The Divine Right of Kings was abolished on June 15, 1215 at Runnymede when King John signed the Magna Carta. English lawyer and judge Lord Denning (1899-1999) declared the Magna Carta “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.” It means the King is also bound by the Rule of Law, no less than the lowest peasant.
America’s founding fathers adopted this principle from the Magna Carta when they ratified the American Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land. Barack Obama has shown little respect for that glorious and fundamental concept. He’s taking American down a dangerous course.
Glenn Reynolds, writing in his weekly USA Today column, says that obeying the law starts at the top. If politicians [and judges, I would add] don’t treat the law as worthy of respect no one should expect citizens to either. Reynolds points out that there are two reasons for people to obey the law. First is fear of consequences but if that were the only reason we would be living in a society where everyone would ignore the law whenever they believed they could get away with it. That would be an ugly society, says Reynolds, leading to anarchy and/or tyranny. A better reason is for people to obey the law because they want to. When “people are generally law-abiding, the law enforcement presence can be light, and people can be reasonably confident that their fellow citizens are honest.”
Under what conditions will people want to obey the law? Reynolds explains:
…for people to want to obey the law for reasons that go beyond avoiding punishment, several things have to be true. First, they must generally approve of the law: Maybe not of every individual provision, but they have to believe that, in general, the laws are just rather than unfair. Second, they have to feel reasonably confident that most others will obey the law, too: People like to feel like good citizens, but they don’t like to feel like suckers. Finally, they have to feel as if the people in charge also respect the law. Examples are set at the top, and if the government treats unwelcome laws as unworthy of respect, you can expect the populace to feel the same way.
It’s much better to live in a society in which the laws are just, and in which people follow them as much out of moral obligation as fear of consequences. But such a society requires a degree of self-discipline and self-restraint on the part of its members, and especially of its leaders. Does our political class possess these traits? If not, how long can we expect the rest of society to?
Obama’s willingness to use the United States Constitution for a doormat won’t end well for America if he isn’t stopped. The Democrats have no interest in stopping him, and the Republicans apparently have no stomach for stopping him. If Republicans don’t muster some fortitude soon, we’re in trouble.