Inequality Before the Law is Natural & Proper to Man

Men are not equal. Some are therefore rightly more authoritative, more influential, and more important than others. The law ought to recognize this reality – and it does. The question is not whether it does recognize this reality, then, but whether it does so justly.

Brett Stevens points out this morning that:

Egalitarianism acts like a virus: once you accept it, it uses you to replicate, spreading both to others and to areas of thought unrelated to its entry point. For example, if you think one day that yes, people should be equal before the law, soon you will find yourself thinking, yes, they should be equal in social matters, too.

For this reason, people lose control of themselves once they say “yes” to that first touch of egalitarianism. If they fail to keep being egalitarian in all areas of life, they are rejecting the idea of egalitarianism itself, which because it is not tied to any specific context, infects all contexts.

People are not naturally egalitarian. They are naturally authoritarian: the newborn finds himself in a world that is wholly structured by the unquestionable authority of his parents, his grandparents, and his elder siblings. He is junior even to the pets.

Nor does this condition of unequal authority ever end. We are all of us ever subject to some other, higher authority.

It is natural to us then to treat others as either more or less authoritative than we, and much of social life consists in rituals that enable us to determine our authority vis-à-vis that of some other.

It is foolish to think that this reality of social life has been transcended in egalitarian societies like that of America, which pretend to have abolished social classes. It has not. America has not abolished social classes, but rather only obscured them. All that has happened with the ostensible abolition of social classes is that the ascertainment of social class has become more difficult, expensive, and prone to error than it might otherwise have been. Explicit social classes reduce the expense and difficulty of that ascertainment.

Inequality is a fact of social life. Hierarchy of authority is a fact of social life. These facts then ought to be recognized in law. We ought not to be equal before the law. The law rather should reckon our real differences, and take account of them.

Not that the upper classes should be less constrained by law than the lower. It’s just the opposite.

The nobler you are and the greater your power and authority the more ought you to be constrained by laws. The greater your authority, the greater your responsibility. The noble are responsible in fact for the acts of their subsidiaries, and can therefore be justly penalized for those acts. The greater your authority, the more burdensome your duties. As superlatively virtuous, aristoi ought furthermore to do far more for the polis than hoi polloi, and ought therefore to be held to account for more and more various derelictions of duty than their subsidiaries. When the ship runs aground, the captain pays with his career, even if he was asleep at the time.

Society is furthermore harmed more by the death of a noble man – a superlatively virtuous and rightly authoritative man – than it is by the death of a common man. It is far more advantageous in war to kill an officer than any of his troops, mutatis mutandis. It is only proper, right, and natural that the law should recognize this plain fact. Usually it has. So it was that under Anglo-Saxon and Babylonian law the penalty for the murder of a nobleman was much greater than that for the murder of a serf or commoner. This seems abhorrent to modern Americans. But it persists today in tort law under the aspect of human life value: if your product killed a young attorney, you will pay a lot more than if it killed an aged bum.

There is a different legal system for the wealthy, and there ought to be. But it ought to be tilted in the opposite direction than is ours today. Hillary Clinton has so far gone unpunished for her gross dereliction of duty respecting state secrets. Meanwhile a sailor has been jailed for his innocent detention of petty secrets. If a sailor can be jailed for taking a few photos (but not transmitting them), then Clinton – who of course knew far better exactly what she was doing with her private server – ought to be drawn and quartered.

The law should levy its harshest burdens upon the wealthy, the powerful, the influential. Not that its burden upon their lessers should be lighter than at present, to be sure. It should not. Perhaps, indeed, it should be harsher than at present. But the aristoi should pay far more than hoi polloi for their crimes; for, they are in a position to inflict far more suffering; and ought to know far better what the right is, and that they ought to do it; and are in a far better economic case to do it.

53 thoughts on “Inequality Before the Law is Natural & Proper to Man

  1. Pingback: Inequality Before the Law is Natural & Proper to Man | @the_arv

  2. It’s always simultaneously amusing and depressing to watch weaponized egalitarianism play out in reality. Because egalitarianism is self-contradictory and thus logically explosive, you constantly see people using it to give themselves victim-status, since they can use it to beg whatever questions they like.

    When I want to do something that you won’t let me do, it’s because you’re oppressing me – making me less than equal – and thus tyrannizing me.

    When you want to do something that I won’t let you do, it’s because you’re elevating yourself – making yourself more than equal – and thus tyrannizing me.

