David R. Henderson  

Law vs. Legislation

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The repeal of Mullan-Gage did not legalize alcoholic beverages in New York, for the Volstead Act remained in force. Repeal only meant that New York police and New York courts, no longer bound by the state to enforce federal antibooze laws, could hand full responsibility over to Washington--"where," said [New York governor Al] Smith, "it rightfully belongs." If speakeasies kept the racket down and didn't disrupt the peace of the neighborhood, city police left them alone. A sign went up over the bar at Leon & Eddie's, on West Fifty-second Street: "The bar closes at three o'clock. Please help us obey the law."
Enforcement did take place in Detroit; it just didn't have anything to do with drinking. A succession of mayors and police chiefs would occasionally crack down on places that were disorderly, or fostered criminal activity, or belonged to an ugly category known as "school pigs," sleazy operations set up near high schools. But any establishment that obeyed the rest of the criminal code--all the laws that had nothing to do with Prohibition--was left alone.
These two passages are from Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. They remind me, especially the first one, of the distinction that Donald Boudreaux often makes, drawing on Friedrich Hayek, between law and legislation.

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COMMENTS (3 to date)
vikingvista writes:

In that case, the Feds legislated according to a presumed law under which anyone peacefully engaged in the voluntary trade of ethanol-containing beverages deserved to be threatened, attacked, and if "necessary" killed. State legislators apparently didn't recognize such a law.

Like nearly any legislation, supporters reveal their personal thresholds and standards for using deadly violence against peaceful individuals. Supporters reveal their own civility and humanity.

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

LAW describes and defines, but does not necessarily delineate, observed social order and the relationships extent within it.

Legislation, ordinances,regulations and their excresences are Rules of Policy which define, describe and commonly delineate, some desired (or "constructed") form or forms of social order and the relationships required for those forms of order.

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

Any form of Order achieved through commonality of acceptance of objectives and commonly accepted means of attaining them, Order generates Law, not the other way around; Law does not generate order, it is merely the system that sustains Order in any society that chooses a Rule of Law. Where Rule of Law exists, there is Authority vested in that Rule of Law.

posted at
Samizdata.net 3/10/2013

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