Perspectives on law

John Derbyshire quotes George Orwell, and in doing so, explains why civic nationalism failed as a substitute for American nationalism.

The masses still more or less assume that “against the law” is a synonym for “wrong.” It is known that the criminal law is harsh and full of anomalies and that litigation is so expensive as always to favour the rich against the poor: but there is a general feeling that the law, such as it is, will be scrupulously administered … An Englishman does not believe in his bones, as a Spanish or Italian peasant does, that the law is simply a racket.

The English People, Collins, 1947

This is why it was never possible for the USA to survive as Constitutional nation respecting the Rights of Englishmen once non-English people were permitted to become citizens. No other people shared the Englishman’s view of the law. The Northern Europeans didn’t grasp the concept of its theoretical limits. The Southern Europeans saw it as a racket to benefit the powerful and the well-connected. The Jews and Irish saw it as a game to be exploited for the benefit of their tribes.

And once that respect for the law disappears, it cannot easily be restored. It’s infectious. I certainly take a much more lax, even disrespectful, approach to things like restricted parking than I ever did prior to our move to Italy. I can recall being in Spain, near a crowded market, waiting for my friend to pick up meat from the butcher. There were no parking spaces, but there were some places reserved for taxis.

At first, I started to drive past them, and then I thought, “wait a minute, I’m in Spain. As if anyone is going to care.” So, I drove into the taxi space and was able to wait there as long as I required without anyone paying even the slightest attention.