… is from page 120 of the American jurist James Coolidge Carter’s posthumously published and sadly neglected 1907 volume, Law: Its Origin, Growth and Function:
What has governed the conduct of men from the beginning of time will continue to govern it to the end of time. Human nature is not likely to undergo a radical change, and, therefore, that to which we give the name of Law always has been, still is, and will forever continue to be Custom.
DBx: I make one small correction to Carter’s observation. Regrettably, the name “law” attaches also to “legislation.” This confusion of legislation with law confers upon legislation – and on the maker of legislation, the state – a majesty and reverence that are wholly undeserved. The correct conclusion that we all should obey the law because obeying the law is necessary for harmony, peace, and prosperity is incorrectly carried over to legislation, so that – because legislation is called “law” – people mistakenly believe that violating legislative diktats is akin to violating the law.
There might be very good reasons, both personal and social, for obeying legislation in many or most circumstances. But those reasons are not the same as the reasons for obeying the law. The law, being the result of human action but not of human design, truly plays no favorites and is formed by the nuanced give and take of the countless interactions of all individuals going about their daily affairs. Legislation, being the product of human design, always can and often does play favorites. Unlike law, legislation is typically today the product of human hubris and power.