"All that is good is not embodied in the law; and all that is evil is not proscribed by the law. A well-disciplined society needs few laws; but it needs strong mores."
William F. Buckley, Jr.
(1925-2008) American author and journalist, founded 'National Review'
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Reader comments about this quote:
I suggest legislators clear half the laws off the books, starting with any that are unconstitutional.
 -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
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     -- Joanna Harkin , Washington, DC      
     -- Anonymous      
    I'm sure the law Buckley is here alluding to is the body of corporeal man's legislation. With such basis, the statement stands absolutely correct. Perpetuating the peccant debauchery by the title 'law', only eliminates the language, concepts, and mental images of peace, freedom, and liberty. In fact, man can neither create or pass law. Man can only define desired actions through statutes, rules, codes, etc. The closer corporeal man harmonizes his legislation to law, the greater the peace, freedom, liberty and the fewer statutes, rules, regulations, codes, etc. there would be. Tyranny, along with gross ignorance enhancement, and beneficially strong mores demise, are illuminated through the mere voluminous legislation that can be measured by the ton.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    The purpose of law should be to "preserve" justice. It can not "create" it.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
     -- Scott, Miami Shores, Fl      
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US      
    Absolutely true. Nature's laws cannot be broken, so there is no need for man to enforce them. Corporeal laws (as Mike makes the distinction) are the negative of the Golden Rule, 'Do unto others what you would have done unto you' -- they do not dictate what one must do, but what one must not do, 'Do not do unto others what you would not have done unto you.' Laws that dictate behavior are unjust (like in socialist and totalitarian governments). There is a difference between 'legal' and 'lawful' but I will save that for another time. ;-)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    As usual Mike miss reads the quote. Buckley says nothing here about the law being bad nor does he say that the law is complete enough to take care of all that is evil. The statement is a positive statement and recognition of the facts on the ground. It has nothing to say about unconstitutional law. It does have a lot to say about NGO's that carry and enforce mores, and principals such as church, etcetera. STONG MORES CAN KILL YOU CAN'T THEY? Or is that a moray I am thinking about.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
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    I would like to add to my comment, 'Nature's laws cannot be broken, so there is no need for man to enforce them.' However, there are indeed consequences to our actions (as per natural law [not religion, please]), like polluting air and water, or being dishonest. We learn from these 'mistakes' because of the resulting consequences -- like touching a hot flame. Each generation, of course, starts anew and must also learn. 'Morality,' I believe, is the set of lessons learned throughout time, embodied into tradition and social 'values.' We are still learning -- some are learning timeless lessons for the first time. I believe that is where compassion and understanding come in by those that believe they already 'know' when in fact there is still much for ALL to learn. That is why 'morality' is vague and differs from culture to culture.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    As usual, Waffler miss reads what Mike is trying to say. There are laws that exist outside the will of the majority, they were called by the founders the "laws of nature." This philosophy concerning the laws of nature derived from the movement of the Enlightenment: Blackstone, Locke, Rousseau, etc. John Adams once spoke (in the understanding of these seperate laws that exist outside the scope of man's majority) that man cannot make "law," but he can only "define" it. These philosophers argued: Did man make the law of gravity? No. Did man make the laws of theormodynamics? No. Did man make the laws that regulate and govern the universe? No... but he can, by logic, "define" what laws already exist. In creating a government that would stand the tests of time, the founders sought for a proper foundation to establish our government. They saw that governments whose laws were built solely upon the laws of the majority had quickly committed suicide; whereas governments that were built on abstract and "eternal" laws (Republics) had withstood the tests of time (if there are any who doubt this, they obviously haven't read Machiavelli). Buckley is right--as he stays within the premise of law as understood by the founders--that man has not yet defined all of nature's law that will yet embody all "good." Although we can say that law absolutely exists in a state of nature, we have to admit that our definition of that law is always subjective to the individual defining it. Depending on who defines the laws of nature, society will either be protected or abused in their inherent rights. Not all defined laws are actually associated to nature, nor to they emobdy goodness; just as there are good laws of nature that we have yet to define but have failed to do so. The best way for government to provide for society's saftey is to allow and protect society's individual rights.
     -- Logan, Memphis, TN     
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    Man knows his stuff.
     -- warren, olathe     
    Mr. Buckley cuts to the chase with simplistic truth using few words.....unusual for his oftimes choice of monologue/debate style.
     -- Hayden, N. Palm Beach     
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     -- jim k, Austin, Tx      
    This man actually defined Conservatism in our Free Constitutional Republic.
     -- Bill J. Spence, Memphis, TN     
    Machiavelli and his father were both republicans, and would not talk much of the ( ancient ) doctrines of liberty and freedom but eluded to their source. Being the Sacred Text.
     -- watchman 13, USA     
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