Dan Popp
Must the poor obey the law?
By Dan Popp
April 16, 2014

To someone seeking power, the poorest man is the most useful. – Sallust

Recently I lampooned Jeb Bush for saying that a crime becomes noble when it's done out of love. But "love" is just the Left's word for "what I want." Here is real love:
    Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NKJV)
You won't see real love excusing crime.

I assume we can agree that Jeb's underlying excuse for illegal immigration is not love, but poverty. He was saying that the poor don't have to obey the law. That's an appealing notion to some people.

But hear the words of God on the subject:

People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; he may have to give up all the substance of his house. (Proverbs 6:30-31)

The Maker of human beings seems to think that we're all better off if everyone has to follow the rules. There aren't any exceptions for the poor. Everywhere in the Bible you'll find that the poor are considered members of society. But they can't be members of society if they're not bound by the rules of society.

Judaism and Christianity give the poor equal rights; anti-theists give them superior rights. God sees the poor man as a citizen, and even requires him to pay taxes like a citizen; the Leftist makes him a fellow barbarian, hacking at the foundations of civilization. The Bible gives every poor person the same rights – and, by definition, the same responsibilities – as everyone else. It commands us to give him the same blind justice that we dispense to the rich.

You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:15)

As far as I can tell, there's only one biblical reason to disobey a law, and that's when it violates the Divine Law. At a point where those laws may diverge "we must obey God rather than men," as Peter said. So the person asserting a moral right to break a civil law is really indicting that law as unjust. I don't know whether the 14th Amendment's creation of "birthright citizenship" is unjust, but it seems to be the fountainhead of this particular problem – and I hear few if any "reformers" advocating repeal of the provision causing the trouble they say they wish to reform.

Someone will object, "Our immigration laws are a hardship on the poor." That would seem to be true. But every law imposes a hardship, a friction, a burden on someone. If it didn't, it would be unnecessary. Law is constraint. People are different. Therefore "disparate impact" is unavoidable. Call me back when you're outraged at how embezzlement laws come down unfairly on the rich.

What about mercy? Yes, even just law must have room for clemency and pardon. But those should be rare exceptions for individual cases. When waivers are tossed out like candy from a parade float, then there is no law. The United States gave amnesty to illegal aliens once, under President Reagan. Clearly it was not a solution to the problem then. It would be insanity to think the same policy might solve the problem now. We can only conclude that anyone still advocating this failed approach is not after a solution.

For all their talk about the "village" and the "community" and the "social contract," Leftists often put the temporary needs of a few above the permanent needs of all. A society isn't just a group of people; it's a group of people living in some kind of order. In a free society, that order is produced by law. We can't have a free society without law, and a law that applies only to some, or only sometimes, is not law, but the arbitrary demand of a bully.

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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