A Lawsuit’s Purpose

When thinking about a recent spat on my Twitter timeline (involving protests against traffic tickets perceived as unfair), a train of thought I have had many times already surfaced again:

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Liberal vs. Prohibitive society

Under any law, any given action is either permitted or prohibited. Under a liberal set of laws, anything is permitted unless it is expressly prohibited. Under a prohibitive set of laws, anything is prohibited unless expressly allowed.

In Western Liberal Democracies (a term we use in debating to denote a more or less coherent group of countries where classically liberal and democratic values are largely observed), the general idea has been to maintain liberal societies, where the state may only prohibit some specific actions which society deems harmful or dangerous.

I don’t think we live in such a society any more (if we ever have). More specifically, it does not seem that people think this way. Instead, when I hear people complain about something, they ask “Why is this permitted?”, “Why does the state allow this?” or “I can’t believe this is allowed!” Such statements express a sentiment that everything is prohibited unless allowed (and, even worse: allowed specifically only be the state, an authority we did not create ourselves). Where does this sentiment come from?

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