within which he can decide on his actions is to enable him to make the fullest use of his knowledge," Hayek noted. Moreover, laws should be general, applying to government as well as the people. This won't prevent all bad laws from being passed, but if lawmakers know that laws apply with full force to them, they'll be less prone to mischief.
Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) and Foreign Policy, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 8 May 2000
Begins wih biographical summary and then delves into Spooner's views on slavery, the U.S. Constitution and the War Between the States
Spooner read law in the 1830s under the old apprentice system in which an aspiring lawyer worked for established jurists while learning the law. It has been argued that the old way produced better lawyers than the modern system of formal law schools overseen by organized lawyers' cartels in each state. As it was, Spooner had to wage a campaign against a state law which anticipated the "professionalization" of law by requiring three additional years' study. He won but betook himself to Ohio to practice law.
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 3: Lies and Appearances, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 19 Aug 2005
Continues examination of Machiavelli's teachings and comparison to recent U.S. presidential promises and actions
Without truth-telling, how can there be a law-abiding society? Are citizens expected to faithfully obey laws or ignore them? Good laws are a kind of standard against which we measure behavior. Surely citizens will be able to measure their leaders by the laws they promulgate and the degree to which they abide by them. But if lies are the common currency of politicians, how can laws not expose to public view the empty chasm beneath these leaders' feet? We must conclude, then, that Machiavelli's advice ... virtually guarantees that the 'combat' of laws ... must give way to the 'combat' of force ...
Morals and the Welfare State, by F. A. Harper, 1951
Examines five moral principles by which the idea of the Welfare State (described in more detail in an appendix) can be judged; extension of talk given 13 June 1951; later published as "Morals and Liberty" (see The Freeman, Sep 1971)
The so-called Law of Gravity is one expression of Natural Law ... If it had not existed prior to the discovery—even though we were ignorant of it—it could not have been ... discovered. That is the meaning of the concept of Natural Law. This view—there exists a Natural Law which rules over the affairs of human conduct—will be challenged by some who point out that man possesses the capacity for choice ... But this trait ... does not release him from the rule of cause and effect, which he can neither veto nor alter ... [H]e is thereby enabled, by his own choice, to act either wisely or unwisely ...
Natural Law and Peace: A Biography of Hugo Grotius, by Jim Powell, 4 Jul 2000
Biographical essay; alternative version of chapter "Natural Law and Peace" in section 3, "Peace", of The Triumph of Liberty (2000)
Grotius championed a natural law philosophy which derived from the "higher law" doctrine of Marcus Tullius Cicero and other ancient Roman and Greek philosophers. They believed the legitimacy of government laws must be judged by standards of justice–natural law. Grotius defended natural law without appealing to the Bible or organized religion. He insisted it followed from the nature of things, and it was discovered by human reason. He wrote, "Now the Law of Nature is so unalterable, that it cannot be changed even by God himself ..."
Related Topics: Hugo Grotius, Netherlands, Rights, War
On the Origin and Character of Rights, by William Blackstone, The Freeman, Mar 1981
Selection extracted from Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765), Book I, Chapter I, "Of the absolute Rights of Individuals"
Hence we may collect [conclude] that the law, which restrains a man from doing mischief to his fellow citizens, though it diminishes the natural, increases the civil liberty of mankind; but that every wanton and causeless restraint ... is a degree of tyranny; nay, that even laws themselves ... made with or without our consent, if they regulate and constrain our conduct in matters of mere indifference, without any good end in view, are regulations destructive of liberty ... So that laws when prudently framed, are by no means subversive but rather introductive of liberty; for ... where there is no law there is no freedom.
Related Topics: Liberty, Rights
Popular Sovereignty: A Biography of Algernon Sidney, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Biographical essay
Sidney (Euonomius) affirmed the doctrine of a 'higher law' which had been championed by Cicero, ... He continued, 'The essence of the law consists solely in the justice of it: if it be not just, it is no law... The law that should be for our defense is a snare...what law soever is made prejudicial to those of that society, perverting justice, destroys the end for which it ought to be established, is therefore in the highest degree unjust and utterly invalid ...The most important temporal interests of all honest men are: to preserve life, liberty, and estate.'
Real Liberalism and the Law of Nature, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Aug 2007
Examines Thomas Hodgskin's introductory letter to Henry Brougham, a Member of Parliament (later Lord Chancellor), written in 1829, published in The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832)
Rapidly therefore as the gentlemen at Westminster work, making three or four hundred laws per year, repeating their tasks session after session—actively as they multiply restraints, or add patch after patch, they invariably find that the call for their labours is continually renewed. The more they botch and mend, the more numerous are the holes ... They regard [society] as a baby, whom they must ... foster into healthy existence; but while they are scheming how to breed and clothe their pretty foundling—lo! it has become a giant, whom they can only control as far as he consents to wear their fetters.
