SEPTEMBER 01, 1976 by JOAN MARIE LEONARD
Miss Leonard is a free-lance writer.
Behavioral law is the legal justification for the concentration camp.
Any tyranny in its early stages or milder forms is still the same tyranny. Once accepted in principle, it can be carried to extremes with little contention. The idea has already been accepted. Embryos have a way of growing. The first behavioral law is the ruination of all law, justifying and giving impetus to all succeeding injustices.
Behavioral law is that body of laws that prescribes, controls or inhibits behavior that is in itself non-aggressive, but deemed unacceptable by governmental powers. It is thus distinguished from those laws we have duly constituted to protect ourselves—our individual selves and possessions—from predatory, aggressive actions.
Behavioral laws are mechanistic —materialistic. They treat people as manipulative dummies who can and will (always the inherent threat) be shaped by external forces, forces outside themselves.
This body of law is sometimes described as "paternalistic." But what father supports his children through their lifetimes with money taken from all the other families in the neighborhood?
It is sometimes referred to as Big Brotherliness, which rather appropriately suggests raising Cain.
It is sometimes called "playing God" with people’s lives, but to the contrary, it effectively denies the choices provided by Creation through which we can freely fashion ourselves as individuals.
We come equipped to fully experience life, not avoid it. We see, hear, taste, smell, feel, think, learn and choose—all with results in various gradations of good and bad in our own judgment. We don’t come guaranteed safe, clean, smart, good or comfortable. We stumble. We fall. We bleed. We ache. We blister. We know both tears and laughter, aversion and attraction, ease and disease. We hurt as well as help ourselves—and others. We give off pollutants. We’re slippery when wet. In brief, our little packages of stuff would never have passed government standards. Under the present legal regalia, it’s something of a wonder that we’re allowed to be born. But once we are, behavioral law takes over.
Our laws reveal us to be a society whose members call themselves free but turn everywhere for relief from being their self-controlled, experiencing, developing selves. The effect is the stifling of life, the blockage of progress, the numbing of the individual consciousness—each man’s capacity for the self-directed creation of himself and his world.
Life that is circumscribed by laws is life that has been taken away. The only world that’s completely clean and safe would be one that’s uninhabited—and that seems to be where today’s legalistic thinking would lead us. Without any rampage of regulation, however, the populous world of today became far cleaner, safer, healthier, and more comfortable than the cold, dank, sooty, plague-ridden, garbage-strewn centuries that befouled our pre-industrial American era.
And it is only through living that we will find ways to make it a still cleaner, safer, more comfortable world—living that is progressively intensified through the willing exchanges of energy in an uncontrolled market.
We never stopped eating because of messy kitchens. We developed indoor plumbing, hot water, mops, sponges, soaps, cleansers, cleaners, uncloggers, polishes, scouring pads, waxes, ventilating fans, self-cleaning units, prepared foods, refrigeration, freezers, automatic ranges, stick-free pans, electrical appliances, food keepers, automatic dishwashers, compactors, garbage disposals, insect killers, air fresheners, washable paints and papers, modern floor coverings, plastics, impervious counter surfaces, treated wood, paper disposables, and all the rest. All through choice in the market, not through force by law.
On the other hand, the effort to forcibly alter behavior often has a reverse effect to which we seemingly remain as unconscious as we are to the multiplied, magnified benefits of willing exchange in the market.
In the current safety mania, a playground staircase was thoroughly enclosed by vertical bars. The children simply ignored the stairway to nowhere (some bureaucrat’s idea of fun) and gleefully climbed the perilously steep fort-like safety barrier, demonstrating the danger and futility in most behavioral restrictions. Outside the school, traffic is slowed to 15 miles an hour as the children learn the world will slow down for their careless amblings, dangerously dulling their consciousness of danger on the street and the constant need of alertness.
How often our aims at providing safety result in hazards, just as our intentions to provide security increase insecurity; our aims at employment end in unemployment; our goal of prosperity results in impoverishment; our "control" of crime stimulates criminal activity; the goal of education evolves into a system of disruption and enforced opinion; environmental goals lead to the abandonment or neglect of those advances that have elevated us above the filth, drudgery, and disease of yesterday.
