american politics, meanwhile, replaces silly with plain stupid. a congressman wrote an op ed a few years back wtih the stunning idea that congress should read laws before passing them. as things stand, this doesn't happen. ever. bills that can be 1000s of pages long will arrive 48 hours before they get voted on (and then edited again and again at the last minute). so what's the result? bajillions of pages of laws, more laws than anyone could ever hope to abide by. or even be aware of.
The same congressmen who voted for the bill were now required to abide by it. Faced themselves with the burden of complying with the complex, inches-thick laws they pass for others, both parties were forced to hold education sessions with specialty lawyers explaining to them what they could and couldn’t do under the new law. A lawyer who taught the Democrats told The New York Times that his seminars elicited “a sort of slack-jawed amazement at how far this thing reached.” A lawyer who taught the Republicans said: “There's an initial stage where the reaction is, 'This can't be true.' And then there's the actual anger stage." Democratic Rep. Henry Matsui, who championed the bill, told the Times, “I didn’t realize all that was in it.”and there, at least the lawyers were able to figure out what laws congress had just passed. sometimes we're not so lucky, and nobody knows what is illegal or not, or the laws are so out of touch with reality that they may as well not be there.
That’s how much careful consideration Congress gave a bill it passed that applied to itself. Now imagine how little thought and care goes into bills it passes that apply to everyone else. [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,113861,00.html]
[In] 1998, the American Bar Association assembled a task force charged with compiling a complete list of federal crimes. The panel concluded that a complete list was nearly impossible to assemble, given that the approximately 4,000 federal laws were interwoven between regulatory law, judge-made law, and the 27,000 pages of the US. Code.this is what i've been saying about the function of traffic laws all along. turns out i was more right than i thought, which is, well, awful.
"[Even] teams of legal researchers — let alone ordinary citizens — cannot reliably ascertain what federal law prohibits," Healy writes.
Healy notes that this morass of indecipherable federal law means we could all essentially be criminals because we don't know what's legal and what isn't. That's particularly true of business owners. Healy quotes Harvard law professor William Stuntz, who warns that we're "coming ever closer to a world in which the law on the books makes everyone a felon, and in which prosecutors and police both define the law on the street and decide who has violated it." [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,140204,00.html]
or perhaps it isn't. i think it's fair to say that our legal system has its share of flaws and mistakes and headdesking results. would a system of (regulated) individual enforcers work any better? if instead of speed limits, the law just said "driving unsafely is illegal" (this approach is indeed taken on many highways, and evidently the number of accidents is actually reduced, though the accidents are more often fatal) and let the cops decide who is driving unsafely and then ticket them. if instead of bizarrely intricate definitions of different hurts we may do, and how evidence can be gathered and presented, the law said "don't be a dick" and dicks were punished, based on.. i dunno, a jury's estimate of their dickery based on testimony of all involved. obviously this would result in a lot of people treated very unfairly and unjustly, but that happens every day under our current system, and at least this one would be a lot more human. instead of "i didn't break law 2034 section c because blah loophole excuses blah" it would be "i wasn't a dick because i was angry at him for shooting my dog, so it's a reasonable response". on the other hand, this could result in a lot more courts run like judge judy, which would be a terrible thing to do to the world.