The New York Times, in its role as public advocate, is making sure to vet candidates for President to make sure their darker edges are known to all. This week’s target, Marco Rubio. We learn the distinct disdain Rubio and his wife supposedly have for the law. It turns out presumptive President Rubio has, over twenty years, had at least four run-ins with the law. Three speeding tickets and running a red light. Certainly, if you won’t stop for a red light, what will keep you from ignoring the Constitution?
We are progressively engaged in a cultural revolution redesigning the age old tenets of right and wrong as a judgement of a person’s character. The traditional structure was clean, declarative and unambiguous. The Ten Commandments. The Way, the Truth, and the Life. To follow these declared life directions was to be secure of a place in heaven. Right and wrong had ultimate moral clarity. Thou shalt not kill. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The seminal concept was personhood. A person’s acts and the way he or she acted defined them as a person of rectitude or not.
Then things became more complicated with the concept of ownership. In a world where no one owned anything, and the mass of the accumulated wealth and property was assumed the divine right of kings, one didn’t need much in the way of secular laws. Things began to change however when individuals questioned the right of kings. We look to our British brothers for impulse for laws that govern our lives. The Magna Carta, the document signed between King John and British land barons at Runnymede 800 years ago this year secured the concept the kings needed to work within a framework of respect for the rights of individual free men – the securing of separation of church and state affairs , protections against illegal imprisonment, and agreement about the form and extent of taxation. The Levellers emerged in the 17th century during the English Civil War championing the rights of the non-landed individuals to achieve suffrage, equality before the law, and the right to own property. John Locke, the philosopher, developed the Leveller concepts into a comprehensive understanding of individual rights and rights to property that became one of the most important underlying principles driving the American Revolution. To prosper, you needed people to respect your achievements, a government that could not take the bounty of your labors without your willing consent. Laws no longer about right and wrong, but rights and limitation of rights required nuanced laws and continuous adjustment. Such adjustments needed careful adjudication and a proliferation of law specialists, lawyers, became critical to separate out competing claims.
So far, so good. The original intent of limited government and precise declarations, however, began to spiral out of control as the extent and diversity of ownership and mercantile transactions created the environment for expansion of bureaucracies. The Magna Carta fit on a page. The Constitution of the United States fit on three pages. By 1887, the Interstate Commerce Act signed by President Grover Cleveland required 24 sections and 9 pages – long, but readable in a single session and still a guide for all. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought a small book of nine title chapters and 1,106 sections, by which the expression of individual right protections, and equally importantly, the determination as to whether someone was technically following the law, was becoming progressively more laborious. It began to be rationalized that one needed laws to define laws – in essence a set of regulations to provide the detail that the increasingly more expanded and opaque laws could not provide. Thus forward through the formation of Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Tax Code, and the behemoth of behemoths, the Affordable Care Act of 2010, coming in at 955 pages, 10602 Sections and thousands of attachments driving the creation of over 90,000 regulations thus far. To know if you were right or wrong in your desire to follow the law, you had to pass the bill to find out what’s in it, according to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House in 2010. Its fairly certain no individual can feel confident they are compliant with laws such as these.
Right and wrong has become a technicality. You can be right, and be technically wrong. You can be in the wrong and technically right. As the sign above indicates, it depends on who is regulating and who is enforcing. The society has become a dysfunctional mess, where the Secretary of the Treasury in 2008 was incarcerating people for not technically paying sufficient taxes by his understanding of the law, while he was not paying his own taxes. We have a former Vice President flying around in a monstrously carbon guzzling private jet exclaiming that it is righteous to tax people for clinging to their mode of transportation, cars, to an intolerable limit, to affect their wrong way behavior. We have a presumptive presidential candidate and her former President husband that see nothing wrong in the technical right to run a charitable organization as their private bank, with tens of millions of dollars of tax free funds pouring in to support personal lifestyle and minuscule amounts reverting to the charitable intent. In an equally dark vein, we have the horrid story of a murder victim in New Jersey, who attempted to abide by the law to legally obtain a firearm, guaranteed to her by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, to protect herself only after the state of New Jersey secured her a permit, find herself waiting months only to have the ex-boyfriend find her and kill her. The victim and the state were technically right to have followed an intolerable law, and now she is most certainly untechnically dead as a result.
We are living in a time where no one is on any level clear as to their responsibility before the law, or equality, clarity or fairness by which the law will be enforced. Millions of unknowable regulatory laws put every single American in the wrong for something, whether they are aware of it or not. It only requires an overriding bureaucratic government to determine the arbitrary enforcement of it. Try to live a righteous life, and on some level I assure you , you are getting it wrong.
Marco Rubio wants to be President. His wife was ticketed in the Rubio family vehicle for driving 23 miles and hour in a 15 mile an hour school zone. The fine was 185.00. They were in the wrong. They paid the fine. They knew the difference between right and wrong and made it up to society. Nothing arbitrary about it. That’s enough for me. Now, if only the New York Times would focus its attentions on the crimes of the century being transferred as we speak to our nation’s children as we as a society refuse to admit our wrong of letting our government buy us stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have. Maybe Marco Rubio, who pays his fines, is just the man for the job.