The Law Mine

Max Rachimburg

Arbitrary are the ways of humans, and capricious too. Only upon a solid foundation may we bring our manifold projects to fruition, and cleave the chaos from our unquarried souls. Reflect on these words, friend, and you will plumb their truth, and wonder, perhaps, at how such solidity seems absent in your land, and at how it might be established. Pray lend a keen ear, for I shall divulge to you the secret fount that we discovered long ago. Happily know that our discovery is for sale, a commodity we dispense out of charity—our tidy profits only ensure that our gift may continue to spread across all the domains of man.

Ours is a mining land, though it was not always so. The land was once wild, an endless tangle of dark forest prowled by fearsome beasts. In the shadows of the forest, villagers mindlessly tended their meager crops and herds, completely ignorant of the wealth beneath their feet. They suffered through famines, plagues, storms, and droughts, and believed themselves the victims of avenging gods, to whom they offered futile sacrifices. Like animals they lived and died, a grazing herd without private property or durable possessions.

Then came our ancestors, the men of industry who liberated the villagers from darkness. They arrived in the village that is now our capital city and announced a great and wondrous discovery—a discovery that would change our land forever. In a cleft of rock in the nearby hills, in the undulating sedimentary layers, they had found unmistakable signs of the law.

The ignorant villagers laughed at the men of industry, and claimed they already knew the law. But when pressed, they could not prove their claim, for what they mistook for law was merely the vague memory of their primitive customs—the same customs that had stifled innovation and mired them in miserable poverty. We must forgive their child-like innocence, for knowledge was alien to them, and they could not see the truth of science through the fog of their superstitions. Sometimes people must be forced to be free.

With missionary zeal the men of industry introduced the rule of law into the life of the village. They split into three groups. The first group, whom they called the jurists, worked in the newly founded law mine to adjudicate the law on behalf of the village. The second group, whom they called the police, enforced the law with the superior weaponry the men of industry had brought with them. The third group, whom they called the entrepreneurs, led the villagers out of the darkness of poverty and into the light of industrial development.

At the outset, the law identified discrete parcels of real property in and around the village and enforced the entrepreneurs’ claims to ownership of these parcels. Of course, as the law requires, their claims were appropriately supported by affidavits from neutral entrepreneurs who, under penalty of perjury, affirmed the authenticity of each claim on the basis of personal knowledge of records kept and maintained in the ordinary course of business. The villagers produced no admissible affidavits to call these attestations into dispute. Upon this firm legal foundation, the entrepreneurs began to create new opportunities for the village. They permitted the villagers the continued use and occupancy of their dwellings and fields upon payment of fair and reasonable rent at market rates. To those villagers in need of the acceptable legal tender required for the payment of rent, the entrepreneurs offered employment at market rates in their newly established mining operations.

And so, the men of industry tapped the underground fountains of wealth that now trickle to all who work for their share. They leveled the unruly hills and felled the tangled forests, and they stamped upon the barren land an efficient concrete grid. You know the rest of the story, for you may witness the magnificent results simply by meandering down the grand avenues of our capital and beholding our gleaming commercial towers, wherein our new men of industry, direct descendants of the old, look down upon the bustling land they own and guide our efforts to enrich the value of their vast holdings, and thereby enrich us all. Thanks to the men of industry, we have replaced superstition with reason and the mumblings of ancient poets with the balance sheets of our accounting books. To our ears, well-tuned by the rule of law, no song is more agreeable than tidy equations and their harmonies of profit.

“But what exactly is the law mine,” you may be wondering, “and how does it work?” I am only a humble law merchant, not a law miner steeped in its intricate profundities, and so my knowledge of the law is ultimately superficial. Nevertheless, in my mercantile capacity I am sufficiently qualified to offer the following general remarks so that you may confirm the quality of our product for yourselves.

When the founding jurists excavated the law mine, they discovered that each strata of the rock corresponded to a category of legal rules—one sedimentary layer for contracts, one for property, and so on. Within each layer they discovered discrete sections containing specific legal rules. In a magnificent collection of treatises we now call The Ground Law, the founding jurists comprehensively and systematically mapped the law contained in the rock walls of the law mine. At the time of the founding the villagers could not understand the treatises, for they contained a new legal language composed of pictograms of the rock. Thankfully, subsequent generations of scholars have produced reference texts that explain in granular detail the meanings of the pictograms. Today, aspiring students of the law may apply for enrollment in one of the officially sanctioned law mining academies where the reference texts are housed, and where the next generation of law miners study the canonical texts under the watchful tutelage of our esteemed law scholars.

Everyone in our land knows the core interpretive principle announced by the founding jurists: the law is what the chief law miners say it is. Yet as befits a robust legal culture such as our own, there remain active and longstanding disputes among our chief law miners as to the precise nature and meaning of The Ground Law.

