A Common Sense Perspective
In my years I've heard both sides of the aisle claim, "We are not a nation of men, but a nation of laws." The implication is that tyrants, despots and elite rulers is where men, at their whim, make up rules to suit their fancy. In this awful world ruled by men, there is no boundary to the power of the few except themselves.
However, we are told to be "a nation of laws" and so those in power have a higher authority and must obey the laws. But is this really any better? What if those laws are made by the same men mentioned in the paragraph above? If the laws are made to favor one group over another because those in power deem so, it is only an illusion to think a nation of laws is any better than a nation of men.
Laws must stand on more than the whims of those in power. Laws must stand on morals and values.
We say murder is wrong, so we create a law that can punish those who murder accordingly. That idea comes from our value system, not from the whim of those in power. We believe stealing is wrong and harmful to society, so we create laws against stealing. The law is only good and just when it reflects the values and morals of the people it governs.
Therefore let's not be a nation of laws, but rather be what our founders thought: A Nation of Values. And what are those values? Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is a great place to start. To continue we are all created equal. This means we are equal in regards to authority. One person doesn't have an advantage over another with regard to laws, taxes or punishment. This does not mean we are equal in outcomes (everyone should have the same).
The next time you hear someone claim that "We are a nation of laws" stop them and ask, "And what is the foundation of those laws?" You will have a great opportunity to educate and correct the notion that laws are the beginning and the end. As Aristotle once claimed, laws without moral justification are just tyranny (one group telling another group what they can and can't do because the first group is in power).
Let's simplify and return to our roots. Let's be a nation of values again.
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