Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lights, Law, Liberty

I just read Last Light by Terri Blackstock. It was a departure from my recent fare of books with political slants to them. I figured I was due for some fiction. The premise of the book is an unknown event that shuts down all technology, presumably in the entire world. Airplanes fall out of the sky, cars refuse to work, telephones and lights are out, the whole deal. In the course of the story the family profiled has to learn to work around the lack of technology as well as the danger posed by other people loosed from the restraint of law enforcement.

Though the book's focus is practical Christianity in the midst of that struggle, I focused more on the societal aspects.

The characters find themselves in some difficulty. What to do with the garbage? How to wash clothes and bathe? What to eat? How much? Keep the windows open to keep cool, or lock up to keep thieves out? Share with others or keep supplies to themselves? But those practical details only frame the story.

Soon, a neighbor is murdered, and then several more, and the houses raided for stores and useful items. Law enforcement, in the form of Sheriff Deputies on bicycles, has no way to cope with the challenge, and no hope of solving the crimes. Vigilantes settle on the family's next-door neighbor as a likely culprit, opening up another set of challenges.

Pair that with this interesting video about forms of government, and you get some difficulty sleeping at night.

Both make the case that without law, there can be no freedom.

That sounds odd at first, but if you have to guard your stuff at all times, like the family in the book, you can't devote time to other things. You can't go far from your stuff; or if you must go somewhere, you have to take it all with you, severely limiting your mobility. Having laws, and representatives of order to enforce those laws, allows you to leave the job of protecting your stuff (and your person) to someone else so you can tend to other necessities.

Aside from the freak-out factor of a world without a computer or a television or even a radio, imagine a world where you either have to 1) ally yourself with people you aren't sure you can trust or 2) isolate yourself completely and depend only upon your own abilities.

Sure, it's a far-fetched scenario. But it does make it possible to visualize why laws actually can help make us more free. And why it is so important who we choose to write, implement, and interpret those laws.

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