    And so egalitarians make themselves just as authoritarian as anyone else, but they do so from behind a mask which pretends to non-authority, attempting to claim the moral high ground while really just begging all questions in favour of whatever they happen to prefer.

    It’s all just one great non serviam, but with a cloaking device. It allows people to sincerely believe and feel like they’re taking a principled stand, while really just empowering them to do whatever they like, that is, empowering them to ignore all responsibilities, because responsibility is just another tyranny.

  3. Pingback: Inequality Before the Law is Natural & Proper to Man | Reaction Times

  4. Very interesting and thought provoking, albeit controversial post. My question is, in such a society, how would it go by enforcing against potential corruption of the higher classes. Surely they will wield a power that is quite difficult to enforce, despite the deterrences of strong punishments that you’ve suggested. Who would be in charge of making sure the top of the hierarchy stay in line?

    • No one has a greater stake in the general prosperity of his subsidiaries than the aristo, to whose personal fisc it redounds. The aristoi themselves, therefore, are the surest guarantors of sanity and probity among their own company.

      The king is first among barons, and subject to their confidence. Woe betide him, should he lose that confidence!

      • I would say theoretically and practically that’s true. But historically, the aristo has too often succumbed to the temptations of such power, the instant gratification and pleasure that a role can bring. With that being said, a truly developed hierarchical system like the one you’ve proposed has never really been fully realised, so there’s room for optimism. Though it would be hard to convince “commoners” that they’re in a sense inferior to the aristo.

      • One of the things that comes along with a legitimate hierarchy that enjoys the Mandate of Heaven – that, i.e., is recognized as just and proper by all and sundry – is noblesse oblige. To this day, we expect more of prominent people than of commoners. We feel more crestfallen at their moral failures, and somewhat betrayed. In a true aristocracy, the aristoi expect more of themselves, too. They feel themselves obliged to their people.

        That breaks down only when factions arise – when, i.e., the social fabric is somewhat disintegrated. Then, you get contests among factions for the state’s power to exploit the commoners.

      • Let me propose a distinction between principle and modus operandi. I strongly dislike the phrase “equality before the law” and the principle that attaches to it. I would replace that phrase with another: “The law should be indifferent regarding persons and stations,” which implies a different principle that has rid itself of the toxic delusion of equality. The modus operandi of the new principle would be triage: By a built-in prejudice, prosecution would begin with the biggest fish, who, on conviction, would receive the sternest sentences; and it would work its way down from there. Mitigation of sentences would only be active below a certain level. Injustice, as when higher-ups escape punishment for crimes that land Joe Blow a stiff sentence, sickens the national psyche. The cure is unavoidable, in-your-face, public perp-walks for higher ups.

      • That triage was what I was getting at in the post, and with its title. Equality before the law is a mirage in any case. It always has been, thank Heaven: judges have broad discretion in their determination of justice under this circumstance or that, and prosecutors too have discretion in their determination of what cases to bring.

        Focusing prosecutorial effort and juridical sentencing with particular force and relentlessness upon the depredations of the high and mighty would have a salutary effect from the top to the bottom of society. Seeing the Clintons doggedly pursued and then fitly punished fitly for their crimes would increase everyone’s respect for the law, and incline them to lawfulness in their own lives. When the Clintons go scot free, everyone loses respect for *every social institution.*

  5. I wrote this earlier today, Feb. 21st… Perhaps some synchronicity?

    https://eradica.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/what-does-it-mean-to-cooperate-with-an-investigation-2/#comment-64893

    Total collapse is literally “universal equality” by which the mechanism of perpetual r/evolution is both ends and means. (t)otalitarianism be a mere pre-collapse.

    Egalitarianism is the ideology of (t)otalitarian pre-collapse.

    (Universal) “Equality”before the law is the inevitable collapse of law and a violent insurgency of inequality.

    Those that DEMAND “equality” are motivated by a malevolence to be found at the origin of the demand.

  6. Your post is wrong, because the standard of the law does not change ; only how it is administered in certain circumstances.

    “For example, if you think one day that yes, people should be equal before the law, soon you will find yourself thinking, yes, they should be equal in social matters, too.”

    Could you give some examples?

    “Nor does this condition of unequal authority ever end. We are all of us ever subject to some other, higher authority.”

