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“Law” as a Jedi Mind Trick


About half the time it is used, possibly more, the word “law” is nothing more than a Jedi mind trick. There is nothing noble, righteous, or even ‘conservative’ about it. It’s a way for you to be abused via ignorance and inertia.

We’ve all seen this trick in action, of course. It’s very common. And, sadly, more or less all of us have fallen (or rather, were pushed) into it at some point. That complicates things because people generally don’t like to admit their errors.

Nearly all of us have been taught, repetitively, to “respect the law,” and because of those teachings, nearly all of us have decided certain things must be right, simply because they were “the law.”

We decided this, not because we understood the benefits that would follow certain actions, but because of the aforementioned ignorance and inertia.

It’s important to be clear on this: To uncritically, reflexively obey is not respect… it is to hold “the law” above reason… above reality. That, in simple terms, is worship.

Saying, “Everyone else did it too,” makes this no better.

It is also common for obedience to follow intimidation: Obey, or else… armed men will hurt you; teacher will shame you; the other kids will laugh at you; important people will criticize you in public. Please note all of these are primitive, degrading reasons. But they were thrust upon us as small, coerced children, and they very often stuck.

The really damaging part, however, comes after you obey reflexively or fearfully: when you leap to justify your past actions. Not many of us enjoy admitting our errors, but if we want to become honest, conscious adults, that is precisely what we need to do.

“But, but…”

Yes, yes, I know the same automated slogans:

Without the law, all would be chaos and death!

Outside of law is tyranny!

We are a nation of laws, not of men!

Only law separates us from savages!

Please take a couple of deep breaths and continue.

There’s Law, and Then There’s Law

In the modern West, there are two different kinds of law. Unfortunately they are usually rolled up together and placed under a single tag. That’s a major part of this problem.

If the early days of Western civilization, law was simply the process of determining what was just. Law was considered good if it were reasonable, fair, and had stood the test of time. And that’s all.

Historian Fritz Kern, in his Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages, explains it this way:

For us law needs only one attribute in order to give it validity; it must, directly or indirectly, be sanctioned by the State. But in the Middle Ages, different attributes altogether were essential; medieval law must be “old” law and must be “good” law…. If law were not old and good law, it was not law at all, even though it were formally enacted by the State.

Law, in the old days, was developed locally, and judges were simply trusted men who reasoned well. The form we in the English-speaking world know best was the common law of England, and it was precisely this type of law. In fact, the historical record shows early English kings having to adopt customary law:

  • The 1164 Clarendon Constitution cites a “record and recognition of a certain portion of the customs and liberties and rights of… ancestors.”

  • Article 39 of the Magna Carta (1215) reads, “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed… except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

Now, before I explain how we got from law based on reason and experience to where we are now, there is one thing that is necessary to understand:

Until recent times, law was not legislation.

I know this is contrary to what you’ve understood, but it’s true all the same. Legislation is primarily a modern invention. Law in the old days was not made by politicians or even by princes. Law was, as we said above, the process of determining what was just. The common law was created and updated by judges, not by legislators.

To buttress this point, consider that when philosopher Jeremy Bentham died in 1832, he was revered as “the founder of modern legislation.”

I won’t belabor this point, but consider these two statements, please:

Legislation displaces law that is based upon reason and experience.

Legislation is the edict of politicians, and nothing more.

Under legislation, reason and experience are not required. Politicians – whom nearly all of us hold in low regard – create this new law and can change it on a whim.


Let me ask some pointed questions:

  • Is it sensible to worship the words of people we also condemn?

  • And if we hold words above critical thought, are we not holding them above reality? Is that not a kind of worship or idolatry?

Idolatry is precisely what we do when we hold politician-created “law” above reason. (Whatever you hold above reality is your god.)

Yes, I know, we did this because we were trained to do it and because we were intimidated into it. But we’re adults now; we should be ready to face our errors and correct them.

The law of reason and experience always stands, of course, simply because it is reasonable and useful.

An uncritical respect for legislation, on the other hand, is a mind trick and differs little from that of a Star Wars Jedi. It requires us to bypass our minds and sacrifice our will to inertia and fear.

Paul Rosenberg

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Ed February 23, 2016, 6:13 pm

    Good one, Paul.

