Where do laws come from?

When we had Kings and Queens, it was clear that laws were made by the monarchy, for good or for worse. In kingdoms, then, we lived as serfs at the mercy of the land owners.

According to John Austin, Laws are the commands of the Sovereign. Note that Sovereigns does not have to be a monarchy, as in the case of most modern Governments. Any agency that can create and enforce laws would be part of this Sovereign. Also note that commands can be “voted” on and do not have to be all bad – as in the Magna Carta. So, in the case of United states, laws are the “commands” of the Federal, State, and local Governments. Commands can be good, and benevolent; or, they can be silly. For instance, if you want to braid a girl’s hair for money in Massachusetts, you need to go through 1000+ hours of training and obtain a license. That is the law.

How does this even happen? Are laws a social construct? After all, we all agree, no matter what our background is, that murder and theft are wrong. At what point did “society” agree on 1000+ hours of training requirements for hair braiding? Did we? Did I miss the twitter bomb relating to the dangers of hair braiding? The constant Facebook shares? The likely way these laws appear on the books is by lobbying. The cosmetics businesses lobbied for these laws to go on the books, and we are paying for it now.

Looks like Sovereigns (or Governments) can be wrong.

The trouble with voting for laws is that there are so many laws on the books already. So, licensing laws for hair braiding were presented as having the intent to “protect the clients”. I am sure they got bundled with other laws and no one (including the lawmakers) read the laws being voted on. “Harming others” is already against the law. So, any law targeted to eliminate competition (or arbitrarily change the odds for one citizen over other) is unfair. However, the passage of new laws is fairly easy and the masses are easily fooled – not because they are not intelligent, but because they have lives. So, the body of laws grows in nonsensical ways.

That is the nature of Sovereigns (or Governments).

So, where does freedom come from? Are we free humans who come together and agree on laws – knowing that we can make mistakes and we can vote again and correct our mistakes? Or are we granted freedoms by Governments where in order to change a law in order to gain more freedom, we have to prove – case by case – that the Government (or Sovereigns) can be wrong and the burden of proof is on us?

If we are free first, and we can collectively “reform bad laws” merely by voting, then all laws should be up for vote every time. The reality is that laws, as they exist today stay on the books till explicitly challenged and then at great expense in time and money to the citizenry. By that view, the freedom is really a grant, “granted” one at a time, so long as we behave.

I would like to propose that freedom does not and cannot come from Governments. They exist with or without Sovereigns. All a Sovereign or Government can do is protect our freedoms. It is when Sovereigns get into the business of protecting us rather than our freedoms, then our freedoms erode.

Yes we can all agree (as in social contracts) that murder is wrong and harming others is wrong. We can get laws on books to say that. But let us understand that freedom is not “granted” but exists with or without Sovereigns. Sovereigns can either protect our freedoms – or erode them. When we look to Government as a Sovereign, we are the ones giving up on our freedoms, allowing us to be nothing but serfs to the Sovereign.