Most Americans are worried about where things are headed.
Those who aren’t… simply haven’t bothered to think.
To paint some color on the situation, we recently debuted our “Gone to Hell” score. It uses historic indicators, economic trends and a heaping dose of common sense to measure where we stand.
One of the five categories within the system measures the effectiveness of the nation’s laws.
We figured a good country needs good, smart laws.
It’s a topic that worries us greatly.
Within weeks of debuting our system, we were forced to downgrade this critical criteria. Trump sidestepped the intent of the law and declared a border emergency.
And, of course, it’s not just the right.
The left is equally guilty.
On Monday, Baltimore learned it will get a new mayor… after the current mayor got caught up in what appears to be a fake book deal.
Turns out that she may be as corrupt as the city’s cops.
But we’re not all that worried about our politicians.
They’ve always been corrupt.
And always will be.
No, these days, we’re worried about the system… the system of blind justice that’s supposed to be the backbone of our great nation.
Something peculiar is happening.
And it’s worthy of a grand debate.
We started it Monday when we mentioned New Jersey’s proposal to expunge the records of folks convicted of marijuana crimes. Felons would suddenly be freed as the state opens its arms to the idea of legal weed… and the oh-so-lucrative tax dollars that come with it.
Several free-thinking readers blasted us for our comments.
We beg for our Liberty, they said, and yet we hesitate to let these folks free.
It’s a difficult question, to be sure. We must choose our words carefully or we’ll cross the border into the Land of Hypocrisy (a crowded place these days).
But we beg readers to pay attention.
The outcome of this debate shapes the future of our great nation.
Many readers focused their rhetoric on the ethics of the law.
If a law is unethical, they said, we dare not need to follow it.
Readers mentioned the folks who tossed tea into Boston’s harbor. They mentioned the church. And a few even mentioned the Nazis.
And, yes, we believe marijuana laws were wrong from the start.
But do we believe everybody who’s been tossed in jail for selling weed on the street corner was doing it in protest of America’s erroneous laws? Do we believe the cops who were shot over weed were killed because the shooter was defending his God-given rights?
Nor do we believe the billions spent on the “war” on drugs were worthwhile. And neither do we believe everybody who got tossed into a courtroom was on the wrong side of the law.
But here’s the deal.
The proposal out of New Jersey would open the idea of expungement to folks caught with as much as 5 pounds of weed.
That’s not recreational marijuana. That’s folks who were purposefully skirting the law of the land for their own benefit.
The question here isn’t the ethics of the law.
It’s the ethics of the lawbreaker.
We don’t have a problem with somebody who wants to imbibe. As many readers rightfully pointed out, if it’s not hurting anybody, Liberty must prevail.
But we do have a problem with folks who purposefully ignore the Rule of Law.
It hurts us all. And it will destroy our great nation.
My Laws or Yours?
Think about this.
If a town raises a speed limit on a road… do all the former speeders get their money back?
If a poacher shoots an endangered animal, but years later, the population of the species recovers… is the poacher set free?
Or, how about this, if we pay our taxes just a day late… does the judge tell us it’s close enough?
Not if he knows what’s good for us.
And what about the case of People v. Schmidt? The bad guy cut up the body of a young woman and tossed the bloody pieces into a river. Mr. Schmidt claimed the law designed to disincentivize him from doing such things was unethical. If he would have followed it, he would not have been following God’s direct orders to kill.
If ethics are the judge, whose do we follow?
And you’d be right to ponder what happened to the folks who had been busted the last time Washington erased one of its boneheaded prohibitions.
Thousands of Americans were tossed in jail over the 19th Amendment. And yet when the 21st Amendment let the liquor flow again… many of them remained in jail.
Although the law allowed for a pardon, relatively few folks were freed.
The governors at the time respected the Rule of Law.
So here’s the thing with Liberty.
It’s a complex beast. It doesn’t mean we can do what we want, whenever we want.
That’s silly. It’ll never happen.
We must follow the law. And laws should be based on common sense and good, healthy ethics.
When they’re not, we do what we can to change them.
But we mustn’t celebrate the lawbreakers, and we certainly shouldn’t reward those who purposefully broke the law.
A healthy Rule of Law, we’re convinced, is the invisible force that separates a good land from the bad.
If we let it erode because our politicians could use the votes or because it will pay our state’s debts or let us get high on a Friday night… that’s trouble.
Free the weed.
But don’t destroy the Rule of Law.
It’s important. It’s all we’ve got.
P.S. Let the debate begin. This is a sticky topic, and we’re happy to exercise our mind by thinking through all sides of it. Send us your point of view with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.