By: Paul Murano – July, 2020
Law and order is an interesting phrase. Its opposite is anarchy and disorder.
Donald Trump says he is your law and order president. In today’s social climate that could be a political asset for him in an election year. But is law and order necessary?
Does it restrain liberty and pose an unnecessary burden on individuals?
Let’s go beneath the surface on the meaning of the phrase ‘law and order’.
Order is a consequence of law, its result. Order enables people to live in peace with each other and with the environment. When you look up the definition of law, it speaks of rule. Synonyms for rule include words like guide, regulation, and principle. Thomas Aquinas called law an ordinance of reason promulgated by legitimate authority for the common good. In other words, it is a reasonable rule for the sake of the good of all.
Going deeper, there are two kinds of law to consider, natural law and positive law. While positive law is promulgated from without by an external authority, natural law exists from within. The latter is intrinsic to the nature of the human being. Natural law is the law of human nature, which will bring about optimal human fulfillment and happiness. Civil law, on the other hand, is positive law inasmuch as it is posited from the authority of civil government. It is man’s law. This type of law can be tailored to the culture, traditions, and customs of a people – as long as it does not violate natural law.
In order for it to be legitimate, civil law must be aligned with natural law. All civilized people throughout western civilization have realized this. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote about this in his letter from Birmingham jail. He knew that laws degrading the dignity of black people were illegitimate. Racism, as well as abortion, homosexual acts, transgender procedures, sterilization and contraception all violate natural law. Any civil laws supporting them and any other acts that contradict human nature are unjust.
Legitimate law is the rule of conducting oneself according to what is objectively true and good, for the self and society. Therefore, liberty is the freedom to do the good; not freedom to do whatever one wants. Disordered desires cannot be condoned or supported by law. Acting on them causes disorder in the individual, family and society.
Legitimate law gives rise to true liberty, proper order, and the flourishing of people. Law is the means to the end of fulfillment, peace, and prosperity.
Going further, therefore, law and liberty need each other and are not at odds with each other. There can be no liberty without law. Liberty is dependent on good law. Likewise, individual liberty and the common good also are not at odds. When one is optimized, so is the other. They go together since individuals share a common human nature. What is good for all is good for one.
Law to a society is like discipline to the individual. Without self-discipline individuals cannot excel and flourish. Without virtue it is easy to fall into vice, which can easily evolve into obsession and addiction. The law of virtue is the proper governance of self. Likewise, free nations must be virtuous for them to survive.
Half our nation today is rooting for the anarchists, socialists, and violent protesters to “win.” That’s probably because half our country is chained to vice or addiction and needs a way to vent their feelings of frustration and resentment. Donald Trump appeals to our natural sense of safety and security. Only time will tell whether this will be enough to win a second term.
Paul is talk host of Beneath the Surface video and radio podcasts, teaches college philosophy and theology, is a staff writer for St. Michael’s Media, and a singer-songwriter-musician. Check out Paul’s website at Paulmurano.com. Email him at PJDM@aol.com