Laws as Self-Protection

I have long thought about laws in terms of laws being a response and there being a gap between the law and reality. In my Mexican American History I class–the class where I am having so many “ah-ha teaching moments”–I recently ventured into also thinking about laws as a form of self-protection–a more specific branch of laws being a response. What follow are working thoughts:

Why did the Catholic church prohibit certain kinds of enslavement? 

Why did the United States develop such strict immigration rules? 

Why do we have term limits for some elected offices? 

Why are members on the SCOTUS appointed for life?

Why do we have 12 years of compulsory education?   

Why do politicians work so hard to outlaw green energy?

Why do we have laws mandating safety regulations for some things and prohibiting safety regulations for other things?

Why do we have laws prohibiting employee rights? 

Not to sound overly pessimistic, but all of these laws relate to various forms of self-protection, mostly self-protection for the elite. Politicians–or rather CEOs–draft, vote on, and pass laws that protect their interests, protect the already-rich and already-privileged individuals.

Some laws, such as initiative and referendum in select states, provide some paths–albeit difficult ones–for everyday citizens to have an increased say and thus a form of self-protection. 

What would our nation be like if we had laws that protected the under privileged, protected the Earth, and promoted notions of global citizenship instead of self-protection?

By recognizing that so many laws involve a tremendous degree of self-protection before anything else–not notions of honesty or safety or equality–helps us better understand frustrating political processes.      

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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4 replies

  1. Yes why. We must have rules to go by.

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  2. Professor Pegoda,
    Are there not laws for the things you listed like the underprivileged my example is homeless vets. And the Earth again I believe though I may be mistaken there are laws against air pollution and for sure littering but I think part of the issue is that we are so focused on “self preservation ” or as you said self protecting of these CEOs and politicians that we don’t enforce the laws or care to enforce these laws that effect us greatly.


  3. When you find an answer to your question – “What would our nation be like if we had laws that protected the under privileged, protected the Earth, and promoted notions of global citizenship instead of self-protection?” – please let me know. We’re living in an oligarchy now, and heaven help those of us – the huge majority – that don’t have money enough to direct laws – and, more importantly, ignore others.

    Liked by 1 person


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