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Volume 7, Issue 5: Magistralis

Empty Heads

Greg Dickison

When hiring a new employee, one thing an employer looks at is the job-seeker's education. He wants to know that this person has the knowledge and skills necessary to do the work. Employers are looking for as close a match as possible between the worker and the job. If there is no match, no matter how good the worker is at something else, he won't get the job. A man might know logging inside and out, but if he doesn't know rockets, he can't be a NASA engineer.

When we, the people, hire a new legislator, what qualifications do we seek? We generally look to see whether he is "conservative" or "liberal." We expect him to be honest and hard-working. He should be able to communicate persuasively. We hope he is a believer. But do we ever consider whether he actually knows anything about the law?
William Blackstone, the eighteenth-century legal scholar whose Commentaries were the foundation of American law, found it "perfectly amazing that there should be no other state of life, no other occupation, art, or science, in which some method of instruction is not looked upon as requisite, except only the science of legislation, the noblest and most difficult of any."[1] Blackstone lamented the lack of legal education in the propertied men of his day, who were those most likely to aspire to parliament.
In our day, only attorneys and judges, the priests of our judicial system, are required to know anything about the law. The aspiring judge of even the lowest order must spend four or more years obtaining an undergraduate degree, then spend another three years in law school. A law degree qualifies him to sit for a rigorous bar exam, and if he passes, he is entitled to be a lawyer. He must then practice for a certain number of years, perhaps reach a certain age, and have a good reputation among his peers for knowledge and skill in the law and a good moral character. In some jurisdictions, he must then satisfy a review committee, the legislature, and the governor of his qualifications.
The only qualification for making the law is garnering a majority (or a plurality) of the popular vote. How ironic that an extensive legal education is required to interpret and apply the law, but any yahoo can write it. In fact, we ridicule education and intellectual ability in our representatives, and prefer the politician who acts more like a regular guy, a workin' man. A candidate does not have to show his skill with political and legal philosophy, as long as he looks good on a horse.
Who can say how much folly this ignorance of the law has wrought upon our legal system? Blackstone, speaking of the common law of England, blamed the litigation explosion of his day on the defective legal education of the lawmakers. He lamented that the common law "has fared like other venerable edifices of antiquity; which rash and unexperienced workmen have ventured to new-dress and refine, with all the rage of modern improvement."[2] And that was in 1753. Not to be outdone, our current legislatures are wasting no time in proving there is nothing new under the sun. No social problem is beyond their expertise. Anything can be fixed by simply adding another law to the books. The result is a Byzantine code of vague, obscure, and contradictory laws and regulations which solve no problems but do provide plenty of work for lawyers. If those who tinkered with the law actually understood it, much of the litigation spawned by confusion would cease.
While legal knowledge in legislators would be a great improvement, such knowledge is not a complete solution as it will not prevent ungodly innovation in law. The goal is not merely an understandable legal code, but a biblical legal code as well. We do not, like the modern secularists, grant education a messianic role. Legal knowledge must be Christ-centered knowledge. Legal knowledge must be built on a foundation of biblical theology. The common law of England, upon which American law was founded, consisted of a set of legal principles and maxims carefully crafted by judges to conform with the requirements of biblical justice in any given situation. Common law rules were transcendent and universal. Judges did not invent rules, they discovered them in God's revelation and made a conscious effort to decide cases in a manner consistent with God's will. Consequently, there was relatively little dispute as to what justice was, and litigation was confined to the established rules of justice that sh ould apply in given situations.
Darwinism caused a dramatic shift in how lawyers, judges and legislators viewed the law. It was no longer a system of foundational and unchanging principles, but a factory in which new legal principles could be manufactured. Justice was no longer a fixed and objective concept, but a subjective process, changeable and adaptable to the evolving needs of man. Thus, legislation became a means of controlling human evolution, and litigation concerned itself not just with the application of law to the given facts, but with the nature of the law itself. Judges became quasi-legislators, and both judges and legislators became social engineers.
It is not necessary that every legislator be a lawyer or a theologian, but they must know enough law and theology to decide not whether a particular policy is conservative or liberal, but whether it is right or wrong. God required the kings of Israel to write their own copy of the law, and they had to read it and learn from it (Deut. 17:18-20). The people were to have a working knowledge of the law as well (Deut. 18:19-20). The law was perfect, and innovation was forbidden (Deut. 4:2). Voters need to hold modern magistrates to the same standard.

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