Law!

It’s been a while since my last post. I had to concentrate on job-hunting, job-applying, job-getting, and job-doing, and I haven’t been left with a great deal of time. I had more ideas to continue the series as I left it, but I’m going to take a break from that for the moment. I am not going to manage my old post-a-day format, but I have a discussion lined up that will probably turn in to a few posts. But I really wanted to get this concept out into the wild first.

Let’s start with a video.

I’m not sure about some of the wording, it says you “cannot” do this in a few places, and it’s stuff people (sadly) do all the time, but I agree that you cannot /in that framework/, and I agree that that framework is the most ethical, the most live-and-let-live, the least stomping on other peoples’ toes, shows the most respect for their autonomy and choices.

Following on from that, then, I’d like to talk a little about law.

I once heard an interview with a guy who had been a law student, and at one point he talked about a principle that his professor had said.

I don’t remember the exact words, but it was along the lines of “don’t make a law you’re not willing to kill for”.

Kill?

So there was this guy selling cigarettes on the streets of New York. Now, New York has a really high tax, so I think the guy was buying them out-of-state where they were cheaper. Not much different from Brits getting cigarettes and alcohol cheap from the Continent, and bringing them back (the famous “booze cruise”).

In the grand scheme of things, on the scale of “naughtiness of criminal activities”, surely this one doesn’t rate very high. But, New York cops shot him dead. It might not be a capital offense on the books, ended up being a capital offense for him.

The principle doesn’t quite end there, though. Innocent people are often accused and arrested for things. It could easily be that someone entirely innocent becomes the victim of the Death Penalty Sweepstakes.

There has been a notion in the public consciousness for a long time, that if it’s fun, there should be a law against it. I don’t think that many people actually want there to be such laws, it’s more a reflection of extant and historic laws: Prohibition, drug laws, and so on.


Soundtrack for that notion.

It’s easy making laws if your outlook is “that’s good, everyone should have it” and “that’s bad, nobody should do it”. It’s a different prospect entirely if your outlook is “for it to be a law, it has to be so important that it’s worth killing innocent people for”.

So, I remember hearing about old laws in England (possibly off the books by now), like the king who banned mince pies, or the law against playing football (“soccer” for you foreign heathens) on Christmas day. Worth killing people for?

Plenty of sites listing some (usually local) silly laws in the US. http://www.loonylaws.com/California.htm for example. Worth killing people for bathing two babies in the same tub at the same time? For peeling an orange in your hotel room?

Stupid laws like this undermine the validity of more serious laws.

Health insurance may well be a good thing (though in the US it seemed to have already inflated the cost of healthcare before it became mandatory), but good enough that those who choose to go without should suffer violence (economic or physical) at the hands of the state? Not a chance.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse” is only valid if one can reasonably expect someone to know all the laws. There are laws, statutes, codes and so on passed all the time, so even lawyers have to get assistance from other lawyers with different areas of expertise. To me, this is not “playing fair” with the general public.

The precept “for it to be a law, it has to be so important that it’s worth killing innocent people for” scales up to an international level.

I might, for example, agree with you that Assad and Hussein (or any other country’s leader, for that matter), shouldn’t be allowed to kill a bunch of their citizens.

However, has enforcement of this view been worth the virtual elimination of ancient Christian communities in Iraq, the likelihood of the same happening in Syria, all the other deaths, the destruction of historic sites, the other examples of cultural destruction (the museum in Iraq, for example), all those civilians caught in the crossfire?

A policy of non-intervention espoused by true subscribers to libertarian thinking, and suggested in the Philosophy Of Liberty video above, sound really really good right now.

I am not saying that there should be no laws at all (“anarchy” does not mean the absence of rules, just the absence of rulers), but I think we ought to be a lot more discerning about what we accept as laws. This fly wants as little spiderweb in his life as he can possibly get.