The Great Library in the city of Alexandria, Egypt was considered to be the capital of world knowledge in ancient times. For hundreds of years it housed a repository of mankind's learning, law and progress.
Then it all went up in flames. (Turns out, scrolls and papyri are highly flammable.)
Here's what happened: a guy named Julius Caesar was having a bad day. His soldiers were under attack at Alexandria, so they had the bright idea to set Ptolemy's ships on fire (he was Cleopatra's brother . . . long story). Fire got out of control and consumed 40,000 scrolls of the Great Library.
By comparison, the United States Library of Congress -- the largest library in the world -- has more than 170 million items in its collection. (No open flames allowed.)
How Many Laws Are There?
How many laws would you guess the United States has? After all, it is a relatively young nation.
Answer: No one knows.
As unbelievable as that is, let it sink in. Something as simple as counting our laws (for just a single country) is beyond our capacity.
We literally cannot keep track of our laws because there are so many.
Here is a quote from the Library of Congress:
"We are frequently asked to estimate the number of federal laws in force. However, trying to tally this number is nearly impossible. . . .
"In 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. [Just the criminal laws? Forget about the rest.]
"In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses.
"This effort, headed by Ronald Gainer, a Justice Department official, is considered the most exhaustive attempt to count the number of federal criminal laws.
"In a Wall Street Journal article about this project, 'this effort came as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law.' Or as Mr. Gainer characterized this fruitless project: “[y]ou will have died and [been] resurrected three times,” and still not have an answer to this question."
The sovereign authority must be absolute in order to protect the people. Men must choose: will they be ruled, or will they be free? Liberty leads to anarchy. It is better to have security, so we should let the sovereign make all necessary laws for our safety.
Witness Two: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I disagree with Tom. It is possible for people to be ruled and yet remain free . . . but only if men rule themselves. When the people are sovereign, they remain free.
Witness Three: Joseph Smith
Thanks JJ. I think you're on the right track. But self-government, alone, does not guarantee freedom. I see a day when people everywhere will come and plant their feet on the sacred soil of freedom, and exclaim, 'America means friendship!' That is why I teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves.
Witness Four: Moses
Ten is a nice, round number.
(For more on this interesting debate, see , Margaret C. Robertson, "The Campaign and the Kingdom: The Activities of the Electioneers in Joseph Smith's Presidential Campaign," BYU Studies, vol. 39, no. 3; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Penguin Books, 1968.)
There's probably a mathematical formula out there that could help us (sorry, I am not a political scientist, neither am I very good at math), so this is the best I could come up with:
On this spectrum we see that the more wicked we get, the more laws are needed to "keep us in check."
As society becomes more wicked, refusing to govern themselves, the "government" steps in to fill the void with more laws.
Satan stirreth them up continually to anger one with another.
When I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.
A Chicken Story:
A friend asked me one day in court, back when I was a prosecutor, how to get their neighbor criminally charged for maintaining an animal nuisance.
"What's going on?" I asked. "Do they have a dog keeping you up at night with their barking, or something?"
"No, it's their chickens. They have so many chickens that poop everywhere, including against our fence, I can't go out and enjoy my backyard because the smell is so bad."
"I am sorry to hear that," I said.
"Do you know how many chickens we are allowed to have in a residential zone in my city?" they asked.
"No, but I could look it up for you."
"I already did," they said. "You can have 5 chickens (and no roosters). That's all! Guess how many my neighbor has?"
"I have no idea," I said.
"At least 20."
(Here's the really interesting part:)
"Okay," I said. "Have you gone over and tried talking to them about the problem?"
With a shocked expression, they said, "No. I am not going to go over there. The animal control officer needs to go over there and issue them a citation."
"So . . . I guess you're going to call the police?" I asked.
Excuse Me For A Second
WHY DO PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT BECAUSE WE HAVE EXACTLY THE GOVERNMENT WE DESERVE. IF WE WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO SETTLE ALL OUR DISPUTES THEN OF COURSE WE HAVE BIG GOVERNMENT BECAUSE WE CAN'T TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN PROBLEMS AND WE EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE TO FIX THINGS FOR US. BUT IT'S GONNA COST US!
I feel much better now.
We Just Need Two Laws
We'd save a lot of ink (and trees) if we realized we need only two laws.
A child could count them. A child of God could remember them, always:
The Lord said unto Enoch: Unto thy brethren have I said, and given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father;
But behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.