It seems I can't open a newspaper, hear a news report on the radio, or catch a glimpse of television "news" without hearing about someone filing a lawsuit. It seems the whole world is "lawsuit happy". If people can't get someone else to agree with them, if some group can't get a law they want passed (or done away with), they automatically try to force the situation with a lawsuit. That behavior doesn't correlate to what I consider "lawful" behavior.
I consider myself, politically, a Jeffersonian limited anarchist - do whatever you choose to do, as long as you don't infringe on the rights of others to do the same, or cause harm to others or their property. That was the ultimate freedom that the framers of our Constitution wanted to ensure and protect. Laws were primarily designed to establish what would be done to those that failed to accept the corrolary of freedom - responsibility. The chief responsibility of every person was to NOT cause harm to others, or damage to their property, while exercising one's freedom as much as one chose.
Today, virtually every law being approved seems to be designed to limit individual freedom. In a way that's understandable, because so few citizens accept the responsibility inherent with freedom. Some citizens want to do anything they please, unrestricted by any thoughts about how their behavior affects others. There have to be some limits on freedom, or you have unrestrained anarchy. Too many limits, however, reduce the average person to the role of serf. The concepts behind our Constitution were to establish the minimum possible limits on the freedom of the individual, while requiring the individual to accept the responsibility of applying self-imposed limits to ensure they didn't infringe the liberties of their fellow citizens.
"Personal responsibility" is frequently considered a dirty word by a large portion of today's society. It's considered judgmental, implying that behavior should have consequences. In truth, ANYTHING we do has consequences - even NOT doing something may have consequences. There are consequences for every action we take, from an individual taking a breath of air to our nation waging war. There are also consequences for every decision we make, and even for those we don't make. Every minute we live forces us to make choices, and every choice we make, consciously or unconsciously, has a corresponding consequence.
The term "consequence" is considered negative by most people, but this is wrong. Consequences can be negative, positive, or benign - little actual effect upon us at all. Choosing how we live, what we eat, what clothes we wear, and how we spend our money are all part of exercising our freedom as individuals. What happens to us as the result of our choices are the consequences of our behavior.
Breathing is mostly an involuntary action of our body - we do it without thinking or planning, and it's necessary for us to continue to live. Breathing has the consequence of enabling us to continue to live. Breathing in wather, however, will fill our lungs and usually kill us - a totally different consequence than normal. Eating is a "normal" activity with the consequences of fueling our body. Eating too much has the undesirable consequence of the body storing the excess as fat, which can lead to a wide range of unhealthy situations. Eating too little, or the "wrong" kinds of foods, can provide too little of the vital ingredients needed for health, and leave us open to some pretty serious illnesses. Paying our bills on time, and for the required amount, ensures that we will continue to have shelter, food, clothing, and many of the other necessities of life, and even a few pleasures. Spending our entire paycheck on an impetuous purchase can have the very negative effect of our being evicted, not having enough left of our income to buy food, and many other serious negative consequences.
Most consequences are "natural" - the direct response to action, such as breathing, or being burned from touching a hot object. Social groupings, which include everything from the family, tribe, or political group up to nations and international organizations, have an even greater responsibility than just allowing "natural" consequences to take place. Social groupings sometimes must impose consequences upon individual parts of the group that fail to meet the minimum standards set by the group. The specific social grouping we call "government" exists in part to impose consequences upon those that refuse to accept the responsibility of their behavior within the group.
Our society is considered a "free" society, because our government is designed to acknowledge certain basic principles of freedom - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", and the specific limits placed on government regarding certain basic freedoms defined in our Bill of Rights as a part of our Constitution. Part of the actions authorized by our Constitution, which establishes how we will govern ourselves, is the inherent necessity of imposing consequences upon those that infringe the rights of others. Government is empowered with authority to impose consequences on those that act contrary to the liberties of others, or who refuse to accept the responsibilites - and consequences - of their own behavior.
Social groupings impose consequences for two reasons: to change behavior, or to provide security and safety. Parents discipline children to instill in them the idea that some behavior is not appropriate. We do this in hope that when those children become adults, they will act in a particular way that is best for the group as a whole. Governments legitimately impose limits on behavior to ensure the general safety of the governed - vehicle speed limits, for instance. Societies may also decide that, in order to ensure the continued safety and security of the group, some members who have acted in a manner hostile to the group should be removed from that society, either temprarily or permanently (we lock up criminals). As long as what we do is legitimately aimed at securing the best possible conditions for the majority of the people, and that the restraints we enact do less harm than good for all, then we consider those "just" laws and restrictions upon our freedoms.
Governments which support individual rights must also require individuals to accept responsibility for their behavior, or impose consequences on those that refuse. Such governments must also be limited in their derived powers, or they will quickly begin imposing limits on individual liberty for spurious or ill-concieved reasons. Government power should never be used to impose change upon individuals, nor to limit their legitimate exercise of choice, without grave necessity and extensive debate. Every action has consequences, and frequently the consequences of government actions may not be fully understood for years, perhaps not for decades.
The government of the United States has forgotten the necessity of limiting its actions, or contemplating the consequences of its action. Worse by a measure of magnitude is the ill-concieved behavior of dozens of non-government groups who try to impose limitations on individual freedom through direct action, such as lobbying, petitioning, and challenging the status quo with expensive, time-consuming, and blatant legal challenges. This last behavior is epitomized by the lawsuits brought by a handful of state district attorneys, challenging the United States government's legitimate decision not to ratify the Kyoto climate treaty. Other excesses include the sometimes overbearing and overreaching imposition of restrictions by government agencies exercising regulatory authority without adequate debate or adequate consideration of the consequences of their action. Such regulatory excesses may impose severe economic, cultural, political or social consequences, with no clear justification for them.
The exercise of law to impose consequences upon individuals, groups, and societies against their will is tyranny, and it must not be allowed to succeed. The continued use of law as a weaponwielded against the governed has dire consequences for our nation and its people. Those who exercise authority in the legal arena must act to limit the behavior of their members, or society will be forced to impose those limits on them, for its own security.