1. Lawlessness and the Threat of Chaos 2. The Destructive Power of Lawlessness 3. Lawlessness: Undermining the Authority of God and the State 4. Lawlessness Breeds Inequality and Exploitation

When Law is Lawless

The term lawless carries a heavy connotation of violence and serious breaking of the law. It suggests unrestrained mobs and chaos.

However, the Brandenburg decision did not make speech advocating lawless action illegal. The only way to make such advocacy illegal would be for Congress or a State Legislature to pass a law.

1. The Rule of Law is a Leviathan

The word “lawless” derives from the Greek anomos, meaning contempt for or disregard of law. In the Bible, lawlessness furthers sin (1 Timothy 1:9).

Today, lawlessness flourishes because of the growing power and complexity of technology. International cyberwarfare and hacking, corporate espionage, and other forms of unaccountable conduct can be carried out without any framework of global law.

Recourse to domestic or international law is too inconvenient and time consuming for powerful players. They can smother the law of contract and torts with one-sided fine print and use lobbyists to severely weaken their content.

These zones of lawlessness are a constant threat because they can be expanded and abused with little or no legal resistance. The only way to contain them is by recognizing that the rule of law and democracy are not in conflict but may be convergent processes whenever they are conceived in broad, ends-based terms. This is why we must strengthen the nexus between building democracy and strengthening the rule of law.

2. The Rule of Law is a Leviathan of Coercion

A reduction of law to command eliminates from consideration most laws–immunities, liberties, voluntary agreements, and the artifacts of private and legal order that empower people to cooperate for the common good and to govern themselves. It also blinds us to the many zones of lawlessness that have become more pervasive as law has gotten more remote from public education and less accessible for scrutiny.

When a person acts lawlessly, the Bible calls this sin (1 John 3:4) and it ruins a world that God has made (Genesis 1:28). But it is important to distinguish between lawlessness and a lack of faith in God. A righteous man cannot tolerate lawless behavior; like Lot, he hates the lawless deeds that surround him (2 Peter 2:15). A lawless person, on the other hand, needs coercion to force him to obey laws because they are not his decisive reasons for acting. This is the point at which law becomes Leviathan.

3. The Rule of Law is a Leviathan of Power

In biblical terms, lawlessness is a rejection of God’s law. In 1 John 3:4, sin is described as breaking the law and in 1 Thessalonians 2:2, it’s called a “rebellion against the authority of God.”

Hobbes’ use of the term Leviathan refers to a powerful sea creature that unifies the collective will of many individuals. For him, a civil commonwealth is like this, able to enforce and administer natural and civil laws.

Yet, there are powerful forces that seek to erode the power of the state by attacking its legitimacy. For example, corporate lobbyists have gotten legislation passed that arbitrarily ties the hands of judges and juries by limiting their knowledge of evidence. This is what’s called tort reform but it is actually a form of lawlessness that seeks to arrogate power from the people to corporations. Lawlessness is also fostered when government officials engage in lawmaking without transparency. Ideally, law should be transparent to ensure that the justice system is independent of political considerations.

4. The Rule of Law is a Leviathan of Inequality

The Christian Bible teaches that people who are lawless contribute to sin in the world (1 Timothy 1:9). Lot, the godly man of Sodom, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw around him.

The lawless zones of our time grow ever more expansive, from the hidden snuff trafficking in drugs that enables violent drug cartels to seize territory and ravage lives to the massive wage theft committed by corporate contractors who exploit workers, often for years, with impunity. Corporate lobbyists have succeeded in having legislatures weaken or eliminate criminal penalties for knowingly violating motor-vehicle safety laws.

A reduction of law to command robs it of the power and value that Aquinas, Hobbes, and others argued that people in natural condition possess. It also ignores the power of law to empower victims of crime, a vital function of society. Yet this reality is rarely exposed in the popular media. Instead, lawless zones are obscured by the academy’s secluded groves of academic scholarship.

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