Reasoning on the Nature of Things, by Clarence B. Carson, The Freeman, Feb 1982
Discusses how natural law doctrines were repudiated by utilitarians, why natural rights are important from an economic viewpoint, how the rights to life, liberty and property can be construed and what the author understands as the "social contract"
The natural law philosophy was largely abandoned in the course of the nineteenth century ... It did attain to the rank of a philosophy of law in ancient Rome, was revived as part of a more comprehensive scheme of law by Thomas Aquinas, and undergirded the development of modern law from the Renaissance [forward] ... Those who view it simply as a legal theory, or even more broadly, as a theory of society and the state, understate its claims and impact ... The following are some of the natural law doctrines: state of nature, the laws of nations, social contract, and natural rights.
UpdRon Paul and the Empire, by Steven LaTulippe, 31 Jul 2007
Considers what steps the establishment could take to prevent Ron Paul from becoming President if he continued to be "a viable candidate" and to present a serious challenge
Maybe Rep. Paul ... drained a mud puddle when he built his new house ... and maybe that puddle could theoretically be classified as a "wetland?" Or, even better, maybe a close relative is in hot water with OSHA/FDA/IRS/you-name-it ... [His] sentence could be lessened, of course ... provided he agreed to drop his candidacy as part of a "plea bargain." Ayn Rand once stated that the hallmark of authoritarian systems is the creation of innumerable, indecipherable laws. Such systems make everyone an un-indicted felon and allow for the exercise of arbitrary government power via selective prosecution.
Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty: Still Worthy after All These Years, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 9 May 2014
Review of The Ethics of Liberty (1982) with emphasis on part 1, covering Rothbard's arguments for the validity of natural law
The first striking feature of Ethics is that the opening five chapters ... seek to establish the validity of natural law, an approach to moral inquiry based on the distinctive nature, faculties, and tendencies of the human being; this approach began with the ancient Greek philosophers and developed through ... thinkers, such as St. Thomas Aquinas and Hugo Grotius ... One can judge Rothbard's deep interest in this subject by his first four chapter titles: "Natural Law and Reason," "Natural Law as 'Science,'" "Natural Law versus Positive Law," and "Natural Law and Natural Rights."
The Servile State Revisited, by Joseph Sobran, The Wanderer, 5 Jun 2003
Ponders David Hume's observation as to the ease with which "the many are governed by the few" and positing that in modern society, "the habit of obedience" has been taken too far
In Christendom—now derisively called the Middle Ages—it was believed that everything had its natural limits, including law. A human or "positive" law could not be the mere whim or will of the ruler; it was expected to conform to natural law. Not that this principle was always honored, far from it; but it was acknowledged. The subject, even if he wasn't a full-fledged "citizen," was supposed to know whom he was obeying, and why. Today, as C.S. Lewis observed, law has become the unbounded will of the State, which is "incessantly engaged in legislation."
Related Topics: Democracy, Militarism, The State
Society Without A State, by Murray N. Rothbard, 28 Dec 1974
Paper delivered before the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, Washington, DC; published in The Libertarian Forum, Volume VII, No. 1, January 1975
There are other problems of the basic Law Code ... The basic point, however, is that the State is not needed to arrive at legal principles or their elaboration: indeed, much of the common law, the law merchant, admiralty law, and private law in general, grew up apart from the State, by judges not making the law but finding it on the basis of agreed-upon principles derived either from custom or reason. The idea that the State is needed to make law is as much a myth as that the State is needed to supply postal or police service.
Related Topics: Anarchism, The State, Taxation
The Soviet-Style Attack on NORFED, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 21 Nov 2007
Discusses the federal raid on the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Code (NORFED) and the differences between a criminal search warrant (used to justify the raid) and an injuction used in civil proceedings
Unlike the system that existed in the Soviet Union and that still exists in Communist China, the U.S. government is precluded by law from simply closing down businesses it doesn't like or that it is feels are violating the law. If the government wishes to have a business shut down, the law provides a remedy called an injunction, which is a formal order issued by a judge that requires a person or business to cease and desist from engaging in a certain operation ... What is significant about the hearing ... is that the respondent has the right to be present to defend his side of things.
Related Topics: Due Process of Law, Money
What Are Libertarians Out to Accomplish?, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 23 Jan 2015
Reviews the Nathaniel Branden speech "What Happens When the Libertarian Movement Begins to Succeed?", given at the 1979 Libertarian Party national convention, about the manner in which libertarians communicate with non-libertarians
Rossetto and Lehr even reached back to Spinoza ... to trace the roots of the libertarian philosophy:
All laws which can be violated without doing any one any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desires and passions of men that, on the contrary, they direct and incite men's thoughts the more toward those very objects, for we always strive toward what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have. And men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity needed to enable them to outwit laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden ...
What Is Golf?, by Sheldon Richman, Jul 2001
Analyzes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin that, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the PGA Tour must allow disabled golfers to ride a golf cart
The offending party is not the court but the U.S. Congress, which wrote the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the law applied in the Martin case ... Scalia dissented on the point of congressional intent. But who really knows what was in the minds of the congressmen who voted for the law ...? The Court of course has the power to strike down the ADA as unconstitutional. It should have done so long ago. But the PGA did not challenge the law per se, only its application in this case. The PGA argued that the law does not apply to pro golfers (who are subcontractors and entertainers) but only to customers and employees.
