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“There is no such thing as a law or regulation that ‘increases’ individual freedom. Freedom is contrary to restriction. All laws and regulations initially restrict individual freedom. There may be additional legislation or regulation that lessens the initial restriction, but no law or regulation can increase freedom. Every single piece of legislation and every single regulation is by definition a restriction of some sort on individual freedom.” – TTAG commentator Joe Nieters in our comment section


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      • Good point … meaning We the People are restricting government.

        And that is another hugely important point: the only laws that truly increase freedom for We the People are laws that restrict government.

      • Not exactly.
        The quote is about restricting freedom, i.e. rights, not about restricting actions. A law against murder doesn’t restrict your freedom, because you do not have the right to murder someone. A law against using a gun to shoot a murderous attacker does restrict your freedom, because you have the right to defend yourself.
        So a law against passing laws does not restrict the freedom of politicians, because they have no right to do so in the first place.

    • Why are preemption laws needed?

      To lessen the restrictions placed on the right by other restrictions… which was covered in the quote.

  1. As far as restricting ownership of firearms, he’s mostly correct.
    Every other piece of legislation? Well, I don’t think it’s OK for you to kill and eat other people’s children. So yeah, there’s a law against that.

    • It is still wrong to kill innocent people even without a law stating so.

      Reductio Ad-Absurdum fallacies like that have no place in reasoned debate.

      • Tell that to the Supremem Court, the atf, the dea, the fbi, the cia, the dod, the nsa, the president, congress, the senate, local pd……………..

      • That’s all covered under NOT restricting another’s rights. They have the same rights as you. If you kill them then you have done them harm. The premise is; Freedom to do whatever you want SO LONG AS, it does not remove the same right from another.The founders understood that we all have to share the planet together. Jefferson put it rather succinctly; Your freedoms end where my nose begins!

    • However if a tribe of cannibals move in next door, and those kids are both slow and fat, well the law wont do much to protect them.

      Culture beats law all day every day.

      • More importantly the cannibals would argue ‘cultural sensitivity’ and the SJWs would come a runnin’.

        No matter that their culture was what made their last place of residence into an s-hole.

        • Cross out “cannibal” and insert a certain five letter word starting with “is” and ending in “slam” and you’re still correct.

      • Yep, culture eats laws for breakfast, then comes back for desert.

        Hence, the “gangsta” culture that gives “respect” for being a “gangsta”; but disrespects those that get a good education; the fundamentalist muslims culture that ecourages violence, terror, and death towards the infidel or the communist/socialist/progressive culture that reveres the state and does not accept that a person has individual rights beyond some morphous “collective good” that is determined by the state.

        Yep, most people can’t conceive of how we In this country have been blessed with a mostly congruent agreement on how we should operate as a society and a culture. We are now getting a hard lesson of what “multi-cultural” really means,. And it is more like scenes from “The Walking Dead” “Sons of Anarchy” and “Dexter” than from “Father knows Best”.

    • @Tom
      But that law doesn’t increase the freedom of those children, it prevents a decrease in their freedom.

  2. Indeed, I would note however that the lawmakers are free to write laws that do anything they want, observing of course both the constitution and the rules of the legislative process for whatever body they are working under – House, Senate, whatever.

    Indeed, they could make a law for example requiring the government to work under a balanced budget, to reduce taxes (increasing freedom by definition), laws that say ‘no law may be passed that infringed on the second amendment’ perhaps.

    Yes, in practice they almost never do these things, and even if they did it’s really up to them to adhere to such potential laws, but it could happen.

    Madison, federalist #51 relates to this;

    “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

    • But the founders were not perfect either. If they were, we probably wouldn’t have gotten ourselves into the mess we see around us today.
      I think this SHOULD say; “you must first oblige Government to control itself, because only then will it be capable enough, and trustworthy enough, to control the governed.”
      Doesn’t that make more sense?

  3. The real question that needs to be asked, at least in this context, is what does “shall not be infringed” mean? Right now, that is not a very legally well-defined legal or constitutional concept in order to affirmatively say, for example, an assault weapons ban “infringes,” or requiring a LTC “infringes,” or forcing a citizen to turn over his guns when a TRO has been issued “infringes.” Sure, we have a bunch of scholarly work that provides good reasons why all of those law do in fact “infringe,” but nothing precedential to say this is so. We can’t even get courts to use the correct standard for a fundamental right yet.

    There is a significant portion of the population that does not think current gun control laws infringe despite the fact that they most certainly do restrict freedom. If we want any of the freedoms in the future that we still have now, it’s going to be a “hearts and minds” game with the public.

