What Does the Ukraine Border in 2022 and Scottish Golf in 1457 Have in Common? Human Rights Violations

On March 6, 1457, King James II and the Scottish Parliament banned golf and football (soccer) because, according to authorities, the sports distracted men of fighting age from perfecting their military archery skills. Fighting age in 1457 Scotland started at 12 years old. The bow and arrow were the primary weapons of war then, and the King feared another invasion by England and demanded protection by his subjects.

According to a modern translation of the Act by the National Library of Scotland,

Item, it is ordained and the decreed that the lords and barons both spiritual and temporal should organize archery displays four times in the year. And that football and golf should be utterly condemned and stopped. And that a pair of targets should be made up at all parish churches and shooting should be practiced each Sunday. . . . And concerning football and golf, we ordain that [those found playing these games] be punished by the local barons and, failing them, by the King’s officers.

As further testament to the growing popularity of golf and soccer, the ban was reaffirmed in 1471 and 1491, with stronger penalties imposed.

Fast forward to February 24, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky decreed that “in particular, it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine.” The order is enforced by the State Border Guard Service.

Sadly, some things have not changed since 1457: Governments still use force to compel people to train and fight for “the King.”

It is one thing to choose voluntarily to stay and fight. That is everyone’s individual right when faced with aggression.

But it is a violation of basic human rights to force people to train, enter combat, or become human targets without their consent, whether now or in the 15th century. The immorality of such compulsion should be apparent to anyone, except, perhaps, to the King and his followers trying to maintain power.

Richard Hanania, president of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology has noted (see video) that Ukraine wasn’t a bastion of fundamental individual rights before the invasion by Russia. Many people have sound reasons for wanting to leave Ukraine, and their choice should be respected. Bans on people leaving conflict zones should never be imposed nor enforced.

Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He is the author of the Independent book California Dreaming.
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