Existing laws don't "work"! New laws are needed!

I'm confused about what seems to be a recurrent pattern in this country. When there are laws against something, and these laws are not enforced, instead of enforcing the existing laws, there's always a demand for new laws.

Tougher laws.

It's as if there's some magical belief system that the tougher the law is, the stronger it is, and the more likely that human conduct will be deterred. Enforcement of existing laws never seems to enter anyone's mind.

The point here is not whether I happen to agree with the laws. It's just a recurrent pattern. The drug laws started as a tax measure in 1914, and ever since, they have become ever more draconian. Examples aren't really needed, although the latest trend (now that they've run out of drugs to make illegal) is to criminalize precursor ingredients. So Americans are no longer allowed to buy cold medicine over the counter -- all because it might be used to manufacture illegal drugs. What's next? Glassware which might be used to cook drugs?

It has always been illegal to cross the border into the United States without documentation, and without going through the proper protocols. Yet for many decades, there has been a de facto open border policy with Mexico, which has allowed millions of illegal immigrants. The laws are there, but people act as if there aren't any laws. Instead of going after the existing non-citizen law breakers (who are, after all, the ones who broke the law), Congress proposes dramatically toughening penalties against American citizens who hire them. Doesn't this put the cart before the horse?

The pattern seems to be pass laws, ignore them, wait until the problem is huge, then pass draconian laws, plus new laws against conduct which resulted from the previous climate of non-enforcement.

It has long been illegal for felons to buy or possess guns, and to buy, sell, or transfer a gun to a felon. But felons buy guns all the time illegally. Which means that we need a crackdown on what? On perfectly legal purchases of guns by ordinary citizens.

Add to this the trend of sending in SWAT teams to perform routine law enforcement, and it's fair to wonder whether the goal is to create a police state.

I hate police states -- and I'm just wondering whether neglecting to enforce the law is one of the precursor ingredients.

MORE: I'll be gone most of the day.

posted by Eric on 03.04.06 at 07:24 AM


Read the last few posts in a thread over at a forum. The OP was trolling, and (as trolls are wont to do) things got out of hand. So a forum moderator laid down the law. Which in this case comes down to, don't say nothin' you know is going to get people upset.

Said moderator also pointed out that on such occasions there are those who insist on having everything laid out. They want specifics. But, the forum in question doesn't have the moderation staff necessary for that sort of thing. So they keep it simple, without trying to cover everything. Posters are expected to use their good sense.

In RPGs this way of doing things is known as 'rules lite'. The other way, trying to provide a rule, a statute or legislation for every specific condition or incident is called 'rules heavy'. The U.S. legal system is rules heavy, and the mechanics have gotten so confused and contradictory there is really no way to straighten things out.

What we need is "The U.S. Legal System 2nd Edition". A complete revamp of laws and ordinances with a simplified, standardized mechanic capable of handling task resolution. With one guiding principle, it be rules light. So if a chap runs over another with his car, fully intending to kill the victim, it's homicide. Not vehicular homicide or any of that crap, homicide. What matters is what the subject meant to do, not what he used to do it.

And editors. All legislation has to be vetted by a panel of editors. If it can't past muster in terms of grammar or spelling, it don't go on to committee. In committee it first get's vetted to see if it duplicates or contradicts previous legislation. If it does, automatic rejection. Furthermore, all legislation must fit on a 3x5 card, in longhand.

Finally, when legislation is on the floor, everything else gets shut down. No committee hearings, no press conferences. Unless a legislator has a permission slip he must be there. And no quorum means no deliberations. The sergeant at arms shall be empowered to send security personal out to perp walk truant legislators back to chambers. With incarceration and ouster from the legislature for chronic truancy.

Any additional ideas?

Alan Kellogg   ·  March 5, 2006 3:16 AM

Well, I always thought that we should not be expected to obey rules we can't understand. Any law that cannot be explained to a reasonably bright ten-year-old should either be struck from the books or rewritten until you don't need a PhD to decipher the legalese. Our tax code in particular could benefit from this treatment.

Kacie Landrum   ·  March 5, 2006 4:44 PM

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