A New Year, a New 40,000 Laws
By the measure of signing new bills into law, America’s Congress this past year was the most ineffective in American history, passing a meager 56 laws.
Individual states, however, surged ahead with legislative ferocity.
As a new calendar year begins, a mind-staggering 40,000 new state laws are coming into effect.
The thinking seems to be that every problem can be solved by making it unlawful, and every positive action can be secured by making it legally mandatory.
The explosion of new laws recalls the effort that was made in 1982 to count the criminal laws on America’s books—just criminal laws, mind you, not property laws, contract laws, administrative, labor, commercial and all the other types of law the government had enacted. At the time, the criminal code was scattered among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law. The project took two years, and in the end, no one could say for sure how many criminal offenses there were. Ronald Gainer, a retired Justice Department official who oversaw the attempted tally, said, “You will have died and [been] resurrected three times” before you could ever hope to count all the laws.
In 1998, another tally was attempted by the American Bar Association. At the end of the study, the aba too could only guess the number of criminal laws in existence. “We concluded that the hunt to say, ‘Here is an exact number of federal crimes,’ is likely to prove futile and inaccurate,” said James Strazzella, who drafted the report.
America is already so overburdened with laws that another 40,000 seems laughable. “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime,” John Baker, a retired Louisiana State University law professor told the Wall Street Journal. “That is not an exaggeration.”
But the problem is greater than just the sheer number of laws. Many of these laws promote practices that a great number of people consider immoral. In California, transgender students will be able to choose which restrooms to use and which sports teams to play on based on “gender identity” rather than physical anatomy. Also in California, children can now have more than two legal parents. In Illinois, public schools teaching sex ed are now required to discuss birth-control methods. Illinois also legalized a same-sex “marriage” law that will come into effect later this year. Colorado became the first place in the world to allow the legal selling of marijuana to anyone over 21 from a licensed store.
The legislators were no doubt convinced these laws would strengthen and improve the nation, but they are trampling on the views of a great many who vehemently disagree—and on the nation’s own history.
When the United States was established, biblical principles underpinned much of its lawmaking. The Founding Fathers recognized that the stability of the nation rested upon the morality of the people.
John Adams, for example, said, “[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue ….” Much of this tidal wave of laws is a result of the fact that we are not a virtuous people.
Benjamin Franklin also recognized the need for individual morality: “[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” One would be hard-pressed to argue that Americans truly need the ever-growing intrusions of government of the sort these proliferating laws represent, but it is true that as we become more corrupt and vicious, we are losing our freedom as well.
What is the root cause driving all this legislation? Would you believe that it is the breaking of a higher law that supersedes every law ever written by man?
The truth is that all the evils in society today—evils that human governments try to curtail with laws of their own—are a result of breaking the perfect law of God—His spiritual law of love.
What is that law? Herbert W. Armstrong explained as early as 1945:
When the Eternal God first created man and placed him on this Earth, all was perfect harmony and beauty. … And then, of necessity, there is a great fundamental, inexorable spiritual law, to regulate man’s relations with man, and man’s relation to his Creator. This spiritual law might be called the law of love. It is a principle—a way of life. It is an attitude of mind and heart—the correct way to think and to live.
This is the way of living that puts the premium upon giving, not getting. This spiritual law was designed to protect man’s welfare and happiness. And just as breaking the physical laws of the body results in suffering, sickness or death, so it is that when this spiritual law is broken, unhappiness, suffering both physical and spiritual, and all kinds of anguish come as the penalty.
It is because of these broken laws that man is unable to produce peace, regardless of the political system or legal mechanism we use. America’s countless laws have failed to bring real peace, and the 40,000 new laws won’t bring us any closer to peace either.
Ultimately, it will take a totally different governmental and legal structure to bring peace—one founded on God’s perfect law of love summed up in the 10 Commandments.
Such a government is coming.