Related Topic: Golf
What the Immigration Bill Overlooks, by Sheldon Richman, 9 Jul 2013
Discusses the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (approved by the Senate, but not considered in the House) and how it disregards basic human rights
[A]n ancient and honorable principle holds that an unjust law is no law at all (lex iniusta non est lex). The idea is that no one should be compelled to do what is unjust or be prevented from doing what justice requires or allows—such as freely moving about. Conservatives and progressives alike are vexed that the 11 million U.S. residents without papers violated the law to get here. How dare they! But according to the ancient principle, what they violated was a not a law but a mere legislative decree, which conflicts with the natural law and hence is contrary to justice and freedom.
Related Topics: Free Market, Rights
Why Be An Economist? To Be Happy, That's Why, by Walter Block, Mises Daily, 21 Dec 2006
Block contrasts his recommendations to students interested in economics (getting a PhD. and becoming a professor or similar career) vs. advice from another professor (majoring in economics and finance with a view towards a finance career)
[Majoring in economics] is hardly the only way to promote liberty. There is, surely, also, the law ... However, legal practitioners cannot devote their entire professional careers to the promotion of liberty. If they want success ... they must concern themselves with wills, trusts, tax avoidance, criminal innocence, marriage, etc. These things do of course directly impinge on liberty, but they do not promote it in the sense of helping to promote a movement to this end. What about becoming a law professor? ... Unhappily, these fields are almost totally dominated by our friends on the Left.


The Experimental Economist: Nobel laureate Vernon Smith takes markets places they've never been before, by Vernon L. Smith, Nick Gillespie, Michael W. Lynch, Reason, 9 Oct 2002
Interview before the Nobel Prize announcement; topics discussed include law (discovered vs. formally made), experimental economics, electric power, demand-interrupt pricing, airport landing and takeoff slots, NASA missions, libertarianism and economics
Vernon Smith: ... The [fence] law [in Shasta County, California] makes it clear that you're liable for the damage your cattle does ... The reality is that people share fences. If you're a guy who gets known in the community as careless, as someone who doesn't keep your fences up ... your neighbors are much harder on you than if it's just a one-time-only mistake ... If you read ... F.A. Hayek, you know that the early lawgivers were not people who made law. They just wrote down the existing practices. This is what people are doing in Shasta County. It's "discovered law."

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Defining the Law ..., by Wiley Miller, Non Sequitur, 2 Jul 2012
People who hate us claim there isn't any difference ..., by Ted Rall, 5 Oct 2006


Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 1, by William Blackstone, 1769
Partial contents: Of the Absolute Rights of Individuals - Of the King's Revenue - Of People, Whether Aliens, Denizens or Natives - Of Master and Servant - Of Husband and Wife - Of Parent and Child - Of Guardian and Ward - Of Corporations
Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 2, by William Blackstone, 1769
Partial contents: Of Property in General - Of the Title to Things Real, in General - Of Title by Purchase, and First by Escheat - Of Title by Occupancy - Of Title by Forfeiture - Of Property in Things Personal - Of Title by Gift, Grant, and Contract
Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 3, by William Blackstone, 1769
Partial contents: Of the Redress of Private Wrongs by the Mere Act of Parties - Of Courts in General - Of the Cognizance of Private Wrongs - Of Injuries to Personal Property - Of Trespass - Of Process - Of Pleading - Of the Trial by Jury
Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, Vol. 4, by William Blackstone, 1769
Partial contents: Of the Nature of Crimes, And Their Punishment - Of Principals and Accessories - Of High Treason - Of Offences Against the Persons of Individuals - Of Offenses Against Private Property - Of Arrests - Of Commitment and Bail - Of Process
The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State
    by Bruce L. Benson, 1990
Contents: Introduction - From Voluntary to Authoritarian Law - A Public Choice Approach to Authoritarian Law - Reemergence of Private Alternatives - Rationalizing Authoritarian Law - From Authoritarian to Private Law
Law's Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters
    by David D. Friedman, 2000
Partial contents: What Does Economics Have to Do with Law? - Efficiency and All That - What's Wrong with the World - Defining and Enforcing Rights - Of Burning Houses and Exploding Coke Bottles - The Economics of Contract - Marriage, Sex, and Babies
Related Topic: Economics
The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat, Sheldon Richman (foreword), Walter E. Williams (introduction), Foundation for Economic Education, 1850
Translated by Dean Russell. Partial list of headings (added by translator): Life is a Gift from God - What is Law? - A Just and Enduring Government - The Complete Perversion of the Law - A Fatal Tendency of Mankind - Property and Plunder
Related Topic: The Law
Simple Rules for a Complex World
    by Richard Epstein, 1995
Partial contents: Introduction: Too Many Lawyers, Too Much Law - Cutting through Complexity - The Simple Rules - Autonomy and Property - Torts - The Rules in Action - Professional Liability for Financial Loss - Conclusion: The Challenges to Simple Rules

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Law" as of 25 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.