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Friday, July 19, 2013

Danny de Gracia: more laws do not equal greater morality

Danny de Gracia
Friend, fellow writer and fighter-in-the-good-fight Danny de Gracia has published some well-recommended thoughts this week about the correlation between the quantity of legislation and the resulting amount of public morality.  It has been the conventional wisdom throughout history that more laws equals a more perfect society.

But does it really?  De Gracia doesn't think so.  In fact, as he writes in separate pieces for The Washington Times as well as his own blog, the ever-growing volumes of law being produced have made things worse.  They are, in truth, a symptom of a far worse problem: the spiritual condition of the human heart, which no act of government can change.

From de Gracia's essay in The Washington Times:
When first-time candidates run for office, most pitch a platform promising “change” in the form of new laws. Incumbent legislators are often attacked by challengers not for the number of bad bills canned in committee, but for the number of introduced measures that actually made it into law.

At the Hawaii State Legislature, a newly-hired Senate analyst was once given the assignment of reading the 2011 Session Laws of Hawaii (SLH) and complained when her boss was away that she faced reading thousands of pages packed with dense legalese. A veteran House staffer simply smiled and replied, “The SLH covers a couple of months of lawmaking and is more than a foot thick. Yet the Bible contains thousands of years of God’s commands to man and is only three inches thick on average. What does that say about how many laws they’re making here?”

As that incident perfectly illustrates, legislators are lawmaking mass-producers. (Prior to going paperless, in years past whenever the Hawaii State Legislature was in session, the cost of printer paper in Honolulu would rise by a few cents.) It also underlines the more important fact that even God, who is infinitely powerful and wise, could not by the means of law alone make humans righteous or the Earth more verdant.

Laws do not make good citizens nor do they prosper the environment. As is evident by thousands of years of human civilization, the only thing laws really accomplish is condemnation for those who engage in banned behaviors.
 And from his blog piece:
Our 21st century America has become an extremely legalistic society. Chances are if you can think of something, there's a public law that taxes, regulates or bans it. Most legislators who introduce laws do so based on a belief that law somehow makes for a better society or more responsible citizenry. Yet as we have seen in recent years, the increase of laws has only meant more incarceration, more law enforcement (and tougher police tactics) and more surveillance. People need to consult a lawyer for almost everything these days because the slightest screw up could result in government fines, imprisonment or civil action.

In my article I discuss how law at its very core is flawed with respect to humanity because laws do not change the human heart, they only punish. A law can forbid perjury or fraud, but it can never make a liar honest. Another law can prohibit littering, but it cannot make a messy person neat. The human heart -whether it inclines towards evil or good - is the true driving force. A society without morals can have laws forbidding everything but without citizens who have the soul (and by this I mean heart, mind and spirit) to live right, will be marked by chaos, violence and mayhem.


You cannot legislate righteousness. It didn't work for God (nor was it His intent to justify by the law) and it certainly won't work for humans either. This is where so-called "social conservatives" miss the mark: they think that by banning behaviors they will somehow "instruct" souls in the way of righteousness or "preserve" the character of the nation. Jesus - speaking of a man's internal heart condition - said that a good tree does not bear bad fruit, neither does a bad tree bear good fruit. Bad deeds do not spontaneously generate, they are the fruit of a bad heart. "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit" (Matthew 12:33).
It reminds me of something that Cicero observed: the more the laws there were, the more numerous the lawbreakers.

Metaphorically, it's the political equivalent of grasping at straws: our leaders, we ourselves even, have been convinced that if we pass just one, more, law, that somehow it will magically make everything better.  And that kind of thinking is in defiance of the reality that Man, on his own, is a fallen and corrupt creature.  Nothing he can do according to his own wisdom is going to succeed... or at least survive the test of time.

Why has our country become so corrupted politically and socially?  Because her people have placed their trust and confidence in government, in political parties, in cheapened religion which makes them "feel good" but does nothing to convict and bring personal accountability.  Unfortunately, I look around and see too many people, preachers and politicians who still insist that "things will be right", if only they were in power.

Anyway, de Gracia has some eloquent elucidation in these two essays and they're well worth passing along.