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Rule of Law and Man

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The extension for three years of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate is the latest alteration to the law. To date, the Obama Administration has delayed more than a dozen aspects of the ACA. Such changes, of course, are supposed to be made by the legislature, which writes law; and, of course, the executive branch is, well, the executive branch, charged with executing the laws the legislature has passed.

Put another way, the executive branch is arguably violating the law (the Constitution) by amending statutes after the fact. They do this, too, with the selective execution of the law in matters such as DOMA and immigration.

Put still another way, there appears to be a blatant disregard for the rule of law from the current federal government—government because the Congress allows this to continue largely unabated.

This disregard for the rule of law should be alarming to most political observers. Should the federal government continue in this manner, it will eventually erode the general respect for the law, perhaps to the point that it is rendered practically meaningless.

At a certain point, when the state governs in this fashion, there is no rule of law. Instead, the people will live under the rule of man, which is precisely what the United States was founded to avoid.

Sure, man makes laws, but under the rule of law, rules are known in advance and there are deliberative processes by which the state enacts new laws. When living under the rule of man, the governed become the ruled and are subject to the whim of the person(s) in power. In other words, power becomes arbitrary, leaving the ruled with little say, and their liberty easily violated.

One might suggest that the actions of the current administration are benevolent in nature because, with regard to the ACA, they are easing the burden of a duly enacted law. Motivations aside, benevolence is not guaranteed in the future. In the hands of the wrong person(s), arbitrary power can become dangerous, which is why the United States was founded to live under the rule of law, not the rule of man.

While no system is perfect, and the rule of law has its drawbacks, they are arguably fewer than the hazards of living in a system under the arbitrary rule of man. It is those absolute rulers who tend to abuse power. Since man is imperfect, and in power quite Machiavellian, prudence begs for checks and balances and prescribed in the Constitution—that is, the rule of law.

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