The scholars and graduates of the Academy of Nomography claim that The Ground Law is an exact and pure translation of the natural law contained in the rock walls of the law mine. For them, The Ground Law is a work of juridical petrology that articulates the legal properties of the rock. The law in the rock is a natural fact, and The Ground Law merely gives expression to this fact. The nomographers contend that the only valid law stems from the exposed rock in the law mine excavated by the founding jurists and systematized in The Ground Law, and that the law does not, and cannot, change with time. The consultation of any external sources is invalid and forbidden.

The scholars and graduates of the Academy of Nomology, on the other hand, deny that the rock itself contains the natural law, and argue that the creation of The Ground Law was a performative bestowal of legal properties upon the rock of the law mine. They claim that the founding jurists performed, in the construction of The Ground Law, an act of juridical alchemy that transmuted the law into the rock, and thereby gave the law a physical, material existence. It is a constitutive property of the law, the nomologists contend, that once transmuted into rock, the law becomes as inviolable as the rock itself. Unlike the nomographers, however, the nomologists permit the consultation of extra-petrological sources to determine the true meaning of The Ground Law. Moreover, the nomologists decree that the law in the rock evolves with society, for after all it is an indisputable geological fact that the living beings of every age contribute their fossils to new sedimentary layers of the earth. For the nomologists, it is the duty of the law miners to carefully conduct further excavations in the mine when required to account for the changing circumstances of society, and to fill in the gaps that inevitably appear in the law over time.

I take no direct part in this dispute, for it is not my place to opine on matters beyond the scope of my expertise. However, I will note as a sociological fact that the proponents of the nomographical school have waned in power over the years. In our time, the nomologists are not merely ascendant but are in practice triumphant, for new corridors of the law mine are regularly excavated by the chief law miners so that the novel matters brought before the law by our dynamic industrial economy may be adjudicated. In truth I believe this is the proper way of things, for a modern, vibrant economy such as ours requires a modern, vibrant law mine.

But I digress—these scholarly niceties are of only passing interest to men of action such as ourselves. Leave the law mining to the law miners, I say, so long as the profits flow. The main thing you should know is that the law mine is, in sum, a factory just like any other, and the product of this factory is law, a product unique in the entire world for its capacity to generate tremendous wealth. Luckily for us, like any marketable product its services may be acquired—for a price.

To obtain the law’s favor, you must hire one of the trained and licensed law brokers who loiter outside the law mine. For a steep price, they guide fee-paying clients to the mouth of the law mine, chant words of supplication, and deposit pictograms in their client’s favor. When thus summoned, the law miners appear at the black mouth, and, if the supplications meet their approval, they accept the pictographic offerings and vanish back into the bowels of the mine, where in secret isolation they divine the true law of the case. Once the auguries are determined, the law miners return to the mouth of the mine, and there before the breathless crowd they proclaim the law. How exciting are such moments, when the law is revealed to all! We marvel at its solemn power.

Of course, I cannot show you the law mine, for the law miners work in secret, and they cannot be disturbed for any reason. The entrance is securely guarded; only the law miners are allowed inside. But fear not this concealment of the inner workings of the law, for the law miners are trustworthy men of sound judgment, and before attaining their esteemed rank they are carefully vetted to ensure their faithful deference to The Ground Law and its animating spirit of entrepreneurialism.

Just look around at the prosperity of our land, and imagine what tremendous wealth a law mine could produce for you and the other leading men of your land! No more pesky village customs, no more wasteful subsistence farming on land containing valuable natural resources. With a law mine, you can claim these resources as your own private property and set your people to productive work extracting its wealth for your benefit. They may resist at first, but in time they will revere the law, and will obey its commands unquestioningly.

Fret not the cost, for we shall help you found a law mine free of charge. Our best law prospectors shall scour your land for signs of the law, and once discovered, they shall perform the initial excavation and announce their findings in weighty and awesome tomes. Then we shall send a convoy of our best police to assist you in enforcing the judgments produced in your new law mine. All that we ask, before we embark on this journey together, is confirmation of our friendship. This is a standard agreement that we ask all our new friends to sign. It is primarily for your benefit, for it ensures that trade between our lands shall remain free and invites our leading entrepreneurs to assist in the development of industry in your land.

While you consider this generous offer, please accept our invitation to savor the fruits of our prosperity as our honored guest. All that we ask of you during the pendency of your stay is to heed this warning. There is a small band of heretics in our land who claim that the objective source of our law is indeterminate, and that neither The Ground Law nor the rock itself bind our law miners to specific outcomes in individual cases. They call themselves nomosophers—an absurd contradiction—and claim that our law miners judge cases based on their own preferences, and that our law miners find in the rock whatever they want to find and manipulate the pictograms to hide their true motivations. Some even have the temerity to deny that the rock itself has any legal properties, whether natural or man-made; they say that the law mine is a charade of power. Beware these heretics! They are trying to destroy the law mine and revive the archaic law of the villagers! If you encounter this heresy, immediately notify the police!♦




Max Rachimburg is a union lawyer, writer, and printer living in Queens, New York. You can find more of his writing at and on Twitter @rachimburg.

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