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Author Topic: Congress logs most futile legislative year on record
Viking_Longship
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Let's try this another way, off the top of your head how many things can you think of that need to be actually codified in law? Do you think that's anywhere near as many things as we actually have codified in law?
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Ben
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The football analogy should look at high school football instead of scaling up the NFL. Play is easily understood after learning the basic rules, with maybe a couple local variations at best. Otherwise most variations in this deal with player eligibility which may be compared to candidate qualifications and citizens voting. Larger numbers doesn't mean more rules are needed.

That aside, I think it does make sense to be flexible about necessary legislation and strike a balance. Maybe cap the legalese at some multiple of population? How about representatives*population = 435*300 million = 131 billion words? Anyone know how many words are in the US Code of laws and taxes plus regulations, at the federal level, to compare?

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Ben
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One source I looked at says 42 million words in the US Code, which I'll take as a starting point. Not even close to one word per person. But let's check on regulations now... FCC, EPA, Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources, FAA, DOE, NLRB, NASA, IRS, DOT, Obamacare, and all the rest... Given rule making powers by Congress even if not directly authored by the representatives, I'm sure it adds up... Anyone wanna help me count?
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AI Wessex
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The football analogy is completely bogus because each team doesn't get to bring its own refs or its own ombudsman to negotiate with the league ref.

Instead of counting up words, Ben, can you take an unnecessarily complex law that you know of and reduce it to its simplest possible formulation? We can then try to see if it handles the kinds of situations that are likely to come up without just letting the better the lawyer win.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Maybe cap the legalese at some multiple of population?
I fail to understand why a laws per person metric would be in any way useful.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
It's about making it impossible to be a law abiding citizen...
G2, do you think you need to know the laws related to the manufacture of orange juice intended for commercial sale in order to be a law-abiding citizen?
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Ben
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TomD + Al, my bad for texting while sleepy + not being clear. I was taking the idea of a cap + formulation, speculating on it, guessing at how many words + legalese there might be in all the laws + regulations we have, and comparing to actual numbers. Separate the first sentence of second paragraph as a standalone thought, and substitute "Suppose there is" for "Maybe". Bleh I'm still tired. Anyway, just an interesting thought to explore + compare if anyone would care to help count?

Al, I actually would prefer less complex laws + plain language to make it easier for us all to understand. Sometimes I wonder if lawmakers get a bonus payment or royalties from lawyers based on how many words of legalese are in laws they pass. Do you have an example you'd like to share?

And I'd like to explore the topic a bit more in an alternate direction, about the various purposes and functions of laws, maybe later this afternoon.

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D.W.
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quote:
Instead of counting up words, Ben, can you take an unnecessarily complex law that you know of and reduce it to its simplest possible formulation? We can then try to see if it handles the kinds of situations that are likely to come up without just letting the better the lawyer win.
While I like simple and clear laws it's not like there isn't the possibility to make simple laws cover more situations than their author's intended. You cand end up in the same situation with either overly complex or overly simple laws.
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Wayward Son
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quote:
Where did you ever get the idea that there are multiple classes of laws? Frankly, this is a bizarre interpretation of law to think that they do not address the general population. I assure you, they do apply to everyone.
Yes, but, as Tom noted, while laws apply to everyone, not everyone encounters situations that require knowledge of specific laws.

The laws governing the freezing of orange juice; the handling of welding equipment; the proper use of stem cells in research. How often do you worry about the laws governing these things? Do you believe we should eliminate the laws about them simply because the sum of our laws have become too complex?

Welders know laws pertaining to welders; stem cell researchers know laws pertaining to stem cell research; frozen OJ manufacturers know laws pertaining to frozen OJ. It's not that overwhelming.

quote:
Of course, you re-frame it to be the opposite of what he's really saying.
But if the frame is legitimate, then that is what he is actually saying, whether he realizes it or not. It's called Unintended Consequences. Eliminate most laws, and it's up to the judges to interpret the remaining laws in more and more cases, rather than the legislature defining them for the judges. This is how "legislating from the bench" occurs. And it's the inevitable consequence of limiting the number of laws.

