Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why Academic Tenure is a Good Thing

           More than once in the last several years I have heard college presidents and trustees suggest that the colleges over which they preside would operate more efficiently and effectively if they operated under the corporate, the military, or the familial paradigm, or under some combination of the three.  One of the most attractive and productive features of these three paradigms, they suggest, is that academic tenure is excluded in each case, which makes campus control -- and therefore fund raising --much simpler.  Corporations, platoons, and families all function quite well without tenure, they reason, and so also can the academy.  In their view, academic tenure is the refuge of the radical, the indolent, and the radically indolent.  Paradigms that exclude tenure, therefore, they welcome warmly and eagerly.  That tenured professors can and have complicated fund raising by the things they do, say, or write, these presidents and trustees readily comprehend.  But they do not comprehend the ways in which tenure is good for education and good for the institution.  So they seek to ban it or to curtail it.
         Please notice that the board members and college presidents who advocate these misguided and destructive paradigms are normally persons of distinction and achievement outside the academy.  They might be CEOs in enormous multi-national corporations; they might be retired generals or admirals from the armed forces; they might be ambassadors, inventors, surgeons, poets or pastors.  They might be persons of impressive wealth, high intelligence or inspiring piety.  But they do not know higher education.  Indeed they are so ignorant of higher education that they do not know that they do not know.  Yet these are the very persons in charge of the life of the mind at nearly every institution of higher learning in the nation.  Truthfully, I do not know of a single institution of higher learning where this is not precisely the case -- not one.
         That their prevailing paradigms (corporate, military, or familial) are foolish and counter-productive becomes obvious, even to the perpetrators of this foolishness themselves, when you get their minds off campus and back into the non-academic worlds from which they came.  On their home turf, not one of them insists that their corporation ought to run more like a college; not one demands that their platoons run more like a university, or that their families function more like a grad school.  They know full well and without doubt that if you ran your corporation as if it were a college, you’d go out of business; that if you ran your platoon like a university, your soldiers would die; and that if you ran your grad school as if it were a family, you’d stumble over a truckload of new meanings for the word “dysfunctional.”  Yet, these same persons insist on running their colleges as if they were corporations, platoons and families, all with predictably bad results for teaching and learning.  The plain truth is indeed plain:  A college is a college. 
         But that obvious lesson is worse than forgotten when these same folks come to campus.  Because of their intellectual inadequacies and their narrowness of educational experience, trustees of the sort I am describing are intent upon forcing the academy into a foreign and distortive mold largely because that mold embodies a paradigm with which they are familiar.  They know no other.  Their own habits of mind and zones of comfort enslave them and therefore their universities.  God help the schools over which they preside.
         If the persons in charge of higher education insist on adopting a non-academic paradigm for the operation of their schools (and I am by no means certain that they should), then at least let them understand that the closest parallel to the academy is the courtroom and that the closest parallel to the professor is the judge.
         Because both the judge and the professor are, or ought to be, engaged in the pursuit of truth, the closest parallel to academic life is service on the bench, not service in the corporation, not service in the armed forces or in the family room.  Because both the academic and the judicial enterprise require unhindered and undeflected adherence to evidence, the scholar and the judge need to be free from the pressures of the powers that be, whether educational, political, financial, familial or ecclesiastical.  If, for example, the evidence in a case leads a judge to conclude against the powers that be, even the powers that nominated, appointed or confirmed that judge, then that judge needs to be free from pressure and recrimination, free from fear of judicial dismissal and financial destitution both for the judge and for the judge’s family.  In other words, judges require judicial tenure and the freedom it entails because the nature of the task set before them requires them to be honest and meticulous evaluators, never fearing for their livelihood, their reputation, or their security should they reach an unpopular conclusion.  Their adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law, their pursuit of truth, are essential to their proper function as judges.  Justice is compromised and foolishly endangered when the administration in power can reward judges for reaching decisions favorable to the regime.  Disqualification from the bench ought to be predicated upon judicial incompetence, dereliction of duty, or moral turpitude, not upon decisions unfavorable to the administration.  When something outside the courtroom controls the courtroom, that is the death of justice.
