Salus populi suprema lex

PXL_20220413_174256775A placeholder post to keep Tom off my back while I write up Aristotle's Physics.

Salus populi suprema lex: the quote is from Cicero, and means The health (welfare, good, salvation, felicity) of the people should be the supreme law2. There's actually an extra "esto" you need to shove in to make good latin, but it kinda reads nicer without, or at least I presume that's what the people who made my monument1 thought. It is also the form that the Inns of Court use, and their latin is likely better than mine.

Like quite a lot of things, it sounds good, certainly good enough to write on a monument or use as your great seal. Nowadays, if you search for the phrase on Google your results fill up with fuckwitted colonials who think that taking the word "health" literally is amusing. Idiots. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes...

It has a regrettably collectivist, as opposed to individualist, slant. The welfare of the entire populace demands that your individual rights should be overridden? Then over they go... You see the problem I hope. Or not even individual rights: taken literally, it offers the sovereign the ability to cast any specific law aside, in favour of the "supreme" law: in both early modern and classical contexts, salus populi was often used to justify the 'arbitrary' power of the sovereign, in the words of one random source I found on the internet. From context, and as this argues, the maxim is only supposed to apply in times of emergency; but alas people can be rather slippery about what counts as an emergency.

Will that do for now? Not one of my best, I know.


* Primitive communism by Manvir Singh via Econlib


1. On Berkhamstead common.

2. Partial context, from an archive of LoebIn the field they shall hold the supreme military power; they shall be subject to no one; the safety of the people shall be their highest law.


Tom said...

...but it's not bad as a goal or guideline, is it? Perhaps the Latins assumed common sense?

William M. Connolley said...

As in so many things, it works fairly well if you use common sense; "moderation in all things, including moderation" is a good motto.


PBS has begun running a five hour advertorial for the Mother of all Lawsuits:


William M. Connolley said...

Yeeeessss... interesting. I think there's a pile o' people salivating at the amount of money that could be available from these lawsuits, and perhaps just as important the amount of public exposure, and political gain. With, correspondingly, very little interest in truth.

I think on the basis of the facts, they will and should lose (see e.g. me here) as they did in the Big One. And given the current supreme court, I can't see the appeals-to-emotion getting them very far. But perhaps the aim is to shift public opinion? Perhaps not for legal reasons, though.

William M. Connolley said...

And as if by magic this article in the Economist comes by to reveal what a dreadful idea it all is, at least as judged by their first example. FFS, the Economist is losing its roots.


Covering Climate Now has turned to root canal work on owners. as well as editors.


Forbes on pay for play climate torts :


William M. Connolley said...

Thanks. But meanwhile, the actual cases in the courts seem rather stalled?