it is not wisdom but authority that makes a law. t – tymoff


Why Laws are Made, Not Wisdom

Laws are created through legislation in which elected representatives debate and vote on proposed statutes. While wisdom and practical considerations certainly play a role in the legislative process, it is ultimately authority, not wisdom, that determines what does or does not become law. As the saying by Thomas Morton implies, those in positions of power and authority have the final say over what new rules and regulations are imposed upon society, not necessarily those seen as most wise or knowledgeable.

Laws are a product of authority for a few key reasons. First, the legislative process is political, influenced by lobbying efforts, party priorities, and election concerns rather than solely focused on discerning truth or applying strict logic. Representatives must balance many perspectives and pressures; ultimately, it comes down to a vote where the majority holds authority over the minority.

Second, wisdom is subjective – there are often reasonable disagreements over the most prudent approach or the best outcomes. With differing views of wisdom, authority is needed to make a final call. Third, with authority to enforce statutes, wisdom is necessary to ensure compliance. For laws to function as rules that guide behavior, some entity needs to be empowered to compel adherence if necessary.

Wisdom Informs But Does Not Determine

While wisdom is informative in shaping policy discussions and debates, it does not definitively determine the final decision over what becomes codified into law. Elected officials consult experts, studies, and thoughtful analyses to understand various issues and the potential consequences of different policy responses. However, wisdom is not the sole or final arbitrator. Reasonable people of good faith can examine the same information and empirical evidence and yet come to differing judgments of the best approach.

There are rarely straightforward and undisputed determinations of the most prudent course of action in matters as complex as public policy. Ultimately, legislative authority is needed to settle disagreements and establish binding rules even when complete consensus on wisdom cannot be attained.

Authority Sets Boundaries That Guide Behavior

For laws to establish guidelines that structure society and encourage compliance, some entity needs final power to restrict what is and is not permissible. While an ideal based purely on consensual wisdom may seem attractive, it lacks the defining force necessary for laws to shape public norms and individual conduct. Authority provides needed definitiveness and deterrent power.

Knowing identifiable authorities have the last word on settling debates over where to draw lines empowers laws to fulfill their role as regulators of social order. Without authority, diverse views of wisdom could undermine the ability of statutes to bring clarity and uniform direction to public policies. The binding force ofauthority allows laws the influence to guide behaviors down desired paths as shaped through the political process.

Different Wisdoms Lead to Differing Views

While experts and analyses can provide informative perspectives, wisdom is not objectively definitive. Reasonable people evaluating the same facts through different experiences and ideological lenses can come to divergent conclusions about optimal solutions. For example, views on criminal justice reform draw from both “tough on crime” and rehabilitation mindsets. Public health policies find support from both individual freedom and harm reduction viewpoints. Economic regulations balance business interests with worker and consumer protections. With varying ideas of what constitutes wise policy, authority allows for a settlement even when complete consensus proves elusive.

Politics Necessitates Authority over Consensus

The legislative process involves a political compromise between opposing factions rather than philosophical unanimity. Representatives must juggle competing priorities and please disparate constituencies. Finding absolute agreement across diverse wings and interests is practically impossible. While bipartisan cooperation has merits, a system reliant purely on universal consensus would likely result in governmental paralysis. Authority empowers elected officials to bring matters to a decision even when perfect accord remains out of reach. Politics demands definitive resolutions rather than indefinite stalemates.

Unfettered Debate Yields no Outcomes

While open discussion and differing perspectives challenge assumptions and improve understanding, unbounded debate risks never achieving tangible results. An endless feedback loop examining each minute nuance and dissenting view could forestall concrete actions indefinitely. Authority provides needed structure by setting boundaries around deliberations and mandating a terminating point where a ruling emerges. This allows the political process to bear fruit in implemented statutes rather than suffer analysis paralysis. Definitive closure via authority lets policies progress from ideas to realized guidelines.

Flexibility Allows Revision as Wisdom Evolves

Notably, while authority establishes statutes, it also preserves flexibility for reform as circumstances change and comprehension grows. Laws interpreted through a common law approach can adapt wisdom over time. Elected branches also have the authority to repeal or modify outdated, no longer deemed prudent provisions. And democratic powers permit the removal of representatives who disregard evolved expertise. Far from static dictates, laws function as adaptable frameworks subject to emendation guided by emerging societal wisdom. Authority establishes benchmarks but leaves space for revision, acknowledging the imperfect nature of human knowledge.

Checks Balance Authority to Respect Wisdom

A mere appeal to raw power risks tyranny if authority faces no restraint. Well-designed systems recognize this peril and balance concentrated authority with mechanisms upholding respect for knowledge and rights. Constitutional limits, independent courts, and divisions of power check any single authority’s ability to impose its will. These checks encourage authority to genuinely account for expertise instead of disregarding thoughtful guidance and facts. They also empower challenge and change if authority ceases heeding wisdom. Such equilibrium supports authority setting decisive standards informed by reason, benefiting from exchanged ideas without absolute subjection to any interest.

Conclusion: Wisdom Informs, Authority Decides

In the complex interplay between wisdom and authority in the legislative sphere, wisdom plays an advisory part in informing deliberations while authority retains final arbitrating power. Multiple reasonable perspectives on what constitutes prudent policy ensure disagreement exists even among those relying on thoughtful analysis; for statutes to carry legal force and conclusively resolve disagreements, an empowered authoritative entity must be imbued with the last say. While wisdom and fact-based discussion hold value in shaping perspectives, authority ultimately enables the creation of enforceable rules of general applicability that guide public norms and individual actions. As legislation reflects expertise and political judgments, authority gives laws their definitive binding character separate from the domain of pure reason or logic alone.

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