    Right — and here we really are equal. Of course, God doesn’t submit to the world’s definitions of what that word means means. For instance, the world also has its own ideas about what constitutes “equality,” but God, like a few in classical antiquity, alludes to “equality under the law” — His law, of course. As regards His own demanding, punishing, rewarding, etc. He insists, quite firmly and repeatedly, that He doesn’t “play favorites” (see Acts 10:34-35, Rom. 2:9-11, I Pet. 1:17, Eph. 6:8-9, Col. 3:25).

    “It is natural to us then to treat others as either more or less authoritative than we, and much of social life consists in rituals that enable us to determine our authority vis-à-vis that of some other.”

    Of course. There are some we should obey because of their offices, insofar as we can without sin. That said, all are equal before God’s law, and insofar as we are able to do so here on earth, it is good that we apply equal standards as well and do not play favorites.

    That said, as Martin Luther put it, “[A]ll laws that regulate men’s actions must be subject to justice [Billicheit], their mistress, because of the innumerable and varied circumstances which no one can anticipate or set down.” (LW 46:103; WA 19:632)

    Here, the equal punishments demanded by the law are mitigated, but even this is done with justice.

    And… as you imply, it makes sense that those with greater power have greater responsibility, and therefore can expect less mitigation, whatever their circumstance.

    “if your product killed a young attorney, you will pay a lot more than if it killed an aged bum.”

    Right — and it shouldn’t matter who kills them.

    • Thanks, Nathan, and welcome to the Orthosphere.

      You say that the post is wrong, but then in what I suppose you take to be your disagreements you proceed to say a lot of things that I might have said myself – and that nowise contravene the suggestions of the post. For example:

      … the standard of the law does not change; only how it is administered in certain circumstances.

      … the equal punishments demanded by the law are mitigated, but even this is done with justice.

      … as you imply, it makes sense that those with greater power have greater responsibility, and therefore can expect less mitigation, whatever their circumstance.

      Yes! Exactly.

      For example, if you think one day that yes, people should be equal before the law, soon you will find yourself thinking, yes, they should be equal in social matters, too.

      Could you give some examples?

      Well, the classic example is the extension of the franchise to the unpropertied, then to women, then to teenagers.

      “if your product killed a young attorney, you will pay a lot more than if it killed an aged bum.”

      Right – and it shouldn’t matter who kills them.

      Yes. The basic penalty for murdering any man ought to be the same (and of course very severe). If the victim was noble, the penalty should be greater. If the murderer was noble, it ought to be greater.

      • I lol’d at this because it is almost word-for-word how I would have responded.

        Beyond all of that, though, it seems like Nathan might be missing an ingredient in all of this that extends beyond the mere individual. (I entertain doubts as to the veracity of the claim that the adoption of a bad principle *necessarily leads to* the adoption of its offspring as pertains *to individuals* only)

        The data overwhelmingly suggests and teaches us that *over time* the seed (in this case, the idea that “people should be equal before the law”), once embraced, will eventually blossom and produce its own kind of fruit containing its seed within itself. All the information for production of the fruit is there in its seed.

        In other words, one’s grandparents, say, might well have adopted the abstract principle without succumbing to the absurdity of “marriage equality,” as an example. But by the third or fourth generation following, their grandchildren most likely will have taken it to its logical conclusion(s).

      • Although shedding innocent blood is the same. It’s capital punishment whether commoner or noble.

        How can the penalty be greater with capital punishment prescribed for all at least for murder?

      • There could be financial penalties levied in addition to corporeal penalties. This was pretty common in the legal systems of the Scandinavians. If you killed a man, you could discharge part of your penalty – and in some cases even avoid the death penalty – by paying a huge sum to the family of the victim. Sometimes such a financial penalty was combined with, say, the loss of a hand or a foot, or an eye.

        Then also, there are degrees of murder. Not all of them are capital crimes. And then there’s manslaughter, negligence, and so forth.

      • Kristor,

        “in what I suppose you take to be your disagreements you proceed to say a lot of things that I might have said myself…”

        As I said.

        “Your post is wrong, because the standard of the law does not change ; only how it is administered in certain circumstances.”

        It matters how you get there.

        “Yes! Exactly.”

        OK, than the standard of the law does not change. The law is no respecter of persons. Its not that the idea of equality under the law is wrong. Its that everyone is to lazy to define what that means or should mean.

        +Nathan

      • The law should be no respecter of persons in that it should not change depending who is on trial. It should not, i.e., be capricious. If murder is to be illegal, it should be illegal no matter who the murderer is; and the murderer should be brought before the bar of justice on account of the murder.