         As we all recognize, the figure of justice is traditionally represented as blindfolded, symbolic of her impartiality.  Justice weighs the evidence, not the reputation, wealth or administrative power of the litigants.  Justice does not peek; she does not say “Tell me who you are and what money or power you have, then I will tell you my decision.”  Justice does not put her thumb on the scales of evidence in order to alter truth so as to further her own political or financial advantage.  Justice seeks rather to promote or produce as objective an evaluation of the evidence as possible.  She seeks an impartial application of the law, without which the court’s truth-finding function is virtually set at naught.
         Because academic life, like judicial life, is or should be characterized by the pursuit of truth, the professor also requires insulation from administrative pressure and meddling, pressure designed to force the professor to reach institutionally acceptable conclusions, pressure designed to force the professor’s utterance, whether written or spoken, into channels that the evidence itself might not permit.  Professors who consent to such knowledge-destroying abuse are much easier to control, and easily controlled professors don’t complicate fund raising by advocating unpopular or unsettling ideas.  All too frequently, therefore, college presidents conspire to undermine both faculty utterance and the tenure that makes it possible.
         The issue here, of course, is academic freedom, which is but the academic dimension, or application, of the larger issue of freedom speech.  By “academic freedom” I mean the right and obligation of a professor to search for and to disseminate the truth.  That is, academic freedom is what makes it possible to track down and to communicate to students, to colleagues, and to the nation the result of one’s research without fear of harassment or penalty by dissenting persons either inside or outside the academy.  Though highly to be valued and vigorously to be defended, academic freedom is often a casualty of the very institutions that ought to be its chief proponents.  To oppose academic freedom is oppose academic excellence.  Gagged and bridled professors are not, and cannot be, educators. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Detroit, Dresden, and Hiroshima

         As everyone knows, Hiroshima, Japan was nuked into oblivion.  Not much earlier, firebombing dispatched Dresden, Germany to the same awful destination.  Yet, firebombed Dresden and A-bombed Hiroshima now are jaw-droppingly more vibrant, prosperous, safe, and productive than is Detroit, which -- far from being either nuked or firebombed -- was actually at the top of our so-called Model Cities program.  We were going to demonstrate in Detroit (and elsewhere) just what urban wonders our leftist social engineering could produce.  It was going to be the Democrats’ shining city on a hill.
         It never happened.  The devastating results of the Model Cities program, and of countless similar government projects both larger and smaller, now spread out for miles before our eyes every time we exit the freeway to drive the surface streets in so many of Detroit’s gruesome neighborhoods -- its multiple, mini, urban, ghost towns.  If any “shining” now emits from some of Detroit’s neighborhoods, it’s most likely the uncountable, citizen-lit, smoldering fires that render so much of that once great city unfit for human habitation.
         In other words, the long-term effects of crushing defeat at the hands of our military are not nearly so ruinously enduring as are the twisted, domestic machinations of our leftist politicians in a time of peace.  If you want long-term prosperity, it's far better to be defeated and rebuilt by American largesse and American private enterprise than to be run by America’s Democrats and their union lackeys.  Detroit is proof.
         Contemporary Detroit is precisely what you get after more than 50 uninterrupted years of Democratic rule in one city.  That half-century-long cabal of leftists and labor unions turned old Detroit into current Detroit -- a hollowed-out, urban shell where the population has gone from nearly 2 million down to around 700,000.  In fact, Detroit has shrunk more than 25% in the last ten years.  If Edmund Burke is correct, and I think he is, that when the population of a region increases and property ownership and values are maintained, the regime in charge is doing tolerably well; and that when the population decreases precipitously and property ownership and values plummet, the regime is a great failure, then we must conclude that in Detroit the regime is now, and has been for decades, a great failure.
         Innumerable state, local, and federal programs intended to make things better in Detroit continually only make them worse, and have done so for many years.  The toxic combination of government-sponsored charity and social engineering of the sort we have been practicing is, literally, the kiss of death.  Freedom, prosperity, and human dignity are not found down that road.  Policies like the ones we now practice never made any nation prosper -- not any nation and not any city.  The welfare state is not what rebuilt Germany or Japan, and it will not rebuild Detroit.
            The devastation in Detroit continues because its voters keep asking for it.  They keep putting into office persons whose policies kill cities -- and citizens.  So many of Detroit’s wounds are self-inflicted.  Those wounds cannot heal until Detroit voters decide to vote the blight-making Democratic bums out of office, and keep them out of office, for decade upon decade.
         It’s an old saw, but true:  You get the kind of government you deserve.  Your deserving is reflected in your voting.  Until Detroit’s voters make fundamentally different choices, they prove they deserve no better, and no better is what they will get.
