Ius summum saepe summa est malitia.
(Terrence, Timoroumenos, 796)

The highest law is often the highest evil.

(pron = yoos SOOM-moom SAI-pay SOOM-mah ehst mah-LIH-tee-ah)

Comment: The highest law in any community becomes the highest evil when that law
embodies in known or unknown fashion some element that works against people and
their lives. This strikes me as the principle of the common good in reverse,
and since the idea of the common good is becoming less and less recognizable in
our society, it strikes me that this counter example of it might also go

Perhaps in a dictatorship, the highest law is the dictator himself, and so what
he does to and for people becomes the example of whether or not he is the
highest evil. Certainly plenty of examples abound.

In freer societies, the highest law might include those that carry the greatest
restrictions of freedom and those which curtail the protections of the law.
Some people have concerns at this point in history about some of the new
homeland security laws that have been put into place, and the practice that
currently allows the executive office of the government to declare anyone a
military combatant and suspend all of their civil rights, including those to
due process. We are currently holding hundreds of men at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
now for three years, not having charged most of them with a crime, allowing them
no due process that points to some end for them.

We don’t like to talk about this, and when we do, we say that we must do this to
protect ourselves. That momentarily makes us feel better.

Federal government practices aside, we might ask ourselves—in our families, in
our organizations, employment, clubs etc, what are the laws, the governing
principles? How do they affect people? Is the affect helpful or not?

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day is now available on the web.