My former friend, Ankh Infinitus (and still a more logical guy than you), has made a lot of posts about how laws are in direct conflict with the nature of freedom. Comedic magicians and professional bullshit sniffers, Penn & Teller, have also been known to say, “Any time somebody says, ‘There ought to be a law,’ there probably ought not to be.” I’m going to go into great detail, in this post, about why all laws are bad, and it may take you almost as many sittings to read it as it will for me to write it. I figured an advanced warning would be the civil thing to do, which I’m willing to do considering no one is policing my civility in this matter.
Laws, themselves, can be separated into two categories. Useless laws and counter-productive laws. Each of those categories also breaks down into sub-categories, but every law on every book, in every country falls into one of those two main categories. I think a good start is to take a look at the
Counter-productive laws fall into two subcategories.
Naturally Counter-Productive Laws
These are laws that seem good on paper but, when implemented, either have the opposite of their intended effect, or cause entirely new problems without addressing the one they were meant to address. They’re naturally counter-productive because it’s compliance with them that causes the counter-productivity. Examples of this type of law would be mandatory quotas for hiring a certain amount of people who have been mistreated in the past or a mandatory minimum wage. Let me explain the logic that makes them counter-productive.
Company employs Person A.
Person A is underpaid.
Government passes law that says, in order to be paid fairly, Person A, must be paid no less than X amount.
Company can’t afford to pay Person A X amount, so Company raises prices to raise the money to pay Person A the required amount.
All companies need to do this as well to pay their employees.
X amount is no longer enough to live on.
Person A is still underpaid and now inflation has more quickly become a problem.
This sort of law is passed when a legislator doesn’t think through the consequences before passing the law. They say, “It’s wrong that so many people are underpaid/not being hired fairly/etc., so let’s pass a law that requires a change,” without actually thinking about the real life consequences of the law. This is passing a law based on feelings. Such a thing often results in a naturally counter-productive law. Then there are
Artificially Counter-Productive Laws
These are laws which could achieve the desired results if people would comply, but people don’t want to comply so they break the law out of spite. The most famous of this type of law is 1930’s alcohol prohibition in the United States. No more alcohol was ever drunk on any given day than during prohibition. And the alcohol wasn’t safe either. Bathtub gin is a little worse for you than Tanqueray. Marijuana is prohibited in most of the world and, as a result, more people smoke it now than before. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but the last poll I read said nearly everyone has tried it at least once (with lower numbers in countries where it’s legal). Isn’t the idea that it’s banned enough of an incentive to try it at least once? In addition to increasing its usage, banning it has also created cartels which often get into war with each other because they have no third-party protection, what with being illegal and all. And this sometimes kills innocent passers-by. Third-party protection, of course, falls into the other main category, but we’ll get to that later. Prohibitions, laws against speech or expression, mandatory limits on freedoms, mandatory voting, mandatory military service, mandatory taxes, etc. all fall under this subcategory.
The other main category is
These are laws that either accomplish nothing at all, or nothing significant enough to justify the money and effort spent passing them. They break down into far more subcategories beginning with
These are laws against things we don’t do anyway and wouldn’t even do to spite the law. Prohibition of murder, theft, rape, etc. are examples of this kind of law. We don’t go around killing people because we have a conscience and ergo know better. All the laws in the world aren’t going to change this. Now, there clearly are people who do this sort of thing, but you know what? The laws aren’t stopping those people. Now, you may say that we can at least punish those people for breaking the law, but the last study I read (which admittedly was nearly ten years ago, so it may be outdated) said that less than 90% of violent criminals are ever apprehended. Now, the majority of us aren’t violent criminals. I’d say 90% of us. So, that means 1% of people are ever apprehended for a violent crime (and this is admittedly a rough guess and not actual statistics), and that’s not even including whether or not they are convicted. I mean, we have to be sure we have the right guy and an unfortunate side effect of that is sometimes the right guy goes free to protect a potentially wrongfully accused person. This is why the vast majority of people in prisons are there for violating artificially counter-productive laws. Removing redundant laws from the books would have absolutely no change in social behaviour but would result in a reduction of costs to police a city and try suspects.
These are laws that are vaguely written, possibly so they can be interpreted any way the enforcer wants to interpret them, but more likely because the legislator was either too stupid to realise what he was saying or so corrupt that he hid it inside another law. They are often interpreted in a variety of ways and rarely upheld in court due to how vague they are. Disorderly Conduct would be an example.
