Vulnero Nemo

There are two types of people in the world: people that will sit at a red light at a deserted intersection at 3 am in the morning when there are clearly no cars coming in either direction; and there are the people who will run the red light.

My name is Joseph Morse and I would run that red light. Now before you get the wrong idea about me, I should clarify. I’m not a daredevil or a crazy anarchist. But I do understand the point of laws. We don’t have laws in order to boost the governmental coffers when citizens break them; we don’t have laws in order to create a windfall for the printers that busy themselves with printing the laws and citations; and really, the purpose of laws isn’t even to keep order, though that seems like a noble goal. The purpose of law—rather the only legitimate purpose of law—is to protect the unalienable rights of individual citizens. I understand this and that’s why, when I clearly see that there is no harm being done to anyone by my running a red light at 3 in the morning, I’m going to do it with a free conscience.

Now, in the somewhat civilized society that we have today in America, this concept doesn’t go over too well—especially, as you can imagine, with cops. I was once in the position to defend my stance to an officer of the peace and somehow wasn’t too convincing. I was pulling out of my place of work to drive to donate blood or help starving children or some other noble cause—I can’t quite remember—and the road in front of my work had a double double yellow line, which is supposed to represent a median and is unlawful to cross. Well, there were no cars coming from either direction, so instead of turning right and making a U-turn at the 10-minute light, I just turned left. I crossed the double double yellow and broke the law. Now I didn’t impede the progress of any other driver as there were none in the vicinity and I didn’t even run over any kittens but, of course, a motorcycle cop who was sitting at a red light 500 yards away spotted the infraction and subsequently pulled me over.

The ticket was expensive, so I thought that I’d get my money’s worth and interview the police officer. After the cop went over his routine and gave me the ticket, I was compelled to ask this question, “Did I harm anyone by doing what I did?”

Well, the cop was confused by the question (I’m sure he doesn’t get too much of that) but I was earnestly wondering if he thought the illegal act I had just committed had actually done harm to anyone. He said, “No, if you had done harm, you would have received a ticket for reckless driving also.” I had to scratch my head. Why was the cop wasting my time and citing me for something that caused absolutely no harm to anyone?

Needless to say, the irony was lost on that particular public servant, but not on me. For what is the point of law if it doesn’t protect from harm? I say there is none. This is the crux of my political philosophy, which took me 35 years of life experience and countless hours of philosophical discussion and writing to develop and which can be summarized in the concise Latin phrase “Vulnero Nemo”. It means “harm no one” and in my writing, I’ve laid out a vision of an entire society based on that single law, which I truly believe would work. We already see that places with fewer laws and regulations (Hong Kong and Singapore are examples) fare much better economically than do countries with over-regulation. After all, in order for society to be successful, we citizens need not agree on everything, we just need to agree on one thing and that is that everyone should be able to do whatever he wants as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others. In essence, Vulnero Nemo.

It can be said that I like to question authority. I think there should be more questioning of authority. Not just with traffic laws, but with more meaningful laws like the unconscionable health care mandates being forced on us by our president and Congress and I think it’s great that various factions are standing up against it. Because I for one would rather be a prisoner in jail for breaking a law than a prisoner of guilt by obeying an unjust law.