        But the law ought to be *administered* differently depending on who the murderer is. A noble man should pay a greater penalty for crime x than should a commoner. And a greater penalty should be levied for crime x perpetrated upon a noble man than upon a commoner, if only because ceteris paribus a truly noble man’s time (spent on coping with the sequelae of the crime) is more valuable to society than the time of a commoner.

      • Although shedding innocent blood is the same. It’s capital punishment whether commoner or noble.

        How can the penalty be greater with capital punishment prescribed for all at least for murder?

        There can also be more or less painful and more or less humiliating executions. For example, St. Paul is said to have been beheaded rather than say, crucified, because he was a Roman citizen.

        Another example: in England, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered was a method of execution reserved for the worst crime, high treason.

      • Nathan:

        Its not that the idea of equality under the law is wrong. Its that everyone is to lazy to define what that means or should mean.

        The idea of ‘equality under the law’ is highly *misleading* to many many people. Intellectual laziness in defining what it means and doesn’t mean is certainly a factor, but it isn’t the only factor by any stretch. There is ignorance, the cause of which can be one of any number of things, or any number of combinations thereof; there is irreligion, the cause of which can be any number of things more or less the fault of the individual(s) in question. And so on…

        But, sure, if we could somehow figure a way to make everyone equally industrious and vigilant in his pursuit of truth and useful knowledge, equally scrupulous of religious principle; and dare I say … equally *traditional* in his world and life view, then all would be well. Unfortunately (or fortunately, by another light) the world we inhabit doesn’t permit of such, and, moreover, never will.

        So, … best to do as Kristor says – make it explicit that the law in fact *does not* see every person as “equal” to every other person, nor does it treat them so. We’d all be better served for elimination of that primary source of confusion.

      • Kristor and T. Morris,

        Kristor says: “The law should be no respecter of persons in that it should not change depending who is on trial.”

        Right. The law does not change and applies to all persons because God is not a respecter of persons and it is good and right to imitate him. This is what we always need to start with, and this is why we are all equal under the law. When you say “But the law ought to be *administered* differently depending on who the murderer is” I agree, but that has nothing to do with people not being equal under the law.

        Many people want to speak this way, however, in order to say that we are, basically, not all equally man, as I am sure you well know.

        And that, is bullshit. We might not all act as man should act, but that does not mean that any human being is any less than fully human, fully man.

        I understand that you men are not looking to go in this direction, but many are. And to them, we must say: “Shut up. God is no respecter of persons and so and so is your brother, and you are his keeper.” There is certainly room to talk about how we must first attend to our natural families, how in-group preference is not an inherently evil thing, etc, etc.

        But the Good Lord demands more. And all of us, in our time of need, would hope that a Samaritan we definitely do not have an in-group preference for, would help us.

        And no, that does not mean open borders, globalism, etc.

        I hope this makes sense.

        +Nathan

      • Every human is in imago dei, of course. Men are all equally men. But not all men are equal. The law must take account of both these facts, if it is to be properly fitted to reality – if it is to be apposite, and so is to have a shot at achieving justice.

      • The law does not change and applies to all persons …

        Right (kind of). The law which says that the property at 123 Elm is owned by Fred applies to everyone: to Fred, to Bob, to trespassers, to thieves, and to tax collectors.

        But it certainly doesn’t treat various parties equally. Every law by its very nature discriminates authoritatively. That is what law is: authoritative discrimination. By its nature the law cannot treat everyone equally; it can only treat various controverted desires and choices justly or unjustly, by authoritatively discriminating either justly or unjustly.

        And actually the law frequently does change, for that matter.

        The phrase “equality before the law” is one of those liberal slogans which is either vacuous or incoherent, depending on how it is interpreted.

      • When you get right down to it, *every statement whatever* – aye, even every act – is a putatively more or less authoritative discrimination of some sort. Every act is an effectual assertion that some x is correct. This is so even of comedy; for, comedy depends upon discriminations that turn out to be hilariously wrong or inapt.

      • Nathan:

        And that, is bullshit. We might not all act as man should act, but that does not mean that any human being is any less than fully human, fully man.

        I agree; except in the peculiar cases of females and homosexuals, who are most certainly *not* fully human.

