Friday, June 27, 2003

Oh, and because the whole sodomy case-thing reminded me about this:

Salus populi suprema lex, contrary to Glenn Reynolds and Dave Kopel is:

(1) Never rendered as salus populi est suprema lex, because, for those of us who made it past the first six weeks of Latin I in high school, it is apparent that in a declarative statement such as this, the third person form of esse finishes the sentence, and, more importantly, the Latin saying does not include a verb, sort of like Senatus populusque Romanum (which is nonetheless a perfectly acceptable statement). It's called "idiom."

(2) Not simply concerned with the people's bodily or spiritual or psychic health. It's an overall measure; it's frequently cited in commentaries as a justification for the State's right to go to war. Try reading an elementary primer on Roman Law. (The best translation is The welfare of the people is the highest Law. Reading salus as health as in heart disease is a very elementary error.)

(3) A vital component of Roman, then Canon-derived, then Medieval European, then Common- and Civil-law rules of law. To pretend that the states of our system never legislated on public health until the late nineteenth century -- as Kopel and Reynolds do -- is sophistic, at best.

(4) A very good encapsulation of what a government is for. Libertoids have forgotten this, but the reason we give up any of our liberties to our government is three-fold: (a) We need collective security. (b) We have a hell of a collective action problem, especially in times of stress. (c) Governments of necessity seek to preserve the physical integrities of their subjects, in war and in social interaction.

No comments: