Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas
Most bad government has grown out of too much government. Thomas Jefferson
Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook. The Philippines is bringing in a law that says to graduate, students must plant ten trees. Some are applauding this law. I am not. The idea of encouraging students to plant trees seems a good one. Making students who can’t, or don’t have access to land to plant trees on, or the resources to get the trees, or a way to get to the place the tree planting can take place makes criminals of good students. If every student plants ten trees it won’t take long and finding places to plant trees will be harder and harder, more students will be criminalized. Instead of building up the society which is the aim, it may get torn down by the unintended consequences of a bad law.
Was it a laudable goal to keep our kids from taking drugs? Did making them criminals help? Did putting kids in prison for nothing more than pot possession make sense?
We want to make society better, but are more laws the way to do it? Dueling was outlawed in France in 1626. There were still more than 10,000 duels resulting in more than 4,000 deaths from 1685 to the end of King Louis X1V’s reign in 1715. It is believed the law was ineffective because it went against established norms of the time. We would be shocked to be challenged to a duel; we wouldn’t even think we were compelled to show up.
How do we change our society for the better if we don’t bring in laws to make people behave the way we want them to? Who gets to decide what is acceptable, and what is not? The broken window theory says when we take a permissive attitude to small crimes more crime develops. When law enforcement cracks down on seemingly unimportant things, it criminalizes too many people. When the greater society doesn’t agree with the effects of what they feel are unjust laws, they no longer work with police to enforce them. We need to realize there are unintended consequences to laws that are brought in.
What are we to do in a society?
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. Ayn Rand
Is it great when the privileged whose lives we think are made of simple choices put constraints on the poor whose lives are made of tough choices? Do rich women ever have to think of prostitution to feed themselves or their children? Do rich kids ever have to choose to sell drugs because that is the only option open to them to make money?
There is a law on the books that it is illegal to drag your dead horse down Toronto’s Yonge Street on Sundays. A strange law but why only Yonge Street, and why only on Sundays, or why such a crazy law at all?
Using profane and abusive language in publicly owned green spaces can get you a fine of over $200.00.
It’s illegal to climb trees in Oshawa. How would I pick my cherries?
It’s illegal to build snowmen taller than 30 inches in Souris, PEI. Who gets the job of measuring the snowmen?
Until 2009 it was illegal In Petrolia, Ontario to yell, hoot, whistle, and sing at all times. What a good thing they repealed that law before the Raptor’s won the basketball championship. The 2009 bylaw which replaces the old one in Petrolia sets a $250 fine for anyone who yells, shouts, whistles or makes another noise for the purpose of selling or advertising.
Many towns try to outlaw spitting, cursing, and other “Unseemly behavior.” Tabor, Alberta is one such town, as well as Whistler, B.C. Has it worked? Is it developing social norms that work? What do we do if we want to live with a certain degree of civility and our neighbors don’t? Whose rules do we enforce? Whose culture takes precedence, the quiet folk, or the ones who want to have a good time and party?
I love that I can eat in a restaurant without being assaulted by someone else’s smoke. It is good that most of us do not drink alcohol and drive. It makes sense that our rights stop when they infringe on someone else’s rights, but how much can they infringe on their rights? Smoke which may eventually kill us and driving drunk which may also kill us makes sense. Is hearing a curse word too offensive, what constitutes a curse word, and what is “too” loud?
If we bring in enough laws aren’t we all outlaws? Is creating outlaws the goal?
I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court cans save it; no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. Billings Learned Hand
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you will come back and read some more. Have a blessed day filled with gratitude, joy, and love.
To subscribe, comment, see archives or categories of posts click on the picture and scroll to the end. Please subscribe, comment, and share.
If you purchase an item through the Amazon.ca link I might receive a small percentage of the purchase through the Amazon.ca affiliate program.