Texas Supreme Court Frees Salon Owner

By | April 10, 2021 | 0 Comments

The Texas Supreme Court unanimously tossed out civil and criminal penalties for a salon owner who refused to close despite health department and judge’s orders. The salon owner is now free to reopen, and the cause of freedom is strengthened. But the court’s reasoning is enlightening.

The court complained that the judge’s order did not make clear what the salon owner did wrong, or precisely what she must do to make things right. Instead, she had to refer to multiple laws and health department orders, and try to figure out what she could do to avoid jail and fines.

This idea is crucial for the survival of freedom. It is only the secondary purpose of law to punish violators. The primary purpose of law is to tell everyone what the law is and encourage their cooperation.

That is what happens in free countries. Speed limits are posted in roadside signs. If signs are absent, it would be difficult to convict a speeder. But in unfree countries, there are a host of laws and regulations that no one – not even a lawyer – can know or understand. This gives government unlimited power. They can arrest anyone, any time, and dig up some law or regulation that he or she may have violated unknowingly.

For example, before rioters can be arrested, they must be informed by loudspeaker that the assembly is unlawful and they are ordered to disperse. This goes back to the British Riot Act of 1714. But wait. Were the Capitol invaders of Jan. 6 ordered to disperse in a way they could hear it? Were they informed that although they could visit the Capitol on other days, on that day they were forbidden to do so? I am unaware that this was done.

As another example, I shop at a hardware store one block from a sheriff’s station. A clerk informed me that he asked deputies what sort of pocket knife was legal here. Some said anything with a blade less than 4 inches, but others said a blade less than 3 inches. If deputy sheriffs don’t know what is legal, how do we expect an 18-year-old kid to know? Is it fair to saddle him for life with a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, when he merely had a pocket knife his uncle Fred gave him for Christmas?

The Texas salon case is vitally important. If people are burdened with thousands of laws and regulations, issued by a host of federal, state, and local officials, and some of which are mutually contradictory, can they call themselves free? Not in any meaningful sense.

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. – Ayn Rand

 

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