        How do I know? Easy. The argument is very frequently made that women and homosexuals cannot, by their natures, control their impulses. Therefore, if straight men *can* control their impulses, while women and homosexuals (et al) can’t, then, by dint of common reasoning, someone or other among them is less human.

        I’m going with my instincts on the question and asserting that woman and homosexual are less human. Lol!

        Sorry to make a joke at your expense, Nathan, but I couldn’t resist. Which probably means I’m less than human. Dang!

      • infowarrior1:

        Maybe the manner of trial and execution should be more grandiose as a result.

        When some of us pronounce, as we do on occasion, that certain federal judges ought to be publicly strung up and tarred and feathered on Washington Ave. for their crimes, we mean it in both a figurative and a literal sense. Impeachment isn’t even a good scare crow, as Jefferson so rightly observed, and as our own experiences should have thoroughly taught us by now.

        Nevertheless, in high government positions of authority the potential for doing permanent and irreversible damage is enormous and ever-present. One way to prevent its frequent occurance with men disposed to abuse their authority is to make the consequences so fearful and dreaded that they will *most usually* avoid it like the plague despite their dispositions.

        The death penalty is, in my personal view, not too harsh a penalty for a federal judge who rules in favor of “gay marriage,” or the wholesale abortion of unborn children. It can be administered “humanely,” whatever that means to people and if they insist upon it, but it is still a high crime and ought to punished accordingly.

        Meanwhile, if Joe the Plumber procures an abortion for his secret girl friend, he ought to be punished to the full extent of the law, but there isn’t much of a reason to make a public spectacle of it unless it is meant to deter other Joe Plumbers from doing the same thing. But in no way should the law treat the two cases the same because they’re not the same. Even if the punishment is essentially the same.

        But on the issue of liberal slogans like that under discussion, whenever people start touting them (especially people who think they have it all figured out how to keep the proverbial stallions in the makeshift coral), my “Monarchist” shields automatically throw themselves up, and I say to myself, ‘what is the “equal protection of the laws”; who can give it any definition that does not leave the utmost latitude for evasion?’

        And the obvious answer is why our celebrated monarchist thought the Bill of Rights would be the death of the Constitution. Plausible pretenses and all that.

  7. formal equality is an epistemological matter: a central authority does not know who is worth more or less, and has no means to produce this knowledge. therefore it shouldn’t assume it has this knowledge, but start from ground 0: everyone is equally worthless unless proven contrary.

    net productive worth provides a more or less accurate measure of people’s different worth, while at the same time allowing for dynamics in this social worth (one may be born rich and die poor because of bad decisions).

    • Net productive worth is indeed a pretty good metric. There would need to be some others: bishops and abbots, for example, are noble, even though they own little or no personal property.

      Of course, once you explicitly specify the metrics, then the central authority *does* have a way of knowing who is noble and who is not. It is when the criteria of nobility are intentionally obfuscated – as in the modern West – that the central authority is “ignorant.” Note well those scare quotes. The central authority is *not* in fact ignorant of who is noble, and who is not.

      This is why Hillary Clinton roams free, while the poor sailor languishes in the brig.

      Everyone knows the score perfectly well. They just have to pretend that they don’t.

  8. re: “The law should levy its harshest burdens upon the wealthy, the powerful, the influential.”

    In some respects it already does. Do I take it that Kristor supports a graduated income tax? If so, then the more important principle of government neutrality between the classes is lost. Even under a single tax rate, the wealthy would pay more because the laws of mathematics dictate that. But at least here the principle of a single standard is preserved, and the government does not pick sides. Under graduated rates, the government heaps burden upon burden.

    I fear the politician who uses such Kristorian rhetoric like, “The law should levy its harshest burdens upon the wealthy…”. What’s the limiting principle here?

    • I don’t support a graduated income tax; not because I support a single rate of income taxation, but because I don’t support income taxation per se. Transaction taxes are the way to go (plus tariffs, tonlieux, tolls, and fees); and the most efficient way to collect them is to set a single rate for all transactions.

      But anyway the OP was not about public policy. It was about criminal justice.

      I fear the politician who uses such Kristorian rhetoric like, “The law should levy its harshest burdens upon the wealthy …” What’s the limiting principle here?

      Politicians are always to be feared, no matter how smooth their tongues.

      The limiting principle is – always – the sagacity and prudence of the electorate, and below them of the commoners. Under aristocracy, the electors are aristoi, so presumably they are more sagacious and prudent than our current electorate; and as better governed than at present, so would the commoners under a proper aristocracy be more prudent and sagacious than our commoners are today.

