>That Conservative Comfort with "Rule of Law" and Quietism

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Via the Booker Rising Blog, here is conservative Gregory Kane writing in the Baltimore Sun:

Is it just me, or has anybody else noticed that America is becoming a society where it’s all the rage for people to pick and choose which laws they’ll obey and which ones they won’t?

I was driving east on Belvedere Avenue one day when I stopped for a red light where the street runs into Northern Parkway. The sign there is big enough for any literate driver to read clearly: “No Turn On Red, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.” (I guess I’ll give my position now: Illiterate people really shouldn’t be driving.)

Now, I’d seen drivers completely ignore that sign and make illegal turns on red between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. before. But this particular day — around high noon, sunny, with nary a cloud in the sky — one of these scofflaws was behind me, angrily honking his horn for me to make the right turn on red so he could follow.

Here we see the supposed “cowboy” mentality of conservatives nowhere represented. Even something as asinine as waiting for a light to turn green before turning right, even when it’s clearly safe – no harm you, no harm me – is, in the view of this writer, a perfectly respectable and legitimate law that ought to be followed because…well, we have “rule of law” in this country! Or ought to. But in fact that the US government itself has been the primary exception to this purported “rule of law”.

I’d sympathize with Kane on this traffic thing if he simply made it clear that although following the letter of the law in this case is inane, the driver behind him is in the wrong to angrily and indignantly pressure him to break it. After all, it’d be his ass if he got caught. But then I’d be asking him to be me, I suppose.

And check this:

Approaching a traffic light that’s just turned red? Hey, why not run it? It starts off with little things and then goes on to the big ones. That law saying that people can’t enter the United States illegally or stay here once their visas have expired? If it doesn’t work for you or your ethnic group, or is at odds with your politics, why not break it or encourage it to be broken?

This is an abuse of the concept of “slippery slope” (not to mention an ideologically charged leap from red lights to…immigrant visas?!). If he means to say that running red lights when it’s safe and residing within a nation-state without evidence of having hurt anybody threatens the broader moral order, then I think he misconcieves the nature of that order. It doesn’t stem from arbitrary statist tinkering with traffic rules or State Department issuance (or not) of HI-B Visas. Get a clue.

He goes on to criticize the Civil Rights movement, or at least the popular, grassroots part of it:

Conservatives of that time pointed out the pitfalls of civil disobedience: If we permit it for a good cause, what’s to stop others from using it for a bad cause? When Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace blocked black students from entering the University of Alabama in clear defiance of federal law in 1962, wasn’t that an act of civil disobedience?

Didn’t rioting whites throughout American history — who had no more need for the rule of law than rioting blacks of the 1960s did –help create the unjust conditions African-Americans found themselves in?

James Farmer, the late civil rights activist who was the head of the Congress of Racial Equality, said in his autobiography, Lay Bare The Heart, that NAACP head Roy Wilkins used to chide Martin Luther King Jr. about civil disobedience. It was the NAACP working through the courts, Wilkins told King, not civil rights demonstrations, that won most of the battles black Americans waged for equality.

In other words, it was that old reliable standby — the rule of law — that won the day.

Well, the modified letter of the law made it all official, but it was the protests, sit-ins and rallies that preceded the Civil Rights Act by some years that made it all possible. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

This reminds me of Hillary Clinton’s statement about LBJ, reminding everyone that it was he who got the civil rights legislation passed, not MLK jr. Well, yes, the guy with the full force of the state behind him will have to put pen to paper to put things in to motion and make it all “legit”, but that’s because said state is a monopolist in both violence and, increasingly, all manner of what was once purely within the realm of the voluntary, grassroots “sector”. In light of this, it’s hard to claim nobility on behalf of LBJ in passing this legislation. If power flows to the top because it has to, due to the very structural imperative of the state itself, then there’s nothing particularly virtuous about the person at the desk where the buck stops.

Back to Kane. He’d be hard pressed to declare that the rule of law is inherently just. After all, the founding of the US itself was a violation of the rule of law – Britain’s.

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3 thoughts on “>That Conservative Comfort with "Rule of Law" and Quietism

  1. >Wow! This guy manages to remind me of everything I dislike about the “don’t break the law!” crowd.What would he have us do in Nazi Germany? Not violate any laws to assist Jewish persons? Appeal to Hitler to pass a civil rights act for Jews?Unbelievable.And that praise of LBJ on Hilary’s part indicates a fetish for power.

  2. >Yea really! Hillary has damned near mocked the idea of “voluntary” in a rather cold statist fashion. At least Obama has a soft spot for grassroots initiatives rhetorically, whereas Clinton seems quite comfortable with the distant, oligarchical administrative state.

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