Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter two: The Idea Which Usually Develops about the Effects Which the Proliferation of the Laws Has and the Falsity of That Idea - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter two: The Idea Which Usually Develops about the Effects Which the Proliferation of the Laws Has and the Falsity of That Idea - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The Idea Which Usually Develops about the Effects Which the Proliferation of the Laws Has and the Falsity of That Idea
People normally think that when the government allows itself to multiply prohibitive and coercive laws at will, provided that the intention of the legislator is clearly expressed, provided that the laws are not in any way retroactive, provided that citizens are told in time of the rule of behavior they must follow, the  proliferation of laws has no drawback other than cramping individual freedoms a little. This is not the case. The proliferation of laws, even in the most ordinary of circumstances, has the bad effect of falsifying individual morality. The actions which fall within the competence of government, according to its primary purpose, are of two kinds: those intrinsically harmful which government must punish; and arrangements contracted between individuals which government must uphold. As long as government stays within these limits, it does not establish any contradiction, any difference, between legislative morality and natural morality. But when it prohibits actions which are not criminal or demands the completion of those which have not become obligatory owing to prior contract and which consequently are based only on its will, there are brought into society two kinds of crimes and two kinds of duties: those which are intrinsically such and those government says are such. Whether individuals make their judgment subservient to government or maintain it in its original independence, this produces equally disastrous effects. In the first hypothetical case, moral behavior becomes hesitant and fickle. Acts are no longer good or bad by reason of their good or bad outcomes, but according to whether law commands or forbids them, much as theology used to represent them as good because they pleased God, rather than as pleasing to God because they were good. The rule of the just and the unjust is no longer in the consciousness of man but in the will of the legislator. Morality and inner feeling undergo an unfathomable degradation through this dependence on an alien thing, a mere accessory—artificial, unstable, and liable to error and perversion. In the contrary case, in which a man—by supposition—opposes the law, the result is first of all many individual troubles for him and those whose fates depend on his. But in the second place, will he bother for very long disputing the law’s competence in matters he considers outside it? If he violates prohibitions and orders which seem to him arbitrary, he runs the same dangers as he would infringing the rules of eternal morality. Will not this unjust equality of consequences bring about a confusion in all his ideas? Will not his doubts, without distinction, touch on all the actions the law forbids or requires, and in the heat of his dangerous struggle with the institutions menacing him, do we not have to fear that he will soon not be able to tell good from bad any longer, nor law from the state of nature?1
 Most men are kept from crime by the feeling of never having crossed the line of innocence. The more restrictedly that line is drawn, the more are men put at risk of transgressing it, however light the infraction. Just by overcoming their first scruples, they have lost their most reliable safeguard. To get around restrictions which seem to them pointless, they use means which they could use against the most sanctified of laws. They acquire thereby the habit of disobedience, and even when they want some end which is still innocent, they go astray because of the means they are forced to follow to achieve it. Forcing men to refrain from things which are not forbidden morally or imposing on them duties which morality does not require of them, is therefore not only to make them suffer, but to deprave them.
[A. [Refers to page 64.]]Esprit des lois, XXIV, 14, “The laws which make what is unimportant be seen as necessary have as a disadvantage that they make what is necessary seem unimportant.”