How often? As often as we turn to forces outside of self-responsibility for solutions to problems of everyday living. In all cases, as with that dangerous safety barrier, we are actually contriving extraneous, artificial conditions for ourselves to fail in.
Behavioral law is a system of legislated desires, all superimposed on each other and in natural, inevitable conflict. It is the process of creating conflict which previously didn’t exist and then using that fictitious, invented disharmony as the basis for extending governmental powers. Justice, instead of hanging in stable, impartial balance, is weighted first one way, then another, as the law favors first one group and then another. Such is the perpetual motion of the socialist machine, marking time, accomplishing nothing but injustice, defeating first the purpose of one group, then another—every action self-defeating.
Union members who force higher wages not only artificially increase their own cost of living, but subsidize the foreign competition they complain about, pushing the price for the product of their labor out of market range.
While clamoring for more jobs for the poor and handicapped, we establish laws that make it economically unsound and unfeasible for those with lesser skills to be employed.
Behavioral laws not only fail to help the poor, they create the poor. They don’t just make it difficult to help the handicapped, they reduce able people to the ranks of the disabled.
In a free market, handicaps disappear. Call it a miracle—an open market makes handicapped people able. It employs those who would not be employed under governmental wage standards. It invites all effort into the area of profitability.
An unregulated market, in fact, would give us cause to ask ourselves—who are the handicapped—who are the blind—who are the mentally retarded? We are all handicapped in some ways—blind to different things—mentally unaware in different areas. Incompleteness is the human condition—and the passage to all possibility.
Through an open market, all of us see by using the sight of others. They show us what they see by what they do. The unrestrained market attacks the blindness of everyone. It brings into visibility and use things that weren’t there before. It extends our minds and abilities through the minds and abilities of others. It created the world we all live in.
To stop people from doing things is to create blindness and handicaps for everyone. Every effort to control the market is such a handicap. In reducing the strength of others, we reduce our strength. If we let people do things, we can and will improve our own vision, understanding, and capability to shape the world from our own individual worlds.
The Power of the Market
Through the market and to the degree that it is unregulated, we draw power from each other. That is the strength of America —past, present and future—the power of the American idea. Vision, intelligence, and capability multiplied again and again by the efforts of people freely doing what they do best. Open competition assures the most efficient effort is that which most fully succeeds. All are advancing each other while effecting the material, intellectual and spiritual uplift of the whole world.
But whenever one imposes his will on the behavior of another, he is the blind leading the blind. The one is blind to his lack of ability—the other to his capability. As we have lost consciousness of our own blind spots, handicaps, and weaknesses, we begin to live with bigger and bigger lies, all stemming from the falseness of believing change can come from sources outside of ourselves. We are so convinced our betterment can be externally regulated, we depend on pills and psychiatrists for distributing peace of mind and sue our doctors if we get a sneeze.
Our behavioral approach to law has filled our prisons to overflowing with those who have committed no aggressive act toward anyone, including those who want to set their own price on their own services. Instead of stopping real crime, we create crimes and encourage criminals, establishing underworld networks with legally protected monopolies on traffic in behavior we officially disapprove (drugs, gambling, prostitution, and so on). Behavioral laws thus protect and enrich criminal actions while arresting, penalizing, and punishing disapproved behavior.
By tending to make everyone guilty of something, behavioral laws effectively make no one guilty of anything—the dangerous are turned loose, the peaceable incarcerated. We have lost consciousness of the fact that the only justification for detention is the protection of society from violence, not punishment, rehabilitation, education, recreation or reform.
To what extent have we lost consciousness of what the law should be and do and allowed it to control our behavior? The State now decides whether and when to disconnect your respirator. It can take away your children if it considers you unfit as a parent. It brings criminal charges against you for not sending your children to its schools.
You go to the government for permission to marry, to work, to start a business, to drive a car, to build a house. The government dictates the standards for your housing down to the number of electrical outlets on every wall. It establishes the rate you have to be capable of earning before you can get a job, and how much of your earnings you can keep.
