From Clicky in the comments yesterday, this piece in Reason:
A policy that is scheduled to take effect next Monday prohibits smoking in and near public housing throughout the country, affecting 1.2 million households in units managed by about 3,300 local agencies. According to a 2016 Observer editorial, “it may be the most far-reaching, intrusive and over-reaching executive order of the entire Obama administration.” In a lawsuit filed today, six smokers who live in public housing argue that the ban violates their rights, exceeds the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s statutory authority, cannot be justified as a regulation of interstate commerce, and unconstitutionally commandeers state and local officials by ordering them to carry out federal policy.
The smoking ban, which covers low-income housing that is federally subsidized but owned and operated by local public housing authorities (PHAs), applies to living units as well as common areas and extends to a zone 25 feet around each building. The policy is the result of a 2015 HUD rule that aimed to “improve indoor air quality in the housing, benefit the health of public housing tenants and PHA staff, reduce the risk of catastrophic fires, and lower overall maintenance costs.” The lawsuit, which was organized by New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (NYC CLASH) and filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, argues that HUD has no business regulating indoor air quality or trying to dictate what people do in the privacy of their homes.
Good to see Reason drawing attention to this vile piece of legislation.
It’s a law which is almost as bad as Peter Koo’s proposed No Smoking While Walking. It’s a law that reduces the residents of US public housing to serfdom. Quite simply, they can no longer do as they choose in their own homes. After this, the sky’s the limit for any proposed bullying piece of legislation that any tyrannical bureaucrat cares to dream up. Next they’ll be told what they can eat and drink, and what clothes they can wear, what words they can speak.
The people who drew up this vile law wish to make serfs of everybody. And they’ve picked on poor people who are least able to defend themselves. Once they can impose their constraints on them, they’ll soon be emboldened to extend the precedent to everyone else.
It’s the use of the law not for the purpose of administering justice, but for exerting social control. It is in fact a negation of the primary purpose of law as a means of resolving disputes between people, of weighing and measuring the costs and benefits of some action, and redistributing them justly and equally among the participants in that action. This is the law being used to exert naked force upon defenceless people, in order to compel them to do as they are told.
As with Peter Koo, to my mind, it should be the framers of this nasty piece of legislation who should be in court, charged with the crime of subverting the law by bending it away from the administration of justice to the exertion of totalitarian social control. And the crime of subverting the law in this manner is, in my view, a far worse crime than any robbery or murder. For once the law is thus subverted, everybody is robbed. Everybody is deprived of justice. Everybody is deprived of the possibility of compensation. And this is why I said that Peter Koo must hang: he had set out to commit the greatest crime of all, which is to subvert justice itself. And I feel exactly the same about the nameless framers of this HUD legislation. They should all pay with their lives for enacting such an unjust and tyrannical law.
But most likely none of them will pay any price at all. And that will encourage others to subvert the law in countless other ways. No wonder abusive laws multiply.
CLASH’s Audrey Silk has set up a GoFundMe PRIVACY IN THE HOME legal fund page to fight the HUD law. It requires money to be spent on lawyers to fight these cases in the courts. And the poor people in the HUD residences haven’t the money to pay these lawyers.
And what that means is that there is no justice for the poor. For if a man cannot present himself in court, and defend himself with his own words, but must instead hire some advocate to speak on his behalf, then there is no justice. Or justice is only available to those who can afford it. And it seems to be becoming more and more expensive to defend oneself in court, and to require whole armies of lawyers to trawl through labyrinthine forests of law.
What we are seeing is not just one corruption of the law, but multiple corruptions. The first corruption has been to encourage petty tyrants like Peter Koo to enact vindictive, discriminatory, and plainly unjust laws. And the second corruption has been to make the law so expensive to administer as to render it beyond the means of almost everybody. And the third corruption is the multiplication of the numbers of laws to the point where expert lawyers are needed to parse the finer details of these innumerable (and frequently contradictory) laws.
Add it all up, and the result is the complete and utter corruption of the law. In such circumstances, there ceases to be any effectively operational law, and there ceases to be any justice. And when the law is completely broken and useless, the only recourse left to anyone lies outside the law. They must take the law into their own hands.
And this is more or less what we are seeing, with vigilante organisations of one sort or other operating entirely outside the law, and fighting each other on the streets. For once the law has gone, we all live in a lawless world, in a state of civil war.
The law must be simplified. The law must be simplified to the point where everyone understands the whole of the law, and nobody needs to hire a lawyer to defend them in the courts. And there ought to be a very high price to pay to change or add to the simplified law in any way. It should require a whole army of expensive lawyers just to remove a single comma from the law.
There is of course no sign of any simplification of the law ever happening. And the laws are still multiplying exponentially. And so civil society is breaking down, now that nobody has any effective recourse in law open to them.