      NB: that there are electors does not imply that elections are mediated by vote. Electors are those who are in charge of deciding – somehow or other – who is in charge. There are always electors.

  9. Kristor, does your ideal system allow for social mobility? Could or should a man born to a lower class rise to a higher class through merit? Or should he be content with his low status as a general proposition?

    • Yes. Classes, not castes, with the ever present danger of a fall from one class to another due to imprudence or ill fortune, and the ever present opportunity of rising through prudence, enterprise, or good fortune. *And,* under a proper social order, all men should be able to understand their station as inherently dignified; should understand themselves in their daily lives as doing the Lord’s work, howsoever humble. I’ve worked as a dishwasher, a janitor, a mail clerk, a runner, a stock clerk (in a fabric store), and a woodcutter. In each of these humble jobs I was able to figure out how to make them occasions for the production of beauty; of added value. I took pleasure in doing them well, for their own sake. If circumstances had kept me in one of those jobs for my whole life, I would have been content.

      What grinds a man’s gears is the contempt of others; the neglect of what is due to him on account merely of his inherent, basic dignity qua man. And, by exactly the same token, nothing enlarges a man more wonderfully than the respect shown to him qua man by a man he deems noble.

      Did you hear what he said? Us lions. That means him and me. Us lions. That’s what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand-off-ishness.

      CS Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chapter 16

      The Good Master then understands his subsidiaries as his proximal relatives, merely on account of their common humanity, and treats them as he would want his own master to treat him. The Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep.

      • I could certainly abide by a system such as that. I have always considered the phrase “equality before law” to mean the law is indifferent to person or station as Mr. Bertonneau previously articulated. I never agreed with political correctness which is a perversion of that idea. From one former dish washer to another, I thank you for your thoughtful reply.

      • Well, but while the law itself should be indifferent to person or station – should, i.e., be written so as to cover all men without exception – its administration should *not* be indifferent to person or station. This was the whole point of the post. Professor Bertonneau went on to specify a modus operandi for the law, under which it would treat people differently on account of their person or station.

        And, in fact, the administration of the law *never is* indifferent to person or station. It always treats people differently, depending on who they are. It must. The only question, as I said at the beginning of the post, is whether the differences in its treatment of different people are just, or not.

      • Yes, I understand both your and Professor Bertonneau’s points. I was only describing my historical view of the phrase “equality before the law.”

        Unrelated – I wonder if all Orthospherians agree with your “classes not castes” system. I suspect some — perhaps the ones who call other people “stupid” for disagreeing with them might not be in favor of social mobility and might also not be content to find themselves born in a low situation.

      • Down with “welfare” and “safety nets” and programs for “upward mobility” administered from on high! If we must have them (and we must), then let them originate and be administered at the local level. The localer the better.

      • Agreed. But only if the family hasn’t the resources to do it. (N.B. that I didn’t say “if the family refuses” its assistance.)

      • Excellent, yes. And if the family hasn’t the resources, and the local parish is tapped out, then there’s a phone call to the Diocese, etc.

        But not to the County, or the State, or the Feds.

  10. Good post.

    The concept of ‘equal protection under the law’ is vacuous.

    What people mean when they say they believe in ‘equal protection under the law’ is that they believe certain features should be deemed irrelevant when determining justice, for instance race. But in that case, saying that you favor ‘equal protection of the law’ is far too vague to have any meaningful, stable content: every person means something different by it. Everyone, liberals and conservatives alike, wants the law to discriminate on the basis of certain features but not on others.

    The law by its very nature must discriminate (you cannot have a law that does not discriminate in one way or another). ‘Equal protection under the law’ is too vague for it to do any real work: any given case always comes down to the particulars, where the law discriminates in one way or another based on the particulars of that case. Every single law treats some people differently from others. And every time a law is executed, it is treating the individual against which the law is executed differently from other people because of particular features that differentiate that individual from others.

    The million dollar question then is which features and distinctions matter and which features and distinctions don’t matter? That’s what needs to be debated.

    I recall when I was still a classical liberal arguing against ‘gay marriage’ on the grounds of equality under the law: the conservative position treats homosexuals and normal people equally and makes no distinction between them: anyone – whether homosexual or normal – is free to marry someone of the opposite sex.

    Of course, leftists would argue for the exact opposite conclusion also on the grounds of equality under the law.

