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Law and Locality

In Arts & Letters, Humanities, Jurisprudence, Justice, Law, Libertarianism, Philosophy, Politics on August 7, 2013 at 8:45 am

Allen Mendenhall - Copy

On one common definition, law is a practice or set of rules based in custom and habit.  Law is not diktat.  It arises spontaneously through the interaction of human agents operating within and among social groups and precedes State promulgation.

Legislative enactment can reflect the law as it is constituted in the mores and traditions of groups, but it can also be the result of governmental usurpation.  The legislator does not embody the peoples he represents, and as society grows ever more complex and populations ever denser, as technologies link us more and more to one another in cyberspace and other virtual fora with disembodied communicants, the notion that the legislator speaks on behalf of his constituents becomes increasingly dubious if not downright absurd.

Local groups such as schools, clubs, community organizations, and churches have complex rules of exchange derived from shared mores and traditions.  They are more likely to speak accurately about the wants and needs of their community.  Their rules are not necessarily articulated, but tacitly understood.

These local groups recognize regulations not as monolithic, governmental impositions but as integrated schemes of social principles.  Group-members who fail or refuse to follow rules and regulations are punished.  On this local level, punishment can be simple: ostracism or public disapproval. A businessperson who violates another businessperson’s trust will lose business, just as he will lose clients by losing consumers’ trust; a church-member living in sin will likewise suffer from the judgment of his peers or, more appropriately, from the canon law pertaining to his sin.

In these examples, it is clear that the State should not intervene in punishing the wrongdoer; local custom and habit suffice to regulate conduct without resort to State violence or compulsion; therefore, private associations suffice to generate rules and their corresponding punishments.  Distant government bodies are not likely to conform to the intricate constitutions of local peoples and therefore are likely to exercise their disciplinary powers using punitive, exploitative, or arbitrary means.


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