These are laws that might work if they could be enforced, but would more likely be artificially counter-productive laws, but can’t be enforced, and are therefore a waste of time and money to pass. They include a mandatory belief system, mandatory trust in a government, etc. Basically thought crimes, hate crimes, crimes where sexual pleasure is the cause of the crime. Things you can’t prove without an admission.
“Social Engineering” Tax Laws
These are laws that are designed to influence a person’s behaviour through tax incentives. They include taxing a behaviour seen by the government as negative, such as buying drugs or fuel or even gambling as well as reducing taxes for a behaviour they see as positive such as getting married, having children, or buying land. They never influence a person’s behaviour, as a person will do what a person will do, but they will now just bitch and moan about the taxes involved or the tax cuts they don’t get. The only good thing to come from this type of law is only good if you view funding of government as good, but if you do, I suggest you start reading at the beginning of this article. By the time you make it back to this paragraph, you will have changed your mind.
These are laws that would be unenforceable or artificially counter-productive if they could make any sort of difference, but since they can’t, they’re just impossible. This sort of law typically happens when a government passes a law against who someone is rather than what they do. For example, passing a law against being gay, or passing laws that restrict the rights of gays. It doesn’t matter how many laws you pass or how many people are in favour of the laws, or even whether or not the people to whom these laws are directed want to comply. The fact remains that is it impossible for this type of law to make any sort of difference whatsoever.
These are laws that are written quickly without thought to alternative means to the end, which is the crime. They are generally directed at corporations and corporations generally have a large legal team which tells them how to continue doing what they were doing while still being in compliance with the new law. Often times, you suffer the consequences, but that’s our next subcategory. Such laws include truth in advertising regulations. The company is not allowed to tell a blatant falsehood to mislead you into believing something false about their product, so they find other means to lie about the product which is not a blatant falsehood. When you suffer the consequences the company is intended to suffer, the subcategory shifts to
These are laws directed at one party but passed onto another. As with the previous subcategory, they’re typically directed at a large company to prevent it from taking advantage of you, but their legal team allows them to pass the negative effects of the law onto you. Consumer end sales tax in many countries is an example of this, and a good argument as to why a VAT is a better alternative. Consumer end sales tax is actually a corporate tax passed onto the consumer. Other examples include how a government might demand certain regulations of a mobile phone provider in order to protect you but they pass more than the cost of this onto the consumer the law is intended to protect. Of course, you can’t teach the company a lesson for this kind of thing because there’s that whole law against retaliation.
So, it’s true. The few people who do the things that really should be against the law more often than not get away with it, and you are powerless to do anything about it lest you be in trouble with the law. These people would be doing the same things without the law, except you could give them some very strong incentive not to. Incentive which is currently punishable even more severely than the actual crime. For vigilantism is only legal if the government is paying for it with your money.
So, with every law being either counter-productive or useless, what are you supposed to do to change it? That’s easy. Ignore the law. There are more people than there are government employees. The government can only enforce laws if there are fewer people abiding by them and submitting to consequences of breaking them than there are people enforcing them. If you do as you will, which you probably already do, that’s step one. Step two is to not submit to authority. If the police question you, demand something of you, etc., dismiss them. Don’t act scared or arrogant, even if you are. Just ignore them. Walk away. Pretend like they’re some random drunk telling you what to do (which would flatter them because you’d be giving them credit for more intelligence than they are displaying). If they actually try to use force against you, defend yourself. You may end up going down, but if you submit to them, you never even had a chance. And, if everyone does this, they won’t have the chance to keep this up. Also, if you live in a country that has trial by jury, and you end up on a jury, acquit every case in front of you regardless of evidence. This is how to protest law.
EDIT: When I wrote this, I forgot to mention Anti-Incentive Laws under Useless Laws. This happens when a law is passed, officially, to change behaviour, but the good consequences of the behaviour in question outweigh the bad consequences of getting caught breaking the law. These are usually directed at companies to give the illusion that something is being done to change a company’s behaviour. A good example would be mandatory health insurance for all employees. Something which would clearly cost a lot of money for the company, but the fine to pay if they get caught breaking it is considerably less. This is to create the illusion that the government cares about your health, but this law was paid for by the companies in question. Of course, if you’re worried about your health, there are plenty of governments who would take care of you there, and one of them is probably somewhere near you, if you are not already in one. Of course, without the existence of government, this would be a non-issue anyway, what with no policy to bind doctors and no money to put before your health.
Now, I know the title of this article is ironic, but I was taking a page from government. Actually, ironically enough, the sponsor for today’s article actually is the United States government, so here is their advert (which has been created and submitted to me by congressman Al Franken):