    And if two people can come to exactly the opposite conclusions arguing from the same principle, that ought be a hint that the principle in question might be meaningless.

    • The law by its very nature must discriminate (you cannot have a law that does not discriminate in one way or another).

      This is a profound insight. It is Zippy caliber stuff (I congratulate you, Ian; I almost never come up with Zippy caliber stuff – no one does)(hey there, Zip!). Law *just is* a formal, and indeed ritual, act of utmost discrimination, that is then ritually reenacted – concretely, upon real victims, and bloodily! It marks out certain sorts of acts as categorically forbidden, regulated, abjured – then, punished. No discrimination, no law; and, no social order, of any sort.

      No sacrifice, no society. It’s worth pondering. As our masthead says: Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.

      The million dollar question then is which features and distinctions matter and which [don’t] matter?

      Aye. Given that discrimination of some sort is inherent to law as such, the question is then: is the discrimination explicit in this law truly just?

      And if two people can come to exactly the opposite conclusions arguing from the same principle, that ought be a hint that the principle in question might be meaningless.

      Yeow, awesome! A trifecta in one comment!

      Is there any effect of law upon society, if in its effection there be no blood? I doubt it. Toothless law that never absolutely rends, that never rends to death himself, is at last … toothless, moot, gormless, absurd. Ergo, despicable, by all and sundry. Law that speaks no death, to anyone, is no law to begin with. It is rather only and no more than vain windy posturing. Its propagators are then worthless, abhorrent, as altogether missing the point of their due professional endeavours, which are their plain duty; who ought to be then justly abjured; to be themselves rightly destroyed, as witnesses to and for evil.

      • This is a profound insight. It is Zippy caliber stuff…

        High praise, thanks!

        Actually, my comment was mostly copied and pasted from a private email correspondence with a friend from a few years ago on this very topic. I recall at that time thinking to myself, “I bet Zippy has something intelligent to say on this subject” and so I searched his blog for ‘equality under the law’, and this post came up. As is typical, Zippy had already gotten there years before I did. (And you’ll see me recounting this anecdote in the comments to that post).

        So credit for anything profound or original in my comment should probably go to him. He’s certainly influenced my thinking on topics like this.

  11. If it is natural for man to live under a monarchy then how does one account for the fact that most people do not live under a monarchy? Moreover, if Christianity and monarchy are intrinsically linked why are the only real monarchies in our time Muslim in character?

    • Winston, your questions have nothing to do with the OP. Nevertheless I shall respond to them.

      Who said that it is natural for man to live under monarchy? Who said that monarchy and Christianity are intrinsically linked?

      I should say rather that it is best and most proper for man to live under monarchy. As to whether Christianity and monarchy are intrinsically linked, I can’t see that they are.

    • Winston, may I make an observation on your style of questioning *without* giving the impression I’m purposely trying to insult you? Okay, here goes:

      Do you *really* want to know why Kristor thinks Monarchy the most suitable form of government to man? If so, try this:

      Enter the term “monarchy” in the search bar. A lot of articles/posts will come up. Most of which include the by line Kristor.

      Read them. And when you are finished, bring whatever questions occur to your mind forward.

      It is *really* that simple. But just keep in mind, always, whole-to-part methodology. Its opposite almost always results in the nonsense on display.

  12. Pingback: Equality before the law means inequality before the law | Zippy Catholic

  13. Folks,

    Well, I’m sorry to see that most everyone here has presumably drank the Kool-Aid.

    Of course the purpose of the law is to discriminate. The primary purpose of the law – and the primary purpose of the phrase “equality under the law” — is simply to discriminate vs. good and bad behavior without respect to persons. Good behavior like marriage for example and bad behavior like homosexual activity. The enacting of the consequences for breaking the law – with mitigating circumstances taken into account — is a related to this and not insignificant, but is not the primary point of talking about “equality under the law”. The laws of men certainly do change, and they will always track with, more or less, (sometimes much less) God’s law which does not.

    The gymnastics on display here are a sight to behold, and indicate how bad things have gotten. What with both the left’s and now the right’s abuse of language and meaning.

    +Nathan

  14. Hi there,
    An interesting post. Equality is a human construct evolved over the millenia to appease, keep in check and slowly change the constant, brutal and barbaric practices perpetrated by human species over one another; it is an ideal much akin to fantasy or religion and merely a theory to titillate the sensibilities of the wealthy and aspiring wealthy.

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