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Snowbound thoughts on natural law

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 27, 2015

Here in the northeastern US, the hysteria over the winter storm dubbed Juno began several days ago. It peaked on Monday, as the storm approached, with the Mayor of New York predicting a catastrophe of historic proportions. In fact, the storm breezed through New York, leaving only a genteel dusting. I wonder if anyone will learn from this experience, or if the hype will be just as intense for the next big storm.

Mind you, this is a big storm. We live in what’s being called the “jackpot corridor” for Juno, and we already have well over a foot of snow on the ground, with several hours of blizzard conditions still ahead of us. I’ll need to begin plowing and shoveling soon, as soon as the “whiteout” conditions abate, and I’ll be busy for quite a while. But this is New England. Snow happens. We’re ready for it, or should be.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency, and banned all non-emergency travel. That’s perfectly reasonable, I suppose, and yet the announcement made me chuckle. It’s true that we can’t venture out on the roads. But that’s due to Mother Nature, not Governor Baker. I mean, even if the governor said that I could drive, I still couldn’t. It’s not physically possible.

Recently I’ve been devoting a lot of thought to the decline in understanding of natural law. When a society ceases to acknowledge the existence of some higher authority, the government tends to usurp responsibility for deciding things. So a political official formally declares what any rational person should know without being asked: that you can’t drive a compact car through 4-foot snowdrifts.

And yet, when people are trained to rely on government to decide all important questions, they sometimes lose the ability to make rational decisions by themselves. My wife reminds me that after the last big snowstorm here, she spoke to the manager of a small store, whose boss ordered him to open up the shop, long after the roads were closed. Fearful of losing his job, he made the risky trip, opened the doors, and sat alone in the store until the police ordered him to close down. Even then the police officer had to speak on the phone with the poor man’s boss, explaining that the decision to close the store was not voluntary.

A major storm of any kind should always be a reminder that we are not in control of our own fates. Nor is the government the authority that ultimately governs our lives. A blizzard does not settle the argument about natural law. But it helps. Under conditions such as we’re experiencing today in Juno’s “jackpot corridor,” the laws of nature are making a mockery of the laws of man.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Jan. 28, 2015 12:39 PM ET USA

    Everything you say is absolutely correct, Phil. Yet my employer depends on the government to decide if I can be absent from work or not (so I brought work home...)