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.