Laws: Who makes them and why?
Without getting into the endless controversy over abortion laws, we might ask the question: Where do laws come from, anyway? Many Americans like to believe "We are a nation of laws, not of men." The PC crowd might say, "We are a nation of laws, not of persons."
Okay. But who are these "persons" who conceived and enacted the laws under which we are governed? Historically, nation-states have been governed by Oligarchy, meaning rule by a minority. We like to think the ancient Greeks practiced majority rule by the Demos. But only about ten percent of Greek citizens qualified as members of the Demos, meaning 90 percent were ruled by ten percent.
While our representative Republic has been the envy of the world, we have tended to elect Ivy-League Oligarchs to manage our domestic, legal, foreign, and military policies. Many work-a-day Americans were okay with that until it became apparent that a Deep State (about ten percent of our population) was ruling our Republic by operating a Ruling Class Oligarchy. The President who blew the whistle on the Deep State Ruling Class Oligarchy was, by hook or crook (mostly, crook), hounded out of office.
The problem with Ruling Elites is that they enact laws that favor Ruling Elites. Surely, there must be some higher, more objective, authority for law. There is. It is called: Natural Law.
Actually, the concept of Natural Law goes all the way back to 441 B.C. and Sophocles’ play, Antigone (Ann-tigg-gone-e). When Antigone’s brother Polynices (polly-nice-seas) was slain on the field of battle, King Creon of Thebes ruled that anyone who tries to honor Polynices with a proper burial will be buried alive. Defying the King, Antigone buries her brother. King Creon arrests Antigone and asks Antigone why, on pain of her own death, did she defy his order? Antigone says there is a Natural Law -- rooted in human decency -- that is higher than earthly rulers.
So, maybe "person-made" law isn’t always to be obeyed. For example, the Nazi leaders on trial at Nuremberg argued the killing of six million Jews and other "undesirables" was authorized by laws, either enacted by Der Reichstag, or by edicts decreed by Hitler under the Enabling Act of 1933. Ergo: the Nazi leaders claimed they were merely following the "lawful" orders of a duly-elected Nazi Oligarchy.
How is it that relatively small minorities can rule over much larger majorities? Oligarchic minorities focus on the attainment of power, either by force or by stuffed ballot boxes. They often claim they are victims of an unjust world and; therefore, whatever they want to do is justified. They claim superiority by virtue of advanced education at elite institutions such as Ivy-League colleges.
Recall, Roe v. Wade was decided by seven unelected lawyers, five of them from Ivy League law schools. Two Justices dissented. Did the seven Justices base their decision on what is written in the U.S. Constitution or on something they found in the penumbra (shadow) of the Constitution? Will Natural Law be considered? Sometime in 2022, we may find out.
Suggested reading Antigone by Sophocles, 441 B.C.; The Enabling Act of March 23, 1933; The Nuremberg Laws, September 15, 1935; Minutes of the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942.
©2021. William Hamilton.