Following on from yesterday, I’m reminded that I have very little faith in the law. I have very little faith in lawyers and judges and courts and legislatures.
After all, smoking bans are an example of law in action. And I think they’re an example of bad law. I think they’re very, very bad law. In fact I think they’re an abuse of law.
Some people seem to think of laws as being a set of rules by which people must live. And banning smoking is just one extra rule that’s been added to all the other ones. They see laws as being just like school rules. No talking. No running. No hands in pockets. No smoking. (These were all school rules I knew.)
And all these No-Something rules restrict people’s freedom. They take away freedom. They hedge people around with barriers and obstacles. They fence them in. They become a prison. They make life harder for people.
And I don’t want to make life harder for people. I want to make life easier for them. I want to increase people’s freedom, not decrease it.
I think the Highway Code is a good example of a set of rules that increase people’s freedom. By keeping traffic moving in one direction to one side of the road, they allow people to move around more quickly than they would otherwise: there are going to be fewer head-on collisions. One small restriction (Keep To The Left) has a pay-off in much faster journey times.
In what ways do smoking bans increase people’s freedom? They may increase the freedom of non-smokers and antismokers who don’t like tobacco smoke, but they decrease the freedom of smokers who do like tobacco smoke. And they decrease the freedom of smokers far more than they increase the freedom of non-smokers and antismokers. They discriminate in favour of one group of people at the expense of another group. There’s no net gain in freedom (like with the Highway Code). There is instead a net loss of freedom.
Good laws increase people’s freedom: bad laws decrease it.
Good laws should also be simple laws. “Keep Left” is both a good law and a simple law. If a law needs to have a whole book describing its details, it’s probably a bad law. If laws need experts – expert lawyers – to interpret them, they’re bad laws. For if laws need such experts, it can only mean that most ordinary people don’t know or don’t understand the law. And a society in which most people don’t know or don’t understand the law is effectively a lawless society.
It is said that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” (Ignorantia juris non excusat). And yet, the more complicated and arcane and obscure the law becomes. the more impossible it becomes for anyone to understand it at all. And in a time when there are complex and multiplying laws, how many people must be in prison these days simply because they didn’t know what the law was?
The only beneficiaries of bad laws are lawyers. The more lawyers there are in any society, the worse its laws most likely are.
And lawyers are never impartial. They thrive in opposition to each other. For every prosecuting lawyer, there will be a defence lawyer.
And are judges impartial? Many of them were once lawyers themselves. And wasn’t the furore over the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court over the fact that he was a political appointment by Donald Trump who could be relied on to come up with conservative judgments rather than progressive ones? When the Dems get in, they’ll stack the court with liberal judges, and when the Republicans get in they’ll stack the court with conservative ones. The judges are expected to be biased. The Dems complaint about Kavanaugh wasn’t about him being biased: it was about the direction of his bias.
And if the judges are not impartial, but are always biased one way or other, then there can be no justice.
And also, to top it all, aren’t some people simply above the law? They’re never going to be prosecuted for anything, ever. Right now in the USA there’s talk of indicting ex-FBI director James Comey and ex-CIA director John Brennan for conspiracy to topple a sitting president. There’s also talk of indicting Hillary Clinton. But, really, is that ever going to happen? All these people are above the law. They’ve all been given Get Out Of Jail Free cards.
It’s the same with the politicians in the EU. They’re above the law as well.
The state of the law is rotten and corrupt. And it’s rotten and corrupt everywhere.
Calming nature sounds of a soothing waterfall with forest bird song