It regulates, indirectly when not directly, the price of every chop in your refrigerator, every can on your shelf. It decides what television stations you can watch, what radio stations you can listen to.
It slaps you in the budget for your smoking or drinking, decides what toys your children will be allowed to play with, what medicines you can take, what doctors you can see, what medical services you can have. While outlawing drugs on one hand, it can force drugs upon you when it deems it advisable. It can commit you to a mental hospital and authorize disposition of your property.
It requires detailed reports on all your business and personal affairs. It expects the average citizen to understand and comply with tax forms no two lawyers can agree on and that appear to be written by a tribe of drunken chimpanzees cavorting over an acre of broken typewriter keys.
It pries into your expenditures for food, clothing, shelter, travel, investments, contributions, insurance, medical bills, repairs, operating costs—all to decide how unequal your tax rate should be in a country that is said to believe in equality before the law, each treated alike.
It takes your money to use for the welfare of others. It can send your sons, brothers, and fathers off to wars they’re not allowed to win.
But now, if you can believe the newspapers, we’re going to draw the line and say "No, you can’t do that. It’s an invasion of privacy." And what is it that we finally consider an intrusion of private rights: The official use of electronic devices in the apprehension of criminals.
It would be spectacularly amusing if it weren’t so tragic. But the alternative to behavioral law is life itself. Life proceeding in all its ways. Seeking in all directions. Advancing through as many visions of living as there are people whose peaceable actions are unrestrained.
Limitation of Government
Restoring government to its original role of restraining only violence and preserving the peace is probably as simple and as difficult as reserving judgment in regard to the behavior of others.
If we would relax our grip on certainties, we wouldn’t be living with so many lies in the form of laws. Every judgment we make forms a boundary around our consciousness unless held lightly and easily released in the light of expanding awareness. A law is just an opinion that becomes a wall—and is as hard to remove.
One way to release our hold on certainties is to consider the differences in individual perceptions of the same event. One person goes to a ballet and enjoys a musical experience. A football coach attends and sees a new backfield formation choreographed before his eyes. One scientist throws up his hands in despair at the failure of an experiment while another discovers in the unexpected result a new material or process—a new truth.
There are many worlds in one. We share in all these worlds as we allow for the flowering of individual perception and consciousness. The many worlds of our existence are all virtually undiscovered. Everyone is a world in himself.
If one person resolved upon a wage he was entitled to in his opinion, and tried to force an employer to hire him at that wage and under his conditions, he would be considered demented. When such is the privilege granted large groups of workers under the law, the government is deranged.
Government grows out of attitudes, and the only attitudes each of us has to work with are his own. Work on the attitudes of others and you’re back in the behavioral boat, advancing behaviorism as a way of life. If your own behavior is extended into law, on what basis will you object to it?
The world is as large, flexible, expandable and full of truth as all of our individual perceptions extend it. Or it is as constricted, solid, dead, and falsified as the perceptions of the blind, misguided few who would forcibly adjust it to their own limited vision.
Emerson said if we could see and feel all the things around us, we’d be so squashed we couldn’t move. He suggests different levels of life around us, but even on one level, there are an infinite number of worlds of perception—as many as there are individuals doing their own thinking. All of these worlds are open to us when government keeps us free from the destructiveness of others, not the least of which is the infliction of behavioral opinion.
Liberty—A Reward to Be Earned
It follows, from what has been stated, that it is a great and dangerous error to suppose that all people are equally entitled to liberty. It is a reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike; —a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and deserving; —and not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it. Nor is it any disparagement to liberty, that such is, and ought to be the case. On the contrary its greatest praise,—its proudest distinction is, that an all-wise Providence has reserved it, as the noblest and highest reward for the development of our faculties, moral and intellectual. A reward more appropriate than liberty could not be conferred on the deserving; —nor a punishment inflicted on the undeserving more just, than to be subject to lawless and despotic rule. This dispensation seems to be the result of some fixed law; —and every effort to disturb or defeat it, by attempting to elevate a people in the scale of liberty, above the point to which they are entitled to rise, must ever prove abortive, and end in disappointment.
–John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government