         For the good of the nation, any nation, liberals ought to be voted out.  They do not understand how prosperity is gotten; they do not know the many, many things governments cannot do well; and (most especially) they do not understand that whatever undermines the traditional family undermines culture, society, and the polis.
         The socialist and labor governments in Europe and Japan after WWII are not an exception.  They could not have succeeded in rebuilding their nations without the huge influx of money from elsewhere, an influx that would have been even more productive had the German and Japanese regimes in those days known better how to rule and therefore when to keep their hands off.  That enormous influx of outside money was only partly and temporarily money from government.  The private influx of investment was later, greater, and more productive than the government money.  That influx of non-government money was not possible from within Germany and Japan’s own blighted systems.  Loads of American private enterprise made it happen; government intervention nearly stalled it.
         Please note:  I am not saying that there shouldn't be two (or more) political parties.  I am saying that voters should not vote for leftists because leftism is deeply and desperately flawed, both politically and economically.  Like Edmund Burke, I think that party politics is part of how to help hold down corruption.  An opposition party can be a very useful aid to better government.  We can safely assume that mature and serious citizens desire good government.  Leftism, however, is not good government.  The more leftist the government, the more mistaken and dangerous it is.  It's all there in Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.
-->Or, as a friend reminds me, when Detroit area native Michael Barone was asked what changed him from a Democrat to a Republican, he said:  “One word, Detroit.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Public Reason

         Public reason is reason offered to the public in order to persuade them that a particular policy is wisest, most efficient, and in their best interest.  Biblical reason can be public reason if you frame it effectively.  Public reason and Biblical reason might well have the same content and produce the same effect.  But public reason is presented without the overtly Biblical language or the explicitly noted Biblical reference for its source.
         Think of it as stealth political theology:  It sneaks into the enemy’s perimeter undetected in order to accomplish its mission even before the other side knows what’s happened.
         Given the predictable, almost reactionary, animosity of secular culture towards religion and Scripture, the prudent Christian presents and supports Biblical political theology, which has the great advantage of being correct, but he or she does so in ways most accurately calculated to slip through the opponents’ defenses.  The prudent Christian also opposes anti-Biblical political theory, which carries the fatal shortcoming that it is false, but does so in a manner well-suited to the interests of the hearers, at least as the hearers understand them.  To prove the wisdom of the one policy and the foolishness of the other does not require that we quote Bible verses or supply Scriptural locations.  Rather, it requires us to master the facts and the arguments drawn from life in the real world.  Christianity is, so to speak, a reality game, and it works better in the real world than do the utopian delusions of the leftist Pollyannas.
         You’ll notice that the leftists in question have operated for decades in precisely the fashion I advocate here.  (If you have not noticed it, it worked.)  They find ways of making their radical ideas prevail without quoting, say, Saul Alinsky or Karl Marx, which is why 58% of Christians polled recently said that the phrase “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” came from Jesus, probably the Sermon on the Mount.
         If we hope to communicate our own views and ideas effectively in the public square, we need to present them in the most compelling way possible.  We need to beat the secularists at their own game -- at least they think it is their own game.
         But it’s not.  It’s His game.
         Jesus is Lord of all things, including political rhetoric.
         If I have to quote Him on the point in order to prove it to you, or if I have to tell you where to go to see Him doing what I say, then you’re not ready yet.
        The truth sets you free, not its chapter and verse location, and not its articulation in King James' English.  You can produce compelling public reasons for a policy without ever using the words "thee" and "thou." 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

C. S. Lewis vs. T. S. Eliot (part 2)

In chapter 2 of his acute little book A Preface to Paradise Lost, a chapter entitled “Is Criticism Possible?”  C. S. Lewis schools T. S. Eliot on the logical failures, indeed impossibility, of literary criticism as understood on Eliot’s terms.
As is so often the case, one cannot improve upon Lewis’s own articulations, so I repeat his argument here in his words:

“Mr. Eliot says bluntly and frankly that the best contemporary practicing poets are the ‘only jury of judgement’ whose verdict on his own view of Paradise Lost he will accept.  And Mr. Eliot is here simply rendering explicit a notion that has become increasingly prevalent for about a hundred years – the notion that poets are the best judges of poetry. . .
