As those who read my blog probably have figured out by now, I see most government intrusions into the lives of ordinary citizens as a harmful thing. The less government, with less spending, less taxing, and less regulation, is the best government because it allows the invisible hand of the free market to shape a society that is made up of individuals who form their own destiny. I see an ideal society as being one in which the individual has his own self defined role that brings her talents to the benefit of the whole. In fact, the word “society” itself has been severely mis-characterised. As the late Baroness Thatcher pointed out, the focus should be on the individual, not the collective. (The context of her “there is no such thing as society” remark). Thus, I support free minds, free people, and empowered individuals. In the United States, the revelation of the “XKeyscore” carried out by the unelected bureaucracy of the NSA appears to show more and more that the free society that the US once was is disappearing before our very eyes. If the allegations are true, the US is truly becoming the opposite of the empowered individual nation it once was. However, the program was just revealed today and I will save that discussion for a future blog post. Today, I will discuss where law does not weaken its citizens, but helps establish the rule of law necessary for a nation to function properly.
The proper application of rule of law.
In John Locke’s Treatise on Government, he talks of the need for rule of law to be established to separate humans from the state of nature and establish working nations. Rule of Law is of the utmost importance to any nation and government because it allows people to be secure in the persons, property, and contracts without fear of other individuals (like in the state of nature) or the state (as in tyrannical corrupt nations like Zimbabwe) inflicting harm upon you. Britain rose to become the world’s greatest power because there was a base of rule of law in which everybody knew the rules that allowed individuals to flourish in a free society. America rose to become the successor to Britain because of the same reasons, although in America the rule of law was enshrined in a written constitution rather than unwritten constitution. Britain has the world’s oldest constitution, America the second (which is based off English law & liberties), and for most of our history (with notable exceptions of course, we’re not perfect and we have many sins) our rule of law and liberties have been the perfect balance for the world to emulate. The question then becomes for modern governments: on a practical level, when is a government making laws acting to best advance their nation and when are they acting in a way in which not beneficial to their citizens?
As I see it, a government has 5 main responsibilities to its people. 1. Protecting its people from foreign oppression through the use of the military when necessary. 2. Protecting its people from irresponsible foreign immigration of people and illegal goods that will lower the government’s citizens’ quality of life. Conversely, governments have a responsibility to its people to encourage and let in those best and brightest (whether a business, person or good) to come to its shores. 3. Protecting its people through foreign governmental interference in their daily lives, whether it is unelected rule from organisations like the EU, or from harmful tariffs from overseas markets (thus the pickle of UK-European relations). 4. Protecting its citizens rights- especially its minorities from the tyranny of the popular will exercised through government or by a cruel society and 5. Ensuring people are secure in their transactions and daily lives from those in society who wish to harm others, whether by criminals or tyrannical elements in the government itself. Being that I have a tendency to be long-winded, I will only speak to point number 5 in this blog and specifically an example of the government doing the right thing; in this instance new “drug driving” laws.
A proper government does its best to protect its people from crime. This does not mean all it can, rather, it means all it can without infringing upon the rights of law abiding individuals. Governments must evolve with the criminal element to protect its people at large. That is why the Sir Robert Peel put in place a police force and the United States came up with the FBI. As crime evolved, a government must evolve with it. In the UK (and US), for far too long people on illicit and illegal drugs have been able to drive on the road endangering motorists with relatively little fear of being caught by police as a drunk driver would. People using narcotics are often times more dangerous than drunk drivers on the road, yet police have not had the tools or training to catch these dangerous drivers. Official statistics show drug drivers are twice as likely as drunk drivers to get behind the wheel, and the rise of fatalities on British roadways may have links to drug driving. Thus, the (elected not bureaucrat) British ministers took the proper steps to combat drug driving: they assembled a panel of medical and scientific experts on the subject, took their recommendation, and will present it to Parliament to become law. The law will empower police with the tools they need- training and scientific- to catch drug drivers and will hopefully result in safer roadways.
I believe the government’s plan will work. Growing up in the United States where cannabis (called “marijuana” here) usage is among the world’s highest and significantly higher than the UK, I have seen first hand how “potheads” regularly “hotbox” their car, get high and drive around with almost no fear of being caught. I have never been in association with people using “harder” drugs, but I have heard drug users generally drive around because they do not fear they can be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. A breathalyzer cannot detect drug usage and police have a harder time detecting a person on drugs through their traditional tests, unlike a drunk driver. For a great interactive on what driving under the influence of drugs can do view this excellent interactive: http://www.evanshalshaw.com/more/effects-of-drug-driving/
The government should be applauded for introducing sensible reform. “Drug driving” laws perfectly illustrate what a government domestic law should do- protect its citizens and allow people to feel safe while travelling in their daily lives or conducting business. Drug driving laws are part of strengthening the rule of law and empowering individuals. (The link to the government’s expert panel’s recommendation on drug driving can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/167971/drug-driving-expert-panel-report.pdf).