    • I don’t believe that. All parties know exactly what “infringed” means, they are pretending ignorance in order to seek control over things they have no authority to control. Anyone claims they don’t know what infringed means, try infringing on their right to breathe for a few minutes, see if they understand then. “Well it doesn’t mean you have an *absolute* right to breathe, particularly on Fridays. If it might save the life of just one child, we’re going to stop you from breathing one day a week. You don’t need to breathe in order to hunt, anyway.”

  4. All laws beyond natural laws, by definition decrease freedom. Freedom to kill unjustly is a net reduction in personal freedom for all those potentially killed. Punishing the murderer allows all to have some protection to live freely without affecting others, including the would be murderer until he does so.

  5. My view tends to be that laws don’t prevent you from doing anything; rather, they specify the consequences for doing something society considers bad, e.g. murder

    • I tend to subscribe to this view- morally speaking, many of us would never commit certain crimes exactly because they are immoral if not illegal. For instance gambling is legal in many states- however many folks do not gamble b/c of moral/religious objections. I’d like to think all of us on this site would not kill unjustifiably or rape- not because it is illegal and we’d be punished, but b/c it is wrong period. However not everyone is moral and not every law is to prevent immoral acts. For instance, how many of us would pay income tax if it were not backed by punitive action? We follow minor, mundane traffic regulations which are not backed by severe punishments not b/c it is morally wrong to not signal a turn or follow right-of way standards but b/c of the potential for danger (accidents) and chaos if everyone drove however they wanted to drive. We obey the laws because of the risk of punishment if we don’t or because there are universally recognized wrongs regardless of ethnicity, religion etc.

  6. Laws which seek to punish bad behavior are good laws. Such as 5 years for using a firearm in the commission of a crime. Laws which seek to ban objects or otherwise benign behavior are bad laws. There are no laws which inhibit the free exercise of any other right; only 2A laws seek to inhibit by taking away the tools required to exercise that right.

  7. Well … (donning asbestos fire suit to survive flaming from other commenters) … I will argue that an absolute minimal amount of laws actually do increase freedom. Otherwise, utter and complete anarchy and chaos ensues and actual freedom diminishes significantly.

    For example, as barnbwt mentioned above, laws that prohibit the “freedom” to murder someone actually increases everyone’s freedom that isn’t a violent criminal murderer.

    Another example: the most basic of traffic laws (defining which side of the road we must drive, what to do at intersections with or without traffic lights, etc.) actually increase freedom as well. Without the most basic of traffic laws, traffic would be in chaos with gridlock and crashes galore which would radically decrease our freedom to move about.

    In other words we need the most basic of laws to handle conflicts smoothly and predictably. Such laws, crafted correctly, reduce chaos and increase overall freedom/productivity for everyone.

    Think of such laws as standards. Standards enable us to be highly productive and efficient … and can expand freedom. Consider what life would be like if we were not forced to use the metric or imperial measurement standards. Can you imagine how incredibly inefficient it would be trying to develop and manufacture a product or service when everyone had their own unique units of measure? Rather, we have a laws/standards that “force” into either metric or imperial units. While that decreases our freedom to use our own personal measurement standard, it opens the door to use a nearly infinite amount of products and services that we can know are compatible with our product/service. That greatly increases our efficiency and availability of products … and I would argue thus increases our freedom.

    • Don’t rule out the possibility of the private sector increasing efficiency on its on. I may be wrong, but I don’t think any government developed the standards for the USB port, for example.

    • “For example, as barnbwt mentioned above, laws that prohibit the “freedom” to murder someone actually increases everyone’s freedom that isn’t a violent criminal murderer.”

      There is no such law that prohibits murder.

    • Yes but strictly speaking what you describe are not the direct effects of the the laws but the secondary effects, the laws in your example ‘do not murder’, ‘obey traffic laws’ in the immediate sense limit the freedoms of people to murder and drive all over the road.

      You are right in these cases the result of this is a civil society that allows people greater freedom people shouldn’t be killed and we are able to move about on the roads, yes, society is better for that.

      As society and the laws become more complex we also get to see the laws of unintended consequences kick in where do-gooder politicians start making all manner of laws, perhaps good intentioned or not, and while the direct effect of these laws may do one ‘good’ thing the secondary impact of such laws ends up hurting society more than it helps. An example of this would be the minimum wage, sounds like raising wages on people who earn very little is such a progressive thing to do, how can this be bad for society – people have to earn that ‘living wage’ and all that…. but then what ends up happening, of course, people lose their jobs so instead of making 8$ an hour instead of 7$ an hour, now the burger flipper ends up going on welfare and food stamps because Mr. Burger Fascist refused to allow the raise and fired half of his staff. Oh and don’t forget the people who didn’t get fired now have to do twice the work. Yes, the law of unintended consequences.

      Undesirable effects on society – a negative freedom?