Let us consider what would follow if we took Mr. Eliot’s views seriously.  The first result is that I, not being one of the best contemporary poets, cannot judge Mr. Eliot’s criticism at all.  What then shall I do?  Shall I go to the best contemporary poets, who can, and ask them whether Mr. Eliot is right?  But in order to go to them, I must first know who they are.  And this, by hypothesis, I cannot find out; the same lack of poethood which renders my critical opinions on Milton worthless renders my opinions on Mr. Pound or Mr. Auden equally worthless.  Shall I then go to Mr. Eliot and ask him to tell me who the best contemporary poets are?  But this, again, will be useless.  I personally may think Mr. Eliot a poet – in fact, I do – but then, as he has explained to me, my thoughts on such a point are worthless.  I cannot find out whether Mr. Eliot is a poet or not; and until I have found out I cannot know whether his testimony to the poethood of Mr. Pound or Mr. Auden is valid.  Poets become on this view an unrecognizable society (an Invisible Church), and their mutual criticism goes on within a closed circle which no outsider can possibly break into at any point.
But even within the circle it is no better.  Mr. Eliot is ready to accept the verdict of the best contemporary poets on his criticism.  But how does he recognize them as poets?  Clearly because he is a poet himself; for if he is not, his opinion is worthless.  At the basis of his whole critical edifice, then, lies the judgement ‘I am a poet.’  But this is a critical judgement.  It therefore follows that when Mr. Eliot asks himself ‘Am I a poet?’ he has to assume the answer ‘I am’; before he can find the answer ‘I am’; for the answer, being a piece of criticism, is valuable only if he is a poet.  He is thus compelled to beg the question before he can get started.  Similarly Mr. Auden and Mr. Pound must beg the question before they can get started.  But since no man of high intellectual honour can base his thought on an exposed petitio the real result is that no such man can criticize poetry at all, neither his own nor that of his neighbor.  The republic of letters resolves itself into an aggregate of uncomunicating and unwindowed monads; each has unawares crowned himself Pope and King of Pointand . . .
For who can endure a doctrine which would allow only dentists to say whether our teeth were aching, only cobblers to say whether our shoes hurt us, and only governments to say whether we were being well governed?”

Lewis’s case against Eliot here is part of a larger complaint one ought to raise against the way too many persons, often modernists and post-modernists, use language.  They seem to forget that sloppy language makes sloppy thought possible.  They seem to forget that if you pause to find the right word, and do not go on until you have found the right word, then you will know better not only what you do think but what you should think.
Eliot, in my view, is notoriously imprecise with language, and therefore with thought, both in his poetry and his prose.  Such imprecision leaves readers in a hellish and palpable darkness, much like Milton described, from which there seems no way out.  That is why Lewis could say in “De descriptione temporum,” his inaugural address at Cambridge, that even though Mr. Eliot’s little poem, “Cooking Egg” had been before the world for nearly forty years, and even though scholars from around the world might amass to study and discuss it, “there is not the slightest agreement among them as to what, in any sense of the word, it means.”
Perhaps you think that I am insulting Eliot by concluding that the logical and interpretive confusion resident in his own mind (exposed here by Lewis) and in those of his readers (exposed by the nearly global confusion of his interpreters) is the result of hasty and careless thought resulting from ill-chosen language.  Perhaps I do, but not as much as do his camp followers, who otherwise must think that his and their confusion are what happens after he has reasoned and spoken well.
I do not know if Eliot ever read Lewis' criticism or if it had any impact upon him if he did.  But I do know that Eliot changed his mind about Milton and then re-wrote and re-published his famous essay on him.  I also know that the second version was as wrong as the first.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reading the Bible More Carefully

No serious Bible reader always reads literally, if by "literally" we mean "at face value."  They read poetry as poetry, history as history, parables as parables, and prophecy as prophecy.
They know, for example, that psalms are poetry and sometimes employ poetic license, so that when a psalm says that “the waves clapped their hands” and “the mountains skipped like rams,” serious Bible readers understand the language in view to be figurative, not literal, historical, or prophetic.  The same with statements from Jesus like "If your right eye offends you, pluck it out" and "If your right hand offends you, cut it off."  Those words do not mean that Jesus seeks a mob of one-eyed, left-handed Christians.  They mean that He wants us to stop sinning.
That's not picking and choosing what we want the Bible to mean, and it's not reading literally.  It's trying to read the text as the author intended it to be read, which is sometimes literal and sometimes not.  The text itself, if you pay close and careful attention to it, will tell you.  But it isn’t always easy.