  • ZorroFLL February 23, 2016, 7:12 pm

    This discourse is primal. It expounds on what I try to advise others … that ‘legal’ and ‘lawful’ are two different concepts. Legal is the legislation you mentioned, be it statutes, code, rules or any other corporate mindfuck control edict. When I was arrested for ‘obstruction’ the first judge flat refused my command to proceed under common law. The following female county ‘judge’ and the final circuit felony ‘hitman’ judge “Jeffrey Levenson” continued on with their administrative terrorist extortion tribunals until they got the result that they wanted … a sentence of one year in jail. Until such time as you or I can find a judge to sign off on writs of habeas corpus … separating the two … I see little hope for any kind of true freedom in this Police State called the U.S. Oh, I forgot, at my trial Levenson ordered the jury of the STATE’s peers into the antechamber, had the bailiff cuff me and then advised me something to the effect that … I will not be discussing the Magna Charta or Jury Nullification with the jurors !

    • babydriver February 25, 2016, 11:36 pm

      I got arrested for ‘Obstruction’ in Denver.
      Case dismissed.
      Free Country my azz.

  • Ned Netterville February 23, 2016, 8:31 pm

    Paul, great article. I see no value in legislated “laws,” and I am aware of the distinction between it and common law, much preferring the latter. However, I think it may be misleading to say, “The common law was created and updated by judges.” Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say the common law was made by the parties (the people) seeking justice who brought cases for judgment to the court, or defended against them.
    A judge had no power to create or rule unless a proper pleading was brought before him. As the common law developed, a proper ‘pleading” became almost as critical to success as were the facts. And when a judgment was rendered, the successful party through his effective pleading was as much responsible for any law derived therefrom as the judge, who merely decided on the basis of the pleadings.
    Precedent was important but not nearly as difficult to dislodge as a Supreme Court precedent is today. Mistakes in the law or changes necessitated by change itself were easier to “fix.”
    In regards to the five great or prerogative writs–habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, procedendo, and quo warranto–the initial pleading if properly drawn was sufficient to cause the court (a clerk or a judge) to issue a preliminary or alternative writ ordering the respondent to do what the writ called for–“or in the alternative” show cause why the writ shouldn’t be made peremptory (viz., a mandatory court order).
    All that said, it seems to me that both common and legislated law are man-made laws in contradistinction to the law of God, and thus involve an unlawful usurpation of one of God’s prerogatives. Now I realize some may argue that the common law is merely the elaboration of God’s law, but I see it otherwise if said law can be enforced by the action of men. God;s law is self-enforcing and needs no man to enforce it.

  • acudoc1949 February 23, 2016, 8:43 pm

    Every now and then one comes across an essay of seminal importance. Nice job, Paul Rosenberg. Very nice job.

  • John Work February 23, 2016, 8:47 pm

    Very good article. For those who may be interested in a more thorough discussion of this subject try “Freedom and The Law” by Leoni. He covers the subject of Legislative Law, its relatively recent invention, and the problems it has caused.

  • Steve February 24, 2016, 9:16 am

    This is real wack-job reasoning. It doesn’t take into account the complexity of the modern world, where most law has to do with commerce in one way or another. What, exactly, does common law have to say about drivers licensing, white lines down the middle of the road, n keeping people from parking in front of your driveway, etc. How about intellectual property law, the law of patents, which was first LEGISLATED in 1715 in England by Parliament (which has been legislating common law since the middle ages because even then in England things were getting too complicated for unlegislated law). Intellectual property law is probably the single most powerful forces in creating our modern world. The importance of intellectual property law was not lost on the country’s founders who embedded its basis in the Constitution. Law is the codification of the rules by which we get along in society. It’s OK to get along without laws in villages of up to about 100 or 200 people, sociologists tell us, because up to about that population custom and peer pressure can keep people peacefully living together and adjudicate most disputes. Above that population, peer pressure begins to break down, and there needs to be some mechanism that everyone respects by which they resolve their disputes. The more complex the society, the wider the range of possible disputes and, consequently, the more complex the law. Also, the more likely disputes will arise the facts of which are not covered by existing custom or, for that matter, existing law. I know, you’ll call me an irrational respecter of the law, but I thank God for the law or else you might come over and shoot me, and if enough of you agreed that that was a good thing, my family would have not recourse to justice for the shooter.
    Get real.