Conflicts occur. If you tie the hands of the legislature by limiting their power to write laws, then the power goes to those who must interpret the laws.

Just because cherry may not realize that doesn't make it untrue.

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
Do you believe we should eliminate the laws about them simply because the sum of our laws have become too complex?

If the legal and regulatory system becomes so complex that the costs outweigh the benefit for the average citizen, then absolutely the system should be pared back.

quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
Welders know laws pertaining to welders; stem cell researchers know laws pertaining to stem cell research; frozen OJ manufacturers know laws pertaining to frozen OJ. It's not that overwhelming.

Nor is it as simple as your statement pretends. There are also laws about driving, owning a gun, taking care of children, owning pets, running a farm, hunting, voting, disposing of used oil, cutting hair for money, performing a bank transaction, walking across the street, crossing state lines, etc.

Humans aren't mono-specialists. A human might well end up with activities that cross the boundaries of 1,000's of rules and regulations. A normal American probably does in the routine course of a week deal with hundreds of activities that cross multiple legal boundaries. So to argue that the legal system can keep getting more complex ad infinitum is a ridiculous position.

Certainly we shouldn't abolish all existing laws, but I don't see that anyone believes that.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Certainly we shouldn't abolish all existing laws, but I don't see that anyone believes that.
Okay, we've got some yardsticks here:

1) Abolish all existing law. Create no new ones.
2) Abolish all existing law, then create new ones.
3) Set the number of current laws as a ceiling, and only create a new law when another one is removed.
4) Establish some other number of laws as a ceiling.
5) Create laws only when they would be useful.
6) Create all the laws!

Anyone here want to publicly come out for any of these stances other than #5?

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Certainly we shouldn't abolish all existing laws, but I don't see that anyone believes that.
Okay, we've got some yardsticks here:

1) Abolish all existing law. Create no new ones.
2) Abolish all existing law, then create new ones.
3) Set the number of current laws as a ceiling, and only create a new law when another one is removed.
4) Establish some other number of laws as a ceiling.
5) Create laws only when they would be useful.
6) Create all the laws!

Anyone here want to publicly come out for any of these stances other than #5?

You missed the options I suggested.
7) Create a system to regularly review and remove obsolete laws.

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TomDavidson
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I didn't miss it. It just didn't pertain. The question was not "should we have some mechanism by which unnecessary or bad law is removed?" It was "should we create new law before removing all the bad law?"
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
And yet *at least* 90% of incumbents who run next year will be reelected.

Consider that there is a strong interest within the nation that doesn't want the government to do anything. I read somewhere once that the economy, and especially the stock market, performed better under gridlock.

A serious reading of the constitution leaves it hard to escape the conclusion that gridlock was the actual design of the founders.
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I didn't miss it. It just didn't pertain. The question was not "should we have some mechanism by which unnecessary or bad law is removed?" It was "should we create new law before removing all the bad law?"

You were quoting me. [Roll Eyes]

quote:
Originally posted by JWatts:
Certainly we shouldn't abolish all existing laws, but I don't see that anyone believes that.

Then responded with a set of options that was based on a strawman assumption and specifically didn't include what I suggested, which was a moderate, reasonable approach.

Do you not know what a strawman argument is? And why it's inherently flawed and basically demagogic?

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
A serious reading of the constitution leaves it hard to escape the conclusion that gridlock was the actual design of the founders.

I don't think that's full picture. I would instead say that the Founders desired a firm majority of opinion to move the government forward and lacking that firm majority they wanted the government's power curtailed.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Do you not know what a strawman argument is? And why it's inherently flawed and basically demagogic?
I most absolutely do. I have been consistently pointing out, over the course of this thread, that the idea that we should not have new laws until we concentrate on getting rid of old laws is a remarkably stupid idea.

If you agree, no doubt you'll find my points rather facile. [Smile]

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AI Wessex
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"A serious reading of the constitution leaves it hard to escape the conclusion that gridlock was the actual design of the founders."

What JWatts said. It's disingenuous to suggest that the Founders, brilliant and deliberative as they were, wanted a representative government that did exactly nothing. That would have left all power in the hands of the Executive, which they expressly didn't want. But even lacking the majority that JWatts points to leaves the Congress open to compromise. I think that is closer to the mark of what they were aiming for.

