Law vs. Legislation

2008-10-04

Over at OpenMarket.org, Iain Murray observes:

The bailout bill is now law, but it does little or nothing to solve the problems government created.

Forgive me, Mr. Murray, but I shall now use your statement as reason to mount a hobbyhorse of my own: the difference between law and legislation.

To my old-fashioned (or perhaps scientific) mind, a law is something natural: Newton's law of universal gravitation, the law of conservation of energy, Gresham's law, Say's Law, Boyle's law -- you get the picture.

By contrast, legislation is something man-made, something imposed, something unnatural, something that those in power attempt to dictate through fiat, command, decree, proclamation, edict, ukase, mandate, or some other form of coercion. The word "legislation" means at root "the enactment of a law", "the making of a law" -- in other words, asserting that something man-made has the force of something natural.

Call me recalcitrant, but I prefer to say that Congresscritters and other such imposters promulgate legislation, not laws.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal