Laws not executed are worse than none, and only teach men to despise law: whereas reverence and obedience go together.

—Thomas Gordon. Cato’s Letters No. 57, Of false honour, public and private, Saturday, December 16, 1721.

Unwanted laws should be removed from the statute books. If the legislature does not remove them, then the executive must enforce them. If the executive does not enforce them, then it should be impeached. Laws which society loses the will to enforce should never be quietly ignored. While moderate, pluralistic society requires compromise, it should never brook the lax enforcement of existing law. That approach, once admitted, will erode respect for all laws. It is the rigidity of the law, and its uncompromising, consistent enforcement, that safeguards both freedom and equality. Once the law comes to be seen as malleable, it becomes arbitrary. The law must mean what it says and say what it means.

Stringent law enforcement is even more important when there is civil unrest. Granting amnesties for mob actions or allowing rioting crowds to ‘let off steam’ only encourages violence and breeds contempt for the law. Grievances should be aired through peaceful, legal channels such as talk radio, the press, political parties, fundraising dinners, by proposing legislation, and by fielding candidates in elections—never by destroying property in defiance of the law.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove