In our society, laws grow out of control like barnacles on a derelict ship. In large part, that's because legislators pass laws in order to be seen as doing something popular. Vote for my I Like Puppies bill! Endorse the We Approve Motherhood Week act! Support my declaration admiring America's heroes, so that we know that the government doesn't hate America's heroes!
When the laws are just fluff like that, they do little harm, and I'm content that the legislators are strutting about enacting various commemorative weeks rather than wrecking the economy. But other times legislators actually make what might be described as a substantive attempt to address a perceived social problem. The more that the social problem can be spun as terrifying and a Danger to our Children, the more our leaders are encouraged to enact elaborate and noisy schemes without any particular thought about their actual impact. So, for instance, a few Thomas the Tank Engine toys are found to be painted with lead-based paint, and pretty soon Congress is blithely legislating entire industries out of existence.
No law is too ridiculous when Our Children are at stake. Hence we have a sort of arms race to determine which state can come up with the most onerous restrictions on the movements of convicted sex offenders. Washington state came to play; they want to implant tracking chips into them. Those collars from The Running Man that blow your head straight off are only just around the corner. Meanwhile, as the legislative right hand rarely knows what the legislative left hand has done or is doing, the ranks of potential registered sex offenders continue to include folks like streakers, teens who send their boyfriends nude pictures of themselves, and teachers who lose control of their computers to pop-up ads in cities where prosecutors don't understand technology.
Moreover, such attempts to Think of The Children, or address other social problems, rarely consider whether we already have effective laws or measures to defend ourselves from a particular harm, and whether those laws and measures are competently administrated. What basis is there to believe that a new, expensive, elaborate, or technologically sophisticated method of protecting The Children will work, when existing, straightforward, well-established methods don't work because of the well-documented incompetence or indifference of government? If my state of California decides to one-up Washington and implant GPS devices with auto-destruct modules in convicted sex offenders, that system will be installed, maintained, and operated in a government culture in which a cop convicted of raping multiple women under color of law can be knowingly hired to work with vulnerable patients for the County of Los Angeles in a medical setting, then fired when someone points out the issue, then re-hired by the same County a month later to do the same work even after the scandal had broken.
What makes anyone think that more laws will help, when the new laws will be executed by the same people who couldn't handle the old laws?
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Hate Speech Debate on More Perfect Live - September 5th, 2017
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017