Quote of the day—Harold Berman

A child says, “It’s my toy.” That’s property law. A child says, “You promised me.” That’s contract law. A child says, “He hit me first.” That’s criminal law. A child says, “Daddy said I could.” That’s constitutional law.

Harold Berman
[Via email from Rolf.

I have often thought of the property law angle. Animals even have a sense of what belongs to them. This has the potential to be used as an argument against Communism (as if more arguments were necessary).

But the extension to the others is enlightening and makes one ponder. Are these concepts universal? Or is there a strong environmental component that is injected by the time the child is able to speak? If these are universal then are there psychological or socials costs “paid” when the government (or even individuals in positions of parent/teacher/neighborhood-thug power) violates these universal laws? If they are not universal but are products of Western cultural then how do other cultures stack up in terms of happiness, longevity, productivity, and wealth?

Interesting stuff.—Joe]

3 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Harold Berman

  1. You’re hitting directly on the concept of Natural Law, which Cicero of Rome wrote about shortly before Christ. He also made the point that if there be a God, surely He would favor reason, for if He created Man, and since Man’s greatest distinction is reason, then God and reason are inseparable— that reason is the only path to God.

    Natural Law is part of Merry Olde England going way back.

    It goes back still farther in history with the Ten Commandments. Thou shall not steal (property rights) Thou shall not commit adultery (familial rights) Thou shall not murder (the right to life) and so on. Cicero wasn’t Jewish and may not have known about the Ten Commandments (I don’t know) but he came up with the same basic ideas.

    The American founders embraced these ideas and others when they wrote that people are “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and [property]…” (It would have read “property” instead of “the pursuit of happiness” except that the ensuing battle over the slavery issue was ever present in their minds and they didn’t want to lend any credence or ammunition to the pro-slavery contingent).

    The differences between a free society founded on human rights, compared to all others, is obvious. America has never completely fulfilled Her Promise of liberty, but to the extent that She has, it resulted in the greatest, wealthiest, most dynamic and creative society in all of history to which more people have immigrated than anywhere else.

    What the world needs is a renewed and redoubled commitment to fulfill the American Promise. We’ve gone so far off the rails that it will require a massive and occasionally very ugly fight, to overcome the mind-set of socialism. It can never work without keeping the American Principles of Liberty foremost in our minds at every stage. Highlighting that contrast between the truth of the Principles of Liberty and the lies of Progressivism/socialism/totalitarianism will be both our primary strength and our only hope.

  2. A child can learn to share, only if sure of ownership.
    A child can learn to keep promises, only if sure of reciprocity in agreements.
    A child can learn to behave kindly, only if sure of freedom from attacks.
    A child can learn to accept rules, only if they apply to all children.

    If a child can do this, why is it so hard for our legislators to understand?

  3. The problem is that there are always a few children that say, “So what? I want yours too.” They become the rulers.

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