    • I’d consider standards that have to do with traffic, engineering, etc. to be qualitatively different from a law against murder. With the standard, it doesn’t matter WHICH standard you pick. We could have chosen to drive on the left, like they do in Merry Olde Englande, for instance. The point is to pick a standard, and ensure compliance–in many cases you ensure compliance by the violator of the standard having a useless widget to show for his effort.

      Standards like these would probably arise without a government–in fact they often do. The major exceptions are building codes and traffic laws, in the former case governments generally adopted something someone else created, in the latter, well, the government owns almost all roads and it makes sense the owners would dictate the standards.

      But murder, theft, etc define norms that are objectively defined and you can’t just pick another definition and have it work out. Government does have business enforcing those, and I think it should also be the final arbiter for contractual disputes (after all arbitration is exhausted, or in those events where one side refuses to abide no matter how many arbitrators find him in the wrong).

      Nit: We use US Customary system, not the Imperial system. They’re mostly the same, until you get to gallons, quarts, etc. Imperial quarts are actually more than a liter, ours are less than a liter. (If you ever bitch about the price of gas, and some Brit pipes up bragging about how expensive it is there, he’s probably unintentionally exagerrating because he’s converting pounds per liter to pounds per *imperial* gallon…then half of the time he’s compounding that error by multiplying by two after that to get to dollars, because many people seem to think a pound is worth two dollars.)

  8. I like what Uncommon_sense is saying but I will go further to say that without a government privatized businesses, contracts, and voluntary courts would create the standardization required to have our lives run smoothly. And they in fact do. SAMMI standards for example.

    Another comment about law in general. I think the only real law are the natural rights. We should have no laws other than voluntary contractual laws. The only true crime is causing violence to someone or stealing his or her property. If we stuck with natural rights as the only law any given person would be capable of defending his or her lives and property. Every grey area could be worked out in voluntary courts or other such contractual agreements. In the free market people would patronize courts and businesses that gave the most just outcome in any dispute and live generally where they agreed most with whatever minimal non-violent laws a territory exhibited.

    • That sounds great of course but the problem is as I mention above from Madison, corruption is inherent in man, and governments made of men will inevitably lead to this – there is simply too much power and money involved and there are always enough men willing to throw their morals out the window in exchange for cash, cocaine or sex.

      It’s not maybe, it always happens, everywhere.

    • Some government is an absolute necessity in order to have a free, functioning society. Our country is founded on this principle (among others):

      …That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    • AnarchoCatholic,

      What you describe is actually how life is supposed to be in the United States. You described the basis of Common Law — no legal action can take place unless someone has suffered an injury (e.g. loss of life/limb, liberty, or property … or breach of voluntary contract). There are strong and interesting arguments that most laws coming out of our state and federal governments have NO real authority or application to We the People.

      For example the U.S. Constitution nowhere empowers the federal government to create a law which criminalizes possession of plants (e.g. marijuana). And any such law should be unenforceable because John Doe who simply possesses marijuana has not injured anyone. Now if John Doe smokes that marijuana, gets high and thus impaired, and as a result crashes his car into Jane Q. Public’s shed, Jane Q. Public has a basis in Common Law to sue John Q. Public for the damages to her property (shed). And I suppose that the federal government or a state government could prescribe jail time for the person who causes that injury as a disincentive to commit it in the first place. (The perpetrator would have to compensate the injured victim AND spend time in jail.)

      Unfortunately, what we see today is an abomination — tens of thousands of pages of laws supposedly authorized in the simple phrase “promote the general welfare” in the Preamble and the tax and spending clause of the United States Constitution.

      • Egg zactly. As a result of growing marijuana, Mr. Pot head did not purchase marijuana from the neighboring state, and thus made himself part of interstate commerce, making this a matter for the federal government to address.

        Now pay up. Serf.

      • I hate it when people cite that, it shows they failed reading comprehension and/or grammar. Or they passed, but they are hoping I failed.

        The purpose of “promote the general welfare” in the preamble was to justify the constitution, as should be obvious on reading the entire sentence…it was for promoting the general welfare (among other things) that a strong federal government was needed.

        However, the reuse of “general Welfare” (capitalization as in the original) in the first paragraph of art I section 8 is slightly less tied into the sentence it’s in; one could argue that the taxation power is before the comma and “and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States” is a wholly separate list item. However the semicolon after that would argue that that’s not the case, that the latter justifies the taxing power in the former.

  9. There is one potential exception to the OP’s stated principle: laws that prohibit the infringement of liberty by another – such as laws against murder, rape, robbery, etc. Laws, obviously, do not prevent such acts, but they do provide the basis for holding accountable those who commit them.

    I would offer the caveat that this discussion needs to understand and differentiate between malum in se and malum prohibitum acts, and the laws related to each.

  10. Not allowing sales to certain foreign countries that are likely to attack you seems reasonable but is an embargo on arms really “gun control”?


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