Are All Laws Inherently Violent?
It’s the weekend!
Wait… are weekends still a thing?
So I’ve been watching with interest the situation in Texas involving jailed (and subsequently released) salon owner, Shelley Luther. I know most of the country has been watching. I’ve seen some people hail her as a hero, and others decry her as everything from an example of privilege to a danger to the health of others. I see her mostly as a person who was trying to take care of her family and her employees, and the rest of it is mostly media spin that people relate to depending on their personal biases.
I’m probably never going to be a person that faults someone for wanting to keep their business from crashing, or from having to rely on the government to support them.
But I didn’t sit down to write today about Shelley Luther and her fight. Her case has, for me, served as yet another example of how each and every law carries with it the threat of force and violence.
We used this screenshot of a tweet sent out by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on our social media this week with this caption:
What do you think of Gov. Abbott’s take here?
It seems to us to be a pretty great example of why people’s lives, their safety, their health, and their livelihoods can’t be centrally planned by government.
The Tuttle Twins and the Road to Surfdom teaches about the ways that central planning hurts individuals and small business with its unintended and often intended consequences.
This tweet also reminds us of another Tuttle Twins book. The Tuttle Twins and the Fate of the Future is based on Murray Rothbard’s Anatomy of the State and teaches about the tendency of government to become authoritarian. It talks about how often government takes action in the name of protecting, but those actions sometimes become more predatory than protective in nature.
Right now is pretty much the perfect time to be reading our books with your kids. The lessons are timely, and help make sense of things happening in the world in a way that leaves kids feeling empowered and educated.
We got a lot of really good engagement from folks who had opinions on the whole situation. Some hailed Abbott a hero for amending his Emergency Order to exclude jail time for business owners who open up. Others pointed out that it was his shuttering of businesses in the first place that caused him to have to amend his order. Others said that they really liked seeing a politician essentially admit he was wrong and try to fix his mistake.
I think it’s great that Abbott amended his order. I also appreciate that he recognized others who had suffered just like Ms. Luther, but who didn’t receive nearly the support or attention that she did. That was the right thing for him to acknowledge.
But I also agree that it was his overreach in the first place that caused business owners like Ms. Luther to be in a position where they literally had to make the choice between losing years of their life’s work, seeing their employees lose their jobs, losing their own ability to support and provide for the needs of their loved ones and themselves… and going to jail.
One of the things that some people really struggle to accept is the idea that all law has the potential to result in violence. Using Ms. Luther as an example, we can dig a little bit into how this is true.
What would have happened if she had resisted arrest? What if—just like she felt she had the right to provide for her family in spite of an order saying that she legally couldn’t—she felt that the police had no right to arrest her for working? What if the media hadn’t picked up the story, and been there with cameras rolling for each interaction she had with law enforcement? What if she had been, say, a black man?
Do you see how quickly things could have gone very bad?
It happens all the time in our country. Non-violent people have violence used against them to enforce laws that they do not believe are just or moral.
This case has received a ton of attention because it is wrapped up in the drama of COVID-19, but people just like Shelley Luther are arrested and imprisoned every day for non-violent “offenses” and the “breaking” of unjust laws. People’s lives are ruined, families are torn apart, people are sent to jail, or even killed, because they—just like the “hero salon owner”—decided that they weren’t going to let bad laws keep them from living their lives peacefully.
The Tuttle Twins Learn About The Law is based on Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, and helps teach kids that there can be such a thing as bad laws, and that those laws aren’t true laws. Bastiat said, “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”
It’s really easy to get caught up in the idea that a law could prevent some type of imagined harm, or injury to the collective. But if you really stop to think about how laws have to be enforced, you may get quite a wake-up call to the fact that advocating or supporting new legislation that restricts people’s peaceful actions always requires the use of violence against human beings to enforce.
I really hope that cases like Luther’s will help open people’s minds to the idea that we should take very seriously the things that we encourage our elected representatives to meddle in. There are always very real, very human casualties to every piece of legislation. Shelley Luther was really lucky—most people who disregard bad laws like she did have their lives ruined (or, in some tragic cases, ended).
It’s definitely something to think about.