Some Old Testament passages present readers with a similar challenge, namely knowing when you should read them as binding and when you should not.  In this regard, I call to mind C. S. Lewis's helpful insight from his Reflections on the Psalms:  Because they are pre-Christian, some Old Testament texts are also sub-Christian.  That is, some Old Testament passages are meant to be preparatory for the coming light in Christ and are not permanent.  They enshrine and require things not meant to be eternally binding.  They might permit or require things less than morally perfect.  For example, OT laws that tell us how to treat slaves are not yet fully Christian laws.  Knowing that human beings are in God's image and that Christ writhed in agony on the cross for them, that He died for their redemption, means that they must not be treated as mere property to be bought and sold.  Some things simply cannot be done well.  Nor were they meant to be.  Laws like this are meant for their own particular time and place, not for all times and places.  Our difficult task is to discern which ones are which and to read them as intended, using every historical, grammatical, philological, archaeological, and theological tool available to us in so doing.  While that decision is often clear, it sometimes is not.  Discerning the case before us is never to be an exercise in arbitrarily picking and choosing based upon whatever we happen to prefer at the moment.   No, it's trying very carefully to read the Biblical text as the author (and the Author) actually intended.  For example, some Old Testament laws, both civil and ceremonial, are like that.  We aren't always meant to be sacrificing white lambs, abstaining from pork, making a wave offering, or practicing the year of jubilee.  Being omniscient, God knew full well when He gave such laws that the days of the tabernacle and the temple would come to an end.  He knew that His Son would make the full and final sacrifice for sin in His body on the Cross and thus suspend any need for a continued temple sacrifice.  Knowing that, He did not intend for us to consider his laws in this regard eternally binding. 
It's part of what theologians sometimes call “the doctrine of progressive revelation:” God did not give us the Biblical text all at once.  It came to us over many centuries and in at least two languages.  The earlier portions lead to the later and sometimes yield to them when the later arrive, their intended task -- preparation for Christ and His truth – then being complete.
Think of it this way:  Think of God as a very adept Teacher.  He meets his students where they are, and not where they ought to be.  If He insisted on meeting them only where they ought to be, He’d never meet any of them because not one of them is in that position.  So He accommodates his teaching to their ability to receive.  He meets them where they are and slowly moves them forward.  The ancient Israelites were, so to speak, in spiritual grade school.  In order to move them forward and to prepare them for His own coming into the world to live among them, God met them where they were and adapted His law to their condition in order to move them forward.  The Old Testament has many passages of that sort, passages that reflect not merely the moral will of God, but that also reflect the moral waywardness and recalcitrance of the people with whom He is dealing.
Your second grade math teacher did the same thing – and it worked.  When you were learning addition and subtraction, she might have permitted you to count on your fingers as an aid to your current understanding.  She did not intend for that practice to last forever.  But in second grade, it might have been an appropriate accommodation.  It helped you to understand and enabled you to move forward from there.  Later on, in eleventh grade, when perhaps you are doing trigonometry or calculus, you can’t be counting on your fingers.  That time is past.  But that doesn’t mean that what your second grade teacher permitted was wrong, only that it was preparatory and not meant to be lasting.
God’s laws are like that.  Some are preparatory and temporary.
Jesus’ way of saying so was to point out to His hearers in Matthew 19: 3ff. that Moses’ laws regarding marriage and divorce in Deuteronomy 24: 1-4 were rooted in human hardness of heart, but that from the beginning it was not so, and that in the end it will not be so again.  For now, however, while hardness of heart still reigns, Moses’ rules obtain.  They have a limited time of application and enforcement.  They are temporary, but real.  They are real, but temporary.
To discern carefully the facts about God’s laws, and to do so under His guidance, is not a matter of merely picking and choosing as you prefer, but of carefully reading, analyzing, and applying the text as God intended, following wherever possible, the teaching and example of Christ Himself.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Legislating Morality (part 4)

Morally sound law helps us to distinguish right from wrong, innocence from guilt, and justice from injustice.  But if the law from which we learn is not rooted in true morality, what we learn is misshapen, misguided, and misleading, because law always teaches.   In such cases it teaches error.  Put differently, ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have bad ones.  The bad ideas encoded in supposedly morals-free law are corrosive of virtue, of duty, of civility, and of human fulfillment.  One of the disastrous effects of allegedly morals-free legislation is that it tends to produce deep and widespread doubt in persons across the culture about what is right and what is wrong, which leaves only a resort to power as a way out of our moral dilemmas.  In a moral vacuum, power and doubt rule all.   Doubt makes us unsure of ourselves and of our beliefs; power makes those who have it despotic over those who do not.  Without morality in law, we know less well and less surely what is right, and if we are ignorant about what is right and wrong, we can raise no compelling argument against evil, or even know it when we see it.  Our ignorance makes it so.
