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Law and Order

Order does not create justice, justice creates order.

by James Leroy Wilson
June 25, 2009

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Law and Order

A special message from Discordian Pope Iacobus Rex, Part 2: Law and Order

Last week I wrote "We want order because we want happiness. But to want happiness means you won't have it, and to want order means it will fall apart."

The more we insist on order, the more we impose it, the sooner it will fall apart.

Your gracious Discordian Pope recalls this from personal experience. The first high school he attended was in another country. It was an open campus with long lunch breaks (where most extra-curricular activities took place) and no cafeteria to speak of. Students either brought their own lunch or went home. If you didn't have a class, the school wanted you either in the library or off-campus. There was no dress code to speak of, and no study hall. Yet maintaining classroom discipline was rarely a problem. Most students were fairly attentive and did not cause disruption.

In contrast, the school I attended in the United States was virtually locked-down for seven hours. You could not leave the school. If you had no class in a particular period, you had study hall. A dress code was maintained. The best-behaved class was the mixed phys-ed class as the laid-back, near-retirement teacher mostly let us do what we wanted, and from that experience I maintained a serviceable three-point shot for a few years. Most of the other classes saw teachers taking a substantial amount of time yelling at disruptive 17- and 18- year-old boys, and very little was actually learned.

I'm not suggesting that the "orderly" school went down through riots and flames, but rather that its unnecessary imposition of "order" and "discipline" made it less orderly and disciplined in the very place it was most necessary: the classroom. Whereas, in my previous school, the administration gave students the presumption of maturity outside of the classroom, and they generally lived up to the expectation in the classroom. The American school administration presumed the kids were immature outside of the classroom, and they lived down to this expectation in the classroom.

The fundamental error was the assumption that "order and discipline," including restricting the liberty of students without educational justification, was necessary for the school to function. Order was seen as the foundation for everything else. But it just isn't so. Order is not the foundation, and it's not the goal. It is, rather, a mere consequence, a sign or evidence of proper functioning. That's why the school that didn't insist on order was more ordered than the one where it was an obsession.

Society also works by this principle. It is taken for granted that the right regime and the right restraints on behavior - the right order - will lead to a just and prosperous society. This is why some vices are viewed as crimes against the State. The rationale is, if everyone was allowed to do it and everyone did, society would crumble. This is also why the State has assumed a monopoly on the production of money - there would be economic "chaos" without it.

Yet alcohol prohibition and the War on Drugs created more social disruption, not less. The government's Federal Reserve monopoly caused economic destruction in the 1930's, 1970's, and today.

The preemptive, forceful imposition of "order" only creates disorder. Instead, as individuals and as a people we would do well to change our mindset about how to treat each other. Instead of focusing on "order" and the prosperity it's supposed to create, our focus should be on justice.

Justice essentially means not messing with stuff that doesn't belong to you. If it is not just for you to take something owned by another, neither can it be just for the "people," acting through the machinery of government, to take it either. If it is not just for you to handcuff and confine someone for possessing marijuana or meth, neither is it just for the State to arrest that person. If it is not just for you to break up a privately-run postal service, neither is it just for the government to break it up.

When the State imposes order, it inevitably creates injustice, and it is institutionalized injustice that causes social breakdown, just as children behave badly as a response to arbitrary and stupid rules. We would most likely see order develop not if we make it our goal, but as a spontaneous consequence of just laws.


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