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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
It's about making it impossible to be a law abiding citizen...
G2, do you think you need to know the laws related to the manufacture of orange juice intended for commercial sale in order to be a law-abiding citizen?
Ah, hypotheticals. If you can manufacture one very specific situation then it must apply to the whole right?

Maybe I invest frozen concentrated OJ commodities or its derivatives. Maybe I own or invest in OJ producers. Would I need to know the laws surrounding OJ and how they change from time to time in order to adjust my investments? Bet your bippy I would. But there are plenty of other laws affecting lots of other people and markets and manufacturing, it's not just those that are involved in the OJ business we're talking about.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Would I need to know the laws surrounding OJ and how they change from time to time in order to adjust my investments? Bet your bippy I would.
*grin* While your point is broadly true, I think it's considerably less accurate in practice; I would be very surprised if most people actually researched a significant number of the laws of a given industry before investing in firms within that industry. No doubt those that do have a bit of an edge, however. [Smile]
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Wayward Son
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Sorry, G2, but Tom asked if these laws affects you being a "law-abiding citizen," not if it makes your investment strategy any harder. [LOL]
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TomDavidson
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We might also ask whether you know the speed limit on I-94 between the Hobart and Westville exits in northwestern Indiana. Or whether the kennel laws in southern Oregon permit breeders to also rent kennel space to dogs they do not own. And whether you're afraid of running afoul of these laws due to your general ignorance of them.
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
Sorry, G2, but Tom asked if these laws affects you being a "law-abiding citizen," not if it makes your investment strategy any harder. [LOL]

How is investing not a normal activity of a law-abiding citizen? And why did you put it the phrase in quotes?
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TomDavidson
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The question is whether it is impossible for him to abide by the law, JWatts. Not knowing the correct temperature at which to store orange concentrate might make it harder for him to research his investment options, but is unlikely to land him in jail. [Smile]
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Maybe I invest frozen concentrated OJ commodities or its derivatives.
Then you are not the average citizen, but an individual that has a need for specialized knowledge in that particular field, the laws and regulations being only a fractional part of the total.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by JWatts:
quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
A serious reading of the constitution leaves it hard to escape the conclusion that gridlock was the actual design of the founders.

I don't think that's full picture. I would instead say that the Founders desired a firm majority of opinion to move the government forward and lacking that firm majority they wanted the government's power curtailed.
That hardly contradicts what I said.

In absence of a firm majority, the result is gridlock by design.

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cherrypoptart
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Here's an example, and not the best one I'll admit but it just happens to be in the news right now, of different state laws, recent changes in the law, and a woman's ignorance of them getting her in trouble. If people have other examples please feel free to share.

http://news.yahoo.com/video/us-15749625/tattooed-10-year-old-s-mom-arrested-27939622.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/19/chuntera-napier-mom-arrested-10-year-old-tattoo_n_1217040.html

"If you thought tots with tiaras were bad, how about tots with tattoos? Georgia mom Chuntera Napier says she couldn't tell her 10-year-old son Gaquan no when he asked to get a tattoo honoring his brother who had been killed by a teenage driver two years prior.

Authorities called Napier's action illegal, arresting and charging her with misdemeanor cruelty and being a party to a crime, according to ABC News’ Atlanta affiliate WSBTV.

"My son came to me and said, 'Mom, I want to get a tattoo with Malik on it, rest in peace. What do I say to a child who wants to remember his brother?"

Napier said yes and took her son to a tattoo artist in Smyrna where he received a tattoo featuring his brother's name and former basketball jersey number.

According to a 2010 law, however, "it shall be unlawful for any person to tattoo the body of any person under the age of 18, except for a physician or osteopath..."

Napier says she was unaware of the law, which was shown to her by police. She bonded out of jail on Wednesday but is in disbelief that her consent wasn't enough to let her son get a tattoo."

-----------------------------------------

Now I'm not arguing that that's a bad law because I don't really disagree with it even if I could also live without it. But there are a couple of points here. One is that this article states that the law was passed in 2010, so if it was legal before that then it goes to my point about it being tough to keep track of all the new laws getting passed.