    • Paul Rosenberg February 24, 2016, 3:09 pm

      Well, Steve, you caught me in the mood, and with a few minutes free. So, some snips and comments:
      “It doesn’t take into account the complexity of the modern world”
      The more complex the world, the simpler the rules have to be. Want a legal scholar’s opinion on that? Read Richard Epstein.
      “What, exactly, does common law have to say about drivers licensing…”
      It dealt just fine with stickier problems back in the day, like ‘who owns the water in the river’.
      “Parliament (which has been legislating common law since the middle ages”
      Parliament, back in the day, was composed of all nobles, not “legislators.” See Bruno Leoni’s book, as another posted mentioned.
      “Intellectual property law…”
      I’ll leave that discussion to another day, but I am not a fan.
      And, finally:
      “I thank God for the law or else you might come over and shoot me, and if enough of you agreed…”
      You mean like cops do under democracy?

      • Samarami February 24, 2016, 7:00 pm

        This is a good response to “Steve”.
        “… It (freedom?) doesn’t take into account the complexity of the modern world, where most law has to do with commerce in one way or another…”
        This, in itself, is one of those Jedi Mind Tricks that are used perniciously by those fearful of a free marketplace.

      • Steve February 24, 2016, 7:25 pm

        Paul, or whomever monitors this email address: none of the links below to get to the Disqus page seem to be working. So I’ll answer your comments below….
        Well, you caught me in the mood, and with a few minutes free. So, some snips and comments:
        “It doesn’t take into account the complexity of the modern world”
        The more complex the world, the simpler the rules have to be. Want a legal scholar’s opinion on that? Go ask Richard Epstein.
        OK. So what happens when a power company wants to raise rates to its customers for power it generates using facilities it owns but the delivery of which requires easements over public lands, some of which may have been seized by eminent domain? Shouldn’t there be some law that deals with this situation, however it chooses to deal with it? And you, because you are only able to participate in the present discussion are a beneficiary of these laws? Without reasonably priced power, no Internet, no computers.
        “What, exactly, does common law have to say about drivers licensing…” It dealt just fine with ‘who owns the water in the river’ and stickier problems back in that time.
        I’m talking about licensing. Do you really want someone with the ability to own a car to necessarily be able to drive? On the same road as your kids? And to hell with stop signs, I own a car. How do you keep incompetent drivers off the roads. And when those incompetent drivers cause damage, who pays for that? How is that adjudicated? Yes, there are flaws in the system. So fix them after imagining the way things would be in the complete absence of any system at all.
        “Parliament (which has been legislating common law since the middle ages” Parliament, back in the day, was composed of all nobles, not “legislators.” See Bruno Leoni’s book, as another posted noted.
        Your nobles in Parliament were legislators for all intents and purposes. They were merely chosen by different means than we choose our legislators, a method roundly repudiated by the framers of our Constitution. The nobles taxed and passed laws such as having one hanged for picking a pocket, something which our Constitution regards as cruel and unusual, thank God. Magna Carta, which started the ball rolling on all this was effectively a set of written laws limiting the power of the king imposed on the king because what they had before wasn’t working to the satisfaction of those who mattered. Magna Carta was law which could be adjudicated in the courts of the time, such as they were.
        “Intellectual property law…”
        I’ll leave that discussion to another day, but I am not a fan.
        Again, human implementation gone awry. I’m not a fan with the way it has played out, either, and think the current implementation goes against the purpose of IP law as stated in the Constitution, Article 1 Section 8. But that’s due mostly to the influence of money in politics, something we’d probably both agree needs some serious correction.
        And, finally:
        “I thank God for the law or else you might come over and shoot me, and if enough of you agreed…” You mean like cops do under democracy?
        As Winston Churchill said: “Democracy is the very worst form of government ever conceived by man….. except for all the others.” Yeah, cops in a democracy. Blame falls on the imperfect human implementation of the ideal, cops who actually do serve and protect. Cops are human, like you and me. Yeah, there are a lot of bad cops but also a lot of good ones, and some of the bad ones are starting to be brought to justice.

        • Paul Rosenberg February 24, 2016, 9:43 pm

          At the moment, I don’t have time, but I will answer one of your responses:
          “what happens when a power company wants to raise rates to its
          customers for power it generates…? Without reasonably priced power, no
          Internet, no computers.”
          Steve, you’re taking existing conditions as inevitable and framing your questions within that model. That fallacious thinking. If the utility behaves badly – and if there’s no state-enforced monopoly – we could suck it up and pay, get our own generators, start a competing power company, and so on, ad infinitum.
          Please do read Richard Epstein and Bruno Leoni. Then try the Larken Rose PDF another commenter recommends.

