The Rule of Law vs. The Law of Rules
Speaking of Florida, it was the weirdest trip Jane and I have ever been on. The panic and chaos were unbelievable right up until the time when the place we were at became a ghost town. Jane and I were actually confronted by (2) deputies, in body armor, and ordered off the beach we were walking upon.
I received that e-mail from my dear friend Tony Bauer from Minnesota, on April 5th. These were the early days of America’s encounter with the Pandemic that Ate a Planet, when Florida, like America as a whole, was just beginning the process of instituting its totalitarian lockdown. Exactly one month later, I see that Miami police have closed a recently reopened beach due to “8,000 violations of social distancing rules.”
One of the typical symptoms of the modern American conservative is an excessive, unquestioning, almost worshipful, respect for men in uniform, such as military men and police officers. The quickest way to get yourself shut down in any debate with such a person is to criticize police authority or police behavior, or — the ultimate sin — to question the purity of motives of the rank-and-file police officer or soldier.
Although they know very well that every tyranny in history was made possible only through the agency of a vast and compliant police and military apparatus, somehow these conservatives are just certain, in their heart of hearts, that no government could get away with any extreme overreach in America, because “the cops would never enforce those laws.”
And who are these incorruptible police officers and military men? They are, of course, citizens who grew up not as knights in shining armor, but as normal children from normal families. The vast majority of them, almost all of them, were educated in the same progressive collectivist public schools as everyone else. Their social influences and musical tastes and entertainment preferences were more or less the same as everyone else’s — which, in modern America, means they have been simmered all their lives in a slow-cooker of purposeless pleasure, unrestrained sexuality, and violence untethered from any moral premises of good and bad. And, of course, they have lived all their lives in a growing soft despotism, in which law enforcement increasingly means the corralling and intimidating of innocent people, in the name of maintaining compliance with the norms of nanny-statism.
Thus, when I hear American conservatives dreaming about how the police “will never enforce” this or that irrational government edict — confiscating guns is a favorite example — I have to shake my head. These supposed conservatives are sorely deficient in one of the defining traits of true conservatism: the realist’s clear-eyed acceptance of the imperfections of human nature.
If you accept the principle — a truism for modern conservatives (who are typically more like classical liberals) — that power corrupts, then you must be willing to apply that principle in every case, and not merely when it is convenient.
Today, I read that Miami has re-closed a popular beach that was recently re-opened, due to thousands of people “breaking the rules” regarding social distancing and face masks. In other words, the government decided to give people permission to go outside again, as long as they did as they were told. When many of them mistook that permission for freedom — the standard intellectual error of today’s delusional slaves, who still fail to recognize their enslavement — they quickly discovered that as the overlords giveth, so the overlords may taketh away.
The Miami Beach Police Department announced Monday that the [South Pointe] park was closed until further notice after they issued 7,329 verbal face cover warnings and more than 470 warnings for failing to social distance between Friday and Sunday.
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales explains the “problem”:
We tried in good faith to open our parks to help folks get out and about safely. [What does “good faith” mean in that sentence?] In almost every other park in the city this experiment has been successful. [Allowing citizens to frequent public places together in their city is an “experiment,” to be assessed, and if necessary aborted, at the discretion of the government.] South Pointe is the most egregious exception,” Morales said in a statement to CNN. “We have had city staff in the park to encourage people to comply, but they were met with hostility and non-compliance.” [People did not show sufficient deference to their superiors.]
“There is no way to effectively enforce social distancing when hundreds of individuals refuse to do so.” [Well, yes there is a way, and you chose it: send them home.]
The police got annoyed at seeing so many of the citizens they are employed to defend disobeying their irrational, tyrannical “orders,” so they decided to send them all to their rooms.
After all, the last thing a city needs is non-compliant social distancers. I mean, if you let that sort of non-compliance carry on too long, you might end up with all sorts of ugly results. Just to name a few of these:
- thousands of suicides prevented;
- thousands of small businesses not failing;
- thousands of exhausted, lonely, sick people not feeling that the final months or years of their lives are fated to be lived in state-enforced isolation from their fellow men, “for their own protection”;
- thousands of people interacting with one another as a community, rather than as a socially-distanced collection of selfish atoms suspiciously viewing their neighbors as potential infections, rather than potential friends;
- thousands of people making their own best decisions about how to deal with illness and personal risk like free adults, rather than like kindergarten children being chastised by their teachers for failing to line up for recess in the proper manner, and threatened with time in the corner if they fail to comply.
You let that sort of thing continue for a while and who knows what you end up with? One thing you know you would not end up with, however, is a totalitarian administrative state dictatorship, which, as we all know, is what we need most during a crisis.
I have always been wary of those whom I sometimes consider my political allies, when I hear them waxing romantic about the “men on the front lines,” the “first responders,” and “our brave men and women in uniform.” Yes, many people in such jobs are well-intentioned, noble-souled, and brave. But it is a fair bet, modern civilization being what it has become, that far more of those people are, at best, “good worker units,” ready to comply with whatever orders they are given, which in turn means ready to force you into compliance with any and all rules the overlords issue.
The conservatives’ excessive respect for men in uniform is clearly a byproduct of their essential respect for the political principle known vaguely as “the rule of law.” But the rule of law, properly understood, means precisely the rejection of government by whim, government by precipitous urgency, government by personality cult, or government by elite overseers and shepherds. The rule of law is liberty, expressed from the point of view of political community.
America has now completed her multi-generational conversion from the philosophical principle of the rule of law to the authoritarian dream of the law of rules.