Another point lies in the vast differences in state laws. Apparently, in many states what she did wouldn't be a problem, just like it wouldn't have been in Georgia either a couple of years ago. So that makes it a little bit harder to just say, "D'oh! Of course it's against the law for a 10 year old to get a tattoo." Because it's not, not necessarily.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_status_of_tattooing_in_the_United_States

Arkansas - In the State of Arkansas a minor can be tattooed with written consent and presence of a parent or legal guardian.

Colorado - No minimum age to receive a tattoo or body piercing is established in Colorado's state code or regulations. However as stated above, artists may choose to establish their own internal rules for purposes of liability.

------------------------------------------------


Just a couple of examples there.

We were assured that the people responsible for these matters, the professionals, would be aware of the law and it was implied they would watch out for us when we came under their purview. But this tattoo artist either was ignorant of the recent change in the law or ignored it. Either way, they apparently are investigating the tattoo artist but already arrested the mother and took her child away from her. She might have gone to a state where it was legal too, if only she knew about the law. Then what would the law have accomplished?

I'll bring it back again to the volume of new laws as a barrier to keeping up with them. If only a few laws were changed every now and then people might be able to hear about it, maybe see it in the news. But with this much change nobody can possibly keep pace with it.

So there it is

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AI Wessex
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Are you arguing that states should all have the same laws governing tattooing?

I'm amused that the absence of laws is assumed to be good. I wonder how many people's short drives from the bar to their house are interrupted by police enforcing DUI laws? That drives up gas consumption while they're being tested and ticketed, baby-sitting costs for the extra time taken and lost wages if they are arrested, which leads to lower spending that further depresses the economy. Seems kind of absurd when you think about it.

[ January 21, 2012, 09:47 AM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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cherrypoptart
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You bring up drunk driving laws but that's a case where a huge effort is made to inform the public about the law, for instance with billboards and public service announcements. In a way that makes the point. Now what about all the laws that don't get that exposure? How can anyone know them?

Just out of curiosity I looked up "state laws of texas" and found a good website to make sure I am and stay in compliance.

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/

You could probably read through it for years and still just barely scratching the surface. And then plenty of these laws, especially the new ones, are unclear until they are tested in court. Just look at D.C.'s draconian gun control law that was struck down by the Supreme Court. That's an extreme example but one that highlights the fact that the people passing all of these new laws don't necessarily even know what they are doing either.

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AI Wessex
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I followed your link and picked "Transportation Code" at random out of the ~30 categories. That brought up *hundreds* of titles, chapters and subsections. I clicked on chapter 724 (Implied Consent), which had 64 numbered subchapters beneath it comprising several hundred lines of legal text. Texas has a part-time legislature. Leaving aside my customary cynicism I'll ask why do you think there are so many laws?

"Just look at D.C.'s draconian gun control law that was struck down by the Supreme Court."

You're picking on a law you personally didn't like, not a law that is specifically unnecessary or actually draconian. The SC upholds and strikes down a great many laws. Perhaps you could bring forward a challenge to the Texas legal code subsection 724.013 under the Implied Consent section of the Transportation Code. There's a decent chance it violates your right to privacy, which is a fundamental principle of the American Constitution.

[ January 21, 2012, 11:40 AM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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Aris Katsaris
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> Authorities called Napier's action illegal, arresting and charging her with misdemeanor cruelty and being a party to a crime, according to ABC News’ Atlanta affiliate WSBTV.

I checked Georgia law.

"Every person concerned in the commission of a crime is a party thereto."
"Concerned in the commission of a crime only if he: (1) directly commits crime, (2) intentionally causes some other person to commit crime under such circumstances that the other person is not guilty of any crime either in fact or because of legal incapacity, (3) intentionally aids or abets in the commission of crime, or (4) intentionally advises, encourages, hires, counsels, or procures another to commit crime. "

Since she didn't know it was a crime, I don't think she can be said to "intentionally aided or abetted in the commission of crime". And as you say, the number of laws makes it practically impossible for everyone to know every law.