          • Steve February 25, 2016, 2:13 am

            I anxiously await your answer, but I’m surprised you cite Larkin Rose! I recently watched his YouTube thing “The Tiny Dot” and was amazed at what a crack pot he is. Hey, if he wants to live in a tax free haven, he should look at Somalia. No taxes. No legislature. No laws, and everyone lives according to long established custom. And warlords move, in, seize control, and everyone has to tow their line or die. That’s your model for what libertarianism utopia turns into in the real world. You just can’t change the fact that approximately 4% of any population are sociopaths, and utopias just can’t deal with them. You might be interested in reading a book called “Liars and Outliers” by Bruce Schneier. He’s worth looking into for his other works, including a great on-line newsletter, “Cryptogram”, too.
            I just took a quick look at a few quotes from Bruno Leoni, and he seems quite the utopian libertarian. How do you think he would have dealt with the Peanut Corporation of America, which a few years back sent out peanut butter products they knew to be contaminated with listeria, which was not discovered until people got sick in other states? In a local law situation, they could have gone on selling that poison for as long as they wanted or until they made the mistake of selling it locally and someone local got sick. Then, of course, you’d need someone (a warlord? King? Unelected scientist who somehow everyone would magically respect like they do the 97% of climate scientists who say global warming is real and a problem?) to establish the standard for actionable contamination. Then who would take the action? A mob with pitchforks and torches? I will grant you that the law, including national law, is quite imperfect, but it does evolve slowly, and it’s better than not having it. In a pure laissez faire economy, as Bruno seems to be advocating, The Peanut Corporation of America would not have been stopped from selling their poison until it became so clear that they were actually selling poison that people stopped buying their products and they went broke. Of course, that might not ever happen as the obvious historical response by poison sellers (as even you’ve probably seen by furniture sellers who sell schlock) is to go out of business and reopen under another name without penalty. As it is, even under our imperfect law, the Peanut Corporation of America’s president is in jail, where he belongs, and his company is out of business.

          • Paul Rosenberg February 25, 2016, 2:51 pm

            Continued sparring isn’t going to change your mind, Steve, so I’ll just close with this:
            You mention “And warlords move, in, seize control, and everyone has to tow their line or die.”
            Unfortunately, that’s what we have NOW. That’s what states ARE. Pay half your money, jump when we say, or else.

          • Steve February 25, 2016, 6:11 pm

            Yeah, We’ll just have to agree to disagree. Three last comments from me.
            1. The discussion we’re having is as old as the country. The opposition to the original adoption of the Constitution in the late 1780’s was based on arguments very similar to yours. And that tension has been constant over the history since then.
            2. In Somalia, warlords move in by force with no say by the people. Under our Constitution, we the people theoretically have a say in who passes the laws. If we can get money out of politics by, say, overturning Citizens United with a constitution amendment, maybe we can get the government actually under the control of the people.
            3. Based on your dissatisfaction with the system as it exists, I recommend that you don’t vote in any future elections.
            Good luck to you. May you find happiness in your pursuits.

    • babydriver February 25, 2016, 11:27 pm

      A paragraph separation or two will work wonders.

      • Steve February 25, 2016, 11:47 pm

        Thanks for the tip. For some reason, the links that come with your email are broken and I can’t get back to the discussion. Can you reply with a link back?

        • babydriver February 25, 2016, 11:58 pm

          Sorry, I wouldn’t know how.

  • AuntieGing February 24, 2016, 3:25 pm

    Great information! Would ask you to check out National Liberty Alliance. http://www.nationallibertyalliance.org restoring Common Law via Common Law Grand Juries.

