A few years ago I found myself confronting, and confronted by, the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) of the state of Missouri. In fact, I’ve found myself in that position a couple of times.
The AHC is, as the name indicates, an agency of the state’s Administration, but it operates as a "court," in a dispute between the state and a Missourian reckless enough to challenge it in some way. As an "impartial" arbiter, it hears witnesses, acts upon motions, and, eventually, rules in favor of the state, unless the matter under discussion is trivial and presents no fundamental or significant challenge to the operation of that corporation. For it to do otherwise is impossible. Would a committee established and operated by General Motors to settle disputes with motorists recommend that the operation of GM is fundamentally improper, and should cease?
Nonetheless, participation in the AHC charade is interesting and informative, giving the individual petitioner the chance to see, via discovery, the state’s "evidence," and to learn, via interrogatories, which questions the state cannot and will not answer. So I filed numerous papers with the "court," and, mindful of my high school days, when we students at St. Louis University High School were admonished to head our assignments with the initials A.M.D.G., placed those initials at the top of each motion.
The initials stand for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam: for the greater glory of God. I was slightly surprised to receive an interrogatory from the lawyer representing the state, asking what A.M.D.G. meant. Surely someone among the army of flunkies in the State House must know! Apparently not. At any rate, I promptly forgot about it.
But I noticed, belatedly, that the AHC has a motto at the top of its pages, also. It surrounds an image of two bears facing one another, with the words United We Stand, Divided We Fall. But, in a ribbon below the image, is the Latin motto: Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto. My high-school Latin makes that: Let the Welfare of the People be the Supreme Law.
I was reminded of the admonition: a man cannot serve two masters. As a God-fearing man, I serve the Lord as best I can. That is my "supreme law." The state, on the other hand, at least in its AHC incarnation, serves man. It seems that people have an innate, intuitive desire to worship, and serve, something, or someone. What a pity when it’s the state!
Most Americans claim a belief in God, but, even in the case of many modern churches, that belief in God translates into working for a more perfect world: one free of hunger, disease, injustice, etc. To those not blessed with a belief in God, man’s innate attraction to good leads in a similar direction. To many such as these, government is the instrument to bring this about. Religious men and women, admittedly, have also concerned themselves with the material concerns of their fellow men, not as an end in itself, but as a work of mercy that might lead the donor to greater virtue, and the beneficiary to a knowledge and appreciation of divine mercy. Government, however, tolerates no competition. It is doubtless unlawful for any government agency to act for the greater glory of God! And in practice, government cannot operate on behalf of the welfare of its subjects without committing, routinely and inevitably, gross injustice. What it gives to Paul, it can only take from Peter, and all the statutes in the world cannot make that right; especially when the statutes which justify robbing Peter are written by the robbers themselvesu2014who also administer and enforce the theft, and, if challenged, don their black robes and judge it proper.
Thus, the motto of the AHC is an oxymoron. The state — any state — is created to guarantee justice; to preserve basic human rights. But the AHC, or any state agency, can only achieve the welfare of some citizens at the expense of others. Therefore, the "supreme law" would seem to call for theft under color of law. "Let the Welfare of SOME People Be the Supreme Law!"
We have come full circle. Governments, which our ancestors established, perhaps navely, to insure justice, have become, of necessity, the greatest violators of justice. And this cannot be remedied, short of abolishing modern government, if not all government. As long as our rulers regard the ill, the uneducated, the poor, or any other group with a grievance, or who can be made to regard themselves as victims, as persons whose welfare is the government’s concern, injustice is guaranteed and inevitable. And this injustice will be foisted upon the public with the grandest of slogans: Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto!
What Al Capone needed was a nifty motto, especially in Latin!