MY POINT EXACTLY

As noted in the post below, I believe that we are operating under the delusion that passing laws is the same as effecting change.
Today’s L.A. Times offers a low-key but effective example:

How many times have you rolled into a gas station with an overheated engine or a doughy front tire, only to find you had to pay for air and water? Or worse, the station provided no such services?
Problem solved, right?
Yeah, right.

The law took effect Jan. 1, 2000. Unlike many other bills, this law came with teeth.
The legislation required the Department of Food and Agriculture to create a hotline for motorists to report violations. In response to the complaints, the department was instructed to inspect service stations and issue fines to violators.
But, as of July 1, the money for the enforcement of the law was eliminated because of the state’s whopping $24-billion budget shortfall.

So … pass a law … get a photo op … accomplish nothing. This is worse than just ineffective. It is worse because the presence of this vast body of unenforced law both breeds contempt for the law (decline in legitimacy) and creates a kind of bureaucratic leverage over each of us, as we are caught in a web of selectively enforced laws.
The average speed on the 110 freeway (except during rush hour congestion) is over 80 miles per hour. The speed limit is 55; this means that the enforcing officer can select from a huge population of violators at will. Is he a racist? Then black drivers may get cited. Is she mad at her red-haired ex-husband? Red-haired drivers will get red lights in the mirror.
This kind of law gives incredible unlegislated discretion and power to the enforcers, and makes the average citizen into the average lawbreaker.
But our political system runs on it…

2 thoughts on “MY POINT EXACTLY”

  1. I am reminded of this (have to read this book some day):
    “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one ‘makes’ them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on the guilt.” (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged)
    I read somewhere that last year the California legislature passed (and the appropriately named Gray Davis signed) just over 900 new laws.
    “…this vast body of unenforced law both breeds contempt for the law … and creates a kind of bureaucratic leverage over each of us….”
    Truer words…

  2. This phenomenon makes it harder and harder for the police to do their jobs catching real criminals. Who wants to cooperate if there’s a big risk you’ll get nabbed for some minor, stupid thing?

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