  • legist16 February 24, 2016, 6:01 pm

    The Common Law wasn’t always based on reason. Sometimes it was based on unthinking stereotypes that have no place in modern society. Under the common law doctrine of coverture, for example, a married woman had no separate legal existence and no property rights. Her husband controlled everything. The theory was that a married couple constituted a single legal person — i.e., the husband. The idiocy of this concept was famously expounded by Charles Dickens in “Oliver Twist”:
    “It was all Mrs. Bumble. She would do it,” urged Mr. Bumble; first looking round, to ascertain that his partner had left the room.
    That is no excuse,” returned Mr. Brownlow. “You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, indeed, are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.”
    If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”
    Coverture wasn’t changed by the common law — it was changed by legislation. And sometimes legislation is needed to get rid of silly rules that don’t apply anymore.
    “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.”
    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “The Path of the Law”. 10 Harvard Law Review 457 (1897)

    • Paul Rosenberg February 24, 2016, 9:46 pm

      So, one flaw invalidates the whole thing?
      Gonna apply that logic to legislation too?

      • legist16 February 24, 2016, 11:25 pm

        There’s more than one flaw. At common law a defendant in a criminal case couldn’t testify in his own behalf. The ability to leave property by will to whomever one wished was severely restricted. If a husband beat the s**t out of his wife she couldn’t sue him for damages. If a charitable organization wrongly injured someone, they didn’t have to pay compensation. More important, if the government injured someone it didn’t have to compensate. All of this was changed by statute. Even the Magna Carta you cited wasn’t flawless — Article 54 provided, “No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband.” So if someone killed a woman’s children and she was the only witness, the killer walked.
        Of course there’s bad legislation. But which do you think is more responsive to the wishes of the people — statutes enacted by their representatives or judge-made law that persists because of “blind imitation of the past”? Sure, courts sometimes overturn common law rules that are past their usefulness, but it takes a lot longer than legislation.

        • Paul Rosenberg February 25, 2016, 12:53 am

          Way too much to comment on, and I don’t think posting more will change your mind, but here are a few final responses:
          1. Statute law screws millions of people, PER DAY.
          2. Statute law is owned, created and changed as desired by people we all know to be morally degenerate.
          3. Common law is easily changed, and was many times. Legislation was never required.
          4. The examples you cite are anomalous. Because they happened once does not mean they were uniform.
          5. Government seldom compensates its victims now. Sovereign immunity remains and important anti-guv civil cases never see the light of day.
          6. Statute law is PURCHASED on a daily basis, then used as a bludgeon as the purchaser desires.
          7. Medieval law generally treated women fairly well, until Roman law (statutes) came back in the 16th century. (See the work of historian Regine Pernaud.)
          I’ll stop here. You can go on as you wish.

          • legist16 February 25, 2016, 5:05 pm

            Re your #3: legislation was indeed required to give married women property and political rights; to enable people to leave their property by will; and to give people redress against tortious conduct by charities and governments. You should study the Federal Tort Claims Act, the Tucker Act, and the statute in your home state waiving governmental immunity.

      • Randy February 25, 2016, 11:43 pm

        Just how many “flaws” do you think are needed, and of what magnitude? Once I was speaking to a lieyer, head of the legal department for Mannatech Corporation at the time, and we were discussing the IRS’ insistence upon all who sold their products having an SSN, which I do not. So I told him about the guy who took the EXACT SAME FIGURES to seven different CPAs, and got back seven different amounts owed! He laughed at that, saying he’d heard of it. So I then asked him “So where’s your Void for Vagueness Doctrine then?”. He immediately stopped chuckling, knowing that I had found the exit point from his version of The Matrix, and excused himself to go to a very important meeting.
        You should read some of my work, such as Any Person Subject to…, The Scam of the Legal System, as well as The Legal System Equals Gambling and The Holes in the Legal System. Then you will begin to see the confidence game for what it really is.

  • Samarami February 24, 2016, 7:09 pm

    To fully appreciate this little essay, I strongly recommend that one first spend an hour or so reading Larken Rose’s “The Most Dangerous Superstition”. You can read it in PDF here: http://www.mensenrechten.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/the-most-dangerous-superstition-larken-rose-20111.pdf

    • 2prickit February 26, 2016, 1:56 am

      Hi Sam. Just want to tell you that I cannot stop reading this about esquires and The United States Inc. got nothing to do with our common law for live breathing people born on continentental soil.

  • babydriver February 25, 2016, 11:22 pm

    How does any man made ‘law’ stand up to the 10 Commandments?
    That is the test.
    Add to that the US Declaration of Independence, ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’.
    Ditto the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
    Does any ‘law’ deny one of these tenets?
    Here is USA, most laws are unlawful.
    We live under a tyranny.

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