A Brief Overview of Just Law

In legal theory, there are two primary theories about the definition of law: the positive definition of law and the democratic definition of law. According to the positive theory, law is the command of the state, and whatever the state commands is law. According to the democratic theory of law, the law is determined by the will of the people, and widespread disobedience will occur if a law is disliked.

Similarly, there are several accepted origins of law: 1. constitutional origin, meaning a written set of enumerated powers given to and limitations placed upon certain individuals or bodies charged with writing the laws, 2. legislative origin, meaning the actual acts of the individuals or bodies listed in a constitution (or determined by custom, i.e. the established way of doing things, in the absence of a constitution), 3. judicial origin, meaning the edicts from a court charged with carrying out or clarifying acts of legislation, constitutional script, or points of custom, and 4. scholarship, meaning the intellectual class that shapes the actions of the other origins of law through its commentary on them.

Still, what is the ultimate origin of these origins? Where is the proper inspiration for the law drawn? Where does law really come from? Because law deals with those actions which are permissible and impermissible for man to take (though not necessarily those actions which are proper or improper for him to take), law is the product of the philosophical branch of ethics. All legitimate law, therefore, is from an objectively proper code of ethics, as determined by the inalterable laws that govern reality – by metaphysics.

Thus, all true law cannot be created any more than man can create a new metaphysical law. All of the laws that govern the universe already exist and are already in motion – man can only discover them, not invent them. Moreover, the actions which are proper and improper for man to take (or permissible and impermissible to take in relation to other men) are as immutable as the principles of reality on which they are based. In turn, all legitimate laws that outline the differences between said actions, like metaphysical laws, can only be discovered through study in this line of philosophy: from metaphysics and epistemology to ethics and then to politics, the branch of philosophy specifically relating to law.

It is imperative, however, to note that the “origins” of law subsidiary to moral law can be created (and are created) in order to efficiently, effectively, and safely (meaning with minimal risk of abuse) record and implement all discovered forms of just law. These just laws are properly recorded in their abstract forms so as to apply all possible concretes that would fall under them while also being defined narrowly enough so as to not condemn an action which does not (e.g., the basic law, “It is impermissible to kill another through initiated force,” is abstract enough to apply to all killings that result from initiated force, regardless of the specifics, while also being narrow enough to not apply to cases in which a killing resulted from justifiable self-defense).

Though what determines the correctness of law has been briefly mentioned above (metaphysical reality), what is and is not correct has yet to be explained. For any and all values, an ultimate value must exist by which the lesser values can be judged – the same goes for all actions undertaken to achieve those values. For man, the ultimate value is life, his own life, without which all other values would cease to exist. Because man faces no alternatives to his state of existence which he could actually experience after death, it is impossible for him to have any values in death. Though a man has the right to give up his life if he wants to (as it is his), man’s life is still the only metaphysical end in itself, and it applies to all men. As a result, life is the objective ultimate value from which objective codes of ethics and law can be derived.

These objective codes of law exist only to prevent unethical actions between men, meaning the employment initiated force from one man or group of men to another. The reason for this is that at any point in which one man must subject himself to the will of another, his life and all other values which maintain and improve his life (physically and psychologically) are jeopardized. Man’s life is wholly and unequivocally his own to do with as he pleases within the context of respecting others’ ownership of their lives. Claiming otherwise would suggest that, somehow, the correctness of man’s values can be determined by using another man’s life as an ultimate value, allowing his own life to become of secondary importance. This is the philosophy of altruism, of death as an ultimate value, which disregards all real values of man’s own life. (This is not to say that the life of another can possess no real rational value – it may even be of such great value that it is essential to man’s own life – but it cannot, if men are to act morally, be the ultimate value  superior to his own life.) All limitations of initiated force as determined by man’s life are known as “rights,” incontrovertible moral absolutes which at no time can be violated. In fact, the phrase “natural rights” is a very appropriate way to describe these absolutes – not because they exist in some sort of mystic, spiritual sense, but because they themselves are based upon the natural laws that govern the whole of reality. Laws may justly only protect these rights, not infringe upon them.

Despite all this, some politicians insist on creating “law.” They insist on disregarding reality and attempting to change that which is inalterable. Every time they claim to have created a new “law,” they actually fly in the face of existential reality and the laws that govern it by declaring void or irrelevant that the conditions necessary for man’s life (through the prevention of impermissible acts by others through retaliatory force) and by instead initiating force. Law, though a relatively simple concept, has been perverted from its rightful intent. While more discussion is certainly due on this issue, it is my hope that this will suffice for the time being in provoking further thought and discussion for those truly interested in actualizing a capitalist system of government.


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