Magna Carta 2011

As did many, former Mayor Willie Brown wrote a tribute of Steve Jobs in his San Francisco Chronicle column this week. Except, in inimitable Willie Brown fashion, his was rather more a tribute to himself—an accolade to Brown’s magnanimous use of his discretionary power to make a San Francisco Apple store possible.

It seems that Apple had purchased a building intending to repurpose it as a new Apple store only to discover that the building in question carried historic status. As Willie Brown outlined the problem:

The trouble was, keeping history alive was the total opposite of the sleek display design that Jobs had mandated for all Apple stores.

But, never fear. Mayor Brown is a man who knows how to help his friends, and he quickly offered Jobs a solution: build the store he wanted, but preserve the back wall. And thus to the happy ending:

It was a stretch for sure, but that’s how we got the Apple store in San Francisco. One with a very historic back wall, I might add.

This is what’s known as the Rule of Man, not the Rule of Law, and is what led England’s Barons to force King John to sign Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.

Of course, the presumption underlying the concept of the Rule of Law is that Law derives from Natural Law—not countless ambiguous regulations driven by special interests.

Thus, I am not advocating for the absolute enforcement of these innumerable absurd laws. However, if the politically well-connected were actually subject to such enforcement as those of us lacking friends at court, they might well rise up to organize Occupy City Hall, Occupy State Capitol, and Occupy Congress. And that would be a very good thing for us all.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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