Questions Over the Meaning of Natural Law

L.D. Beckwith

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, January-February, 1934]

May I say a word of warning that the kindly article by Chester C. Platt, page 185 in the Nov. Dec. [1933] issue [of Land and Freedom], may be misinterpreted?

I refer to his comment at the bottom of the first column, where he speaks of the belief of Prof. Harry Gunnison Brown that we make too much of the theory that there are certain natural laws sacred because really of divine origin. Then he adds: "Consequently it is said we are always seeking natural laws of economics and then trying to conform to them. I know that a large school of Single Taxers hold to this view. Mr. Beckwith of No Taxes says in a recent article:

"This, I know from experience, will be accepted as descriptive of the natural-law school to which I am proud to belong. One sure way to have weeds in a garden is not to have anything else there. In the absence of a correct statement of our position, this language in Mr. Platt's article opens the way to a gross misconception. The trouble is in the word "sacred."

Perhaps it must be admitted that those who do not understand our position might naturally guess as Mr. Platt did, that this idea is involved.

And yet what one of them ever referred to those who believe in the law of gravity as being influenced by any regard for things that are sacred because really of divine origin? Who ever heard of a mathematician who accepts the law of square or cube root being described is being bound by reverence for sacred things?

That Mr. Platt's reference to sacred things "really of divine origin" was not a mere slip of the pen is indicated by the fact that he follows it up by a reference to another school of thought which, he says, thinks this belief "entirely inconsistent with modern evolutionary philosophy.

There is no need to take space here to explain what we mean by natural laws. Suffice it to say that, if the reader has a clear conception of what he means by the law of gravity, by the law of the leverage, the law of cube or square root, by the law of expanding gases, by the laws of refraction and other laws in nature, he is prepared to understand what we mean by the eighteen natural laws of economics which I include in The Economic Code.

To those who say that these laws are only tendencies or probabilities, I reply: Very well, no matter! Whatever your law of gravity is, that is what these laws of economics are. We are not the least concerned with your hair-splitting about these laws; for when you are all through and agree as to what they are, then that is what our laws of economics are; for all we claim is that economics is a science as exact is any.

The explanation of natural law found in Dr. Schilpp's "Do We Need A New Religion?" is very satisfactory. He says that by natural law we mean the way we find upon careful observation and scientific analysis that nature behaves under this or that circumstance, or this or that condition.