The tatooer is obviously the one guilty here. Only if he informed the mother about the illegality and she told him to go ahead regardless, should the mother also be found guilty.

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Viking_Longship
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quote:
I'm amused that the absence of laws is assumed to be good.
I don't know why you think it's amusing. A minimalist approach to government is a long-standing school of thought in this country.

Right now for the average citizen avoiding breaking the law is a bit like trying to walk across a cluttered room in the dark.

In the case Cherry mentioned the tatoo artist has a responsibility to keep up with the regulatory laws pertaining to his field. A mother, on he other hand, really can't be expected to know about them.

No one here is arguing that there should be NO laws, some of us are arguing that there are currently too many laws and those laws are enforced too aggresively or at the whim of the government.

Okay imagine there's a gay couple in small town. Everybody knows they're gay, but it's not really an issue since they're "straight acting." One of them is in real estate, gets involved with a real estate deal with the Sheriff that goes bad. The Sheriff is angry and guess what, the town still has an anti-soddomy law on the books, a really strict one that could send both the guys to jail. Nobody has enforced that law for a century, but there it is.

Now if the city council had been required to eliminate laws as they created new ones, or even just to review them periodically, that law would have survived?

[ January 21, 2012, 01:25 PM: Message edited by: Viking_Longship ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Right now for the average citizen avoiding breaking the law is a bit like trying to walk across a cluttered room in the dark.
I like to think that I'm a pretty average citizen, and yet avoiding breaking the law has been pretty easy so far. The few times I've broken the law, I've known I was doing it.
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Viking_Longship
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Tom that's posssible but unlikely if you own a house and a car or have children.
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I like to think that I'm a pretty average citizen, and yet avoiding breaking the law has been pretty easy so far. The few times I've broken the law, I've known I was doing it.
Tom, you don't know how many times you broke the law without knowing it. That's what "without knowing it" MEANS, that you don't know.
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AI Wessex
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"Now if the city council had been required to eliminate laws as they created new ones, or even just to review them periodically, that law would have survived?"

In a perfect world all obsolete laws would disappear as soon as they became useless or counter-productive. I can't imagine the amount of time and effort it would take to keep the body of laws under such careful scrutiny, or the willingness of the appropriate authorities to review and make those judgments. It's just plain impractical to maintain such a level of vigilance. That means that on some occasions someone will misapply a law (obsolete or not) for an inappropriate reason.

But some people are in fact arguing that laws are bad because of the simple numerical quantity that are on the books. I find that amusing because laws are created to support the public welfare. Nobody seems to be arguing that the laws themselves are bad, so where exactly is the harm and why get up in arms about it? Cherry brings up a law that he found objectionable to support the position that there are too many laws. That's a straw man that is not unlike how people protest that taxes are bad and use the quantity of words in the tax code to support their view. Which logical fallacy covers arguing from the specific to the general?

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Viking_Longship
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Al so you'd tell the gay couple sitting in the town jail not to worry about it because it's just too much trouble to keep the body of laws under careful scrutiny? If it's impratical to do something like that THERE ARE TOO MANY LAWS.

Would you tell a person who had their entire farm seized because someone they never laid eyes on was growing marijauna on an unused corner of their property without their knowledge or consent that laws support the public welfare? Would you tell a homesteader who had their kids taken away by social services because their home lacked electricity and running water (even though their kids were healthy) that?

Please think about this instead of just trying to shoot down the "stupid conservatives". Lord knows I don't agree with Cherry on everything, but he happens to have a point about this.

Oh and I am saying a lot of the laws are bad.

[ January 21, 2012, 05:42 PM: Message edited by: Viking_Longship ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Would you tell a person who had their entire farm seized because someone they never laid eyes on was growing marijauna on an unused corner of their property without their knowledge...
Are we still talking about there being too many laws to understand, here?
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AI Wessex
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Bad laws are bad laws, too many laws is not bad laws.
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Viking_Longship
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An overabundance of laws allow bad laws to stay on the books. A casual approach to the number of laws makes it easier to pass bad laws. You remember when Noel was arguing towns should be able to pass laws prohibitting homosexual PDA?

[ January 22, 2012, 04:33 AM: Message edited by: Viking_Longship ]

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