This week's letter is something of a departure from my theme of offering management suggestions for improving business.
As I explain a little further on, there is a connection. Perhaps that connection at first seems less direct than much of what I offer. Stay with me.
Recently I came across something so good I feel compared to share it. Rex Van Schalkwyk is a good friend and fellow property owner in La Estancia de Cafayate, Argentina, where I live. He's a retired judge of the South African Supreme Court.
Some years ago, Rex wrote the essay I quote below on liberty and the rule of law. It specifically addresses South African concerns, since it was written for a South African audience.
It's one of the best summaries I've seen of the importance of liberty to the human condition. That applies wherever you are.
Liberty and limited government are the basis of the environment where business thrives best. In that sense, this discussion relates to
my usual theme.
Keep in mind that this essay was written by a sophisticated legal mind. It was written for Rex's fellow judges and lawyers on the Rule of Law Project in South Africa. Some may find the language and writing style difficult to read. Some of the spelling and construction will be unfamiliar to North Americans.
In summary, he's saying;
- The freer the society, the less evident is the rule of law, even though it's there.
- Liberty is not freedom from discipline.
- Discipline is integral with individual liberty.
- Under the heavy hand of overbearing government, citizens abandon voluntary personal discipline.
- With less personal liberty in a society, the government measures to impose discipline and order become more oppressive.
- If politicians were truly concerned for their constituents' welfare, they would embrace personal liberty.
So here's Rex, in his own words. I hope you'll work through it even if you find it difficult going. In my opinion it's excellent.
"In the utopian society; one in which governance is administered with a light hand and with an abiding commitment to the primacy of individual liberty, the rule of law is not heard. This is not because the rule of law is not acknowledged but because it is inherent in the principle of liberty. The rule of law is everywhere present, but unproclaimed; the free society is synonymous with the rule of law.
"It is in the unfree society that resort to the rule of law must be relentlessly and emphatically asserted. An axiom may be derived from these observations: the less free the society, the more persistent the violation of the rule or law, and the more pressing its assertion becomes.
"Under the increasingly pernicious government of the past decade, and more, the South African polity has manifested an increasingly reckless disregard, in the executive, the legislative and administrative branches of government, for the rule of law. Sadly, the courts have also been remiss in their failure consistently to have enforced compliance.
"The process, which involved always a failure of accountability, began, at first surreptitiously, and then brazenly and finally, with impunity. This resulted in the inevitable criminalisation of the state. The redemption can now only be achieved through a tireless enforcement of the law and a meticulous compliance with the imperatives of the rule of law. This must involve an acknowledgement of the primacy of the liberty of the individual. It should be evident that the expropriation of private property without compensation will only accentuate the criminalisation of the state and retard any progress towards its redemption.
"If politicians are truly concerned about the wellbeing of the community they are employed to serve, their primary objective must be the pursuit of individual liberty. All the empirical evidence demonstrates this connection. In doing so, the rule of law would be served, and the prosperity of the society assured."
Hope you found that as good as I did.
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