Almost a year and a half ago, the Iraqi bill of rights was drafted.
It was a scary collection of not-very-reassuring assurances, e.g.:
- There is no censorship on newspapers, printing, publishing, advertising, or media [hey, this sounds alright!... but wait: ] except by law. [uh oh]
(Square-bracketed commentary by Stephan Kinsella.)
born to run said…
i love the “no censorship except by law.” it’s kind of like “no violence except by force” or “no shootings except by gun.”
So what’s the difference between this modern example of unlimited government, and “the medieval papal bull, In Coena Domini — evidently republished each year into the late eighteenth century — which threatened to excommunicate any ruler ‘who levied new taxes or increased old ones, except for cases supported by law, or by an express permission from the pope’”?
(Source: Religious Thought and Economic Society by Jacob Viner, cited by Ralph Raico in “The Theory of Economic Development and the ‘European Miracle’”)
The difference is this: in the modern era of the nation-state, the “law” of “except by law” is understood to be the creation of some branch of the government of the nation-state itself, whereas the medieval conception of law was something to which kings and civil governments were themselves subject.
The Iraqi law is like a promise you make with your fingers crossed. The medieval case is more like a general understanding within the culture, an explicit limit on the population’s willingness to put up with a ruler, and a warning from a competing power that is willing to enforce that limit, whether by noble or pragmatic motivation.