         Government and governing involve questions of value, questions about what is good, and what is good for us, as well as what is evil and what will do us harm.  To instruct us regarding the good, to lead us toward it and to protect us from evil -- whether our own or someone else’s -- are all part of the function of law.  But those who wish to exile virtue from the legal code, who wish to banish virtue from law and to render legislation a morality-free zone set these important and valuable functions of law at nought.  Were those persons to succeed, both we and they would suffer incalculable harm, having had one of our most useful moral educators quite shut down, censored as it were.  They would stop the moral voice of law, and in so doing would silence one of our most valuable instructors of civic virtue, thereby destroying one of our most effective guides to prudent social behavior and to the blessings that attend it.
         All cultures are rooted in, and are expressions of, deeply held values.  Cultures are the historical outworking of those values, the historical human consequences of those values, values that sometimes lead to compassion, beauty, war, deprivation, heroism, or degeneration. Law is a function of culture -- all cultures have law-- which means that law is a function of values, of morality.  Law without values is cultural suicide, which is what those who wish to separate the one from the other are going to produce, whether they wish to do so or not.      
     In our age of increasingly complex moral problems, where technological advances outstrip our moral growth and understanding, we must do our level best to cultivate the wisest persons, the noblest motives, and the highest actions of which we are capable.  To do so, we must make far better use of the law as tutor, as moral ennobler.  We must remind ourselves repeatedly that the best habitat in which to raise ennobled citizens is a well-ordered society, one in which law is rooted in morality.  We must not forget that law is an expression of, and a shaper of, the conscience of a nation.  Consequently, the near-sighted and misguided movement to separate law from morality is as dangerous as it is impossible.  Both for our nation and for us as individuals, our character is our future.  Morality is destiny.
     And what morality ought that to be?  Simply put:  God’s.
     The laws of God, his commandments, are the righteous code of freedom, the rules that define and preserve both political freedom and its taproot, spiritual freedom.  God’s laws are not merely the suppression of fallen human impulse.  They are the honor code of liberation.  They are the way authentically free persons conduct their business with Him and with one another:  Now that you are free, here is how you ought to live.
God Himself declared as much to the ancient Israelites when, before He gave them His law, He reminded them that He was the very One who brought them out of slavery and bondage in Egypt (Exodus 20: 2).  Now that they were a free people, here’s the way a free people ought to act; here’s the way they ought to conduct their affairs.  If they were to be, and to remain, both morally and politically free, they must not lie (Exod. 20: 16); they must find ways of gaining rest for themselves and others (vv. 8-11); they must respect their elders, thereby acknowledging the debt they have to their ancestors and those who made the world they inherited (v. 12); they must respect and preserve private property (v. 15); they must respect human life and refrain from all murder  (v. 13); they must not serve any false gods, for there is one God and one God only (vv. 2-7); and they must keep themselves free from envy, lust and inordinate desires, which themselves are bondage and indicate moral slavery (v. 17).
In other words, the freedom God gave them came with responsibilities, and these laws articulate the responsibilities.  Freedom, to be preserved, comes with obligations.  These laws are the preservatives and the obligations.
Freedom, furthermore, must be extended to others, and these laws are how to extend it to those who are foreigners and who live among you.  As God never tired to remind the Israelites, they too were foreigners in other lands, and they knew first hand how bitter and crushing that experience could be (Exod. 22: 21, 23:9; Deut 5:5, 10: 19).  Imposing that crushing bitterness on others is not the way freed and righteous persons ought to live.
And if the ancient Jews found this freedom and its obligations beyond their reach, as the unregenerate always do, then the law would do something else for them:  It would lead them to The Great Liberator Himself (Gal. 3: 24), Who would set them free in soul, a liberation from which all other freedoms spring, and which helps to keep freed persons on the right side of the line that divides liberty from licentiousness.