Quote of the day—John Stossel

No one wants to see law break down so completely that people get hurt, but historian Thaddeus Russell reminds us that many freedoms we take for granted exist not because the government graciously granted liberties to us but because of lawbreakers.

Bootleggers, “robber barons” who did things like transporting ferry passengers in defiance of state-granted monopolies and tea-dumping American revolutionaries ignored laws they opposed.

John Stossel
May 13, 2015
Let’s All Disobey Stupid Laws
[This is what I expect will happened with I-594 and its cousins. People will mostly ignore it. The police will “have better things to do” and the prosecutors will only charge people with violating it if the criminal has more serious offenses as well.

Even if we can’t get it thrown out by the courts (the chances are still decent, just not as good as they were before the recent ruling) many, many people will ignore it because it is so stupid. Then eventually a friendly legislature will dispose of it.

This process will soon be visible in the State of New York in regards to The SAFE Act (H/T to Sebastian).—Joe]


16 thoughts on “Quote of the day—John Stossel

  1. The “more serious offenses” that will induce prosecutors to charge people under I-594 are likely to be political in nature. Backing the wrong candidates, being insufficiently “progressive,” that sort of thing.

    • And others will pay extremely strict attention to the law. Scrupulously exact attention.

      Such as paying attention to those places where that law is not in effect, or to be even more precise, those places where the state legislature in question does not have authority.

      If you’re confused by what I’m talking about, a Socratic question: within the geographic borders of states (such as Washington) where gambling is illegal or absurdly heavily regulated, where do you find casinos? And the proprietors of such casinos, to whom do they mostly make their campaign contributions in order to protect their de facto monopolies from competition?

  2. Most laws are seldom actually enforced…..unless there is something to be gained by the DA or someone else in power by enforcing such laws.
    The I-594 law will….like many such laws be ignored by most people.
    However the system WILL crucify the handful of people they DO catch
    violating the law simply to try and instill fear in all the others. They know
    they simply cannot catch, prosecute and imprison everyone who breaks such laws…..just as they can’t stop people from using marijuana. But they CAN
    make blatant martyrs out of a handful of people in the hope that it will scare
    others into compliance. So bad laws do nothing to help society but they DO
    grant godlike powers to those in authority to destroy the lives of a select few
    people as an example of their power.

    • Ayn Rand (through the words of Francisco D’Anconia) pointed out that the purpose of laws is to get you to violate them, so that can be used against you. This explains why there are so many laws, to the point that not a single person in the USA knows them all. (I feel very safe making that claim in such absolute terms, given that there’s about 200 pages of them published every day.)

      • I don’t know whether to comment here or after Linoge. Both make the same point.

        I used to work with a woman who had been a juvenile felony defense attorney in the Public Defender’s office. She quit because she wound up working from 7 am to 11 pm. Her chief complaint was the over charging by the District Attorneys (in the manner of the DA in Baltimore recently). This is the real purpose and benefit to the government for the oppressive number of laws enacted each year to add to the oppressive number of laws already enacted. They don’t really want to conduct a whole trial, so it’s more economical to bring the full force and weight of government down to get the defendants to negotiate away their constitutional protections.

        • This is the one reason I think plea bargaining should be removed altogether. If the State cannot present enough evidence to a jury (or a judge, if the defendant wishes to waive trial by jury) to convict someone, then that person shouldn’t be convicted at all.

          Plea bargaining smacks too much of being “I’ll do this if you’ll just leave me alone”, which, in turn, causes me to wonder whether or not a person who pleads guilty is really guilty of anything…

  3. While I-594 may be desirable in the liberal mind, it is another scheme that only works if infinite government exists. In the real world, they must either approve more taxes to hire more police, more judges and more prisons or go full Ferguson to convert law enforcement agencies into revenue enhancement agencies.

    With a finite and frankly understaffed law enforcement community, enforcing I-594 means something else is not enforced; be it domestic violence, drunk driving, armed robbery, rape, murder, whatever. I expect I-594 will push agencies to emphasize any enforcement that generates revenue. The rest, oh well. The only alternative is to enforce I-594 when it suits the political purposes. Justice and actual legal effectiveness do not enter into these calculations.

    Just a suggestion, require all laws to have a sunset clause. 10 years from now, when we find that I-594 has been ineffective or even counterproductive, it can fade into the sunset.

    • Your sunset notion would make sense if the intention of the authors had been to make an effective and productive law. But since that wasn’t their intent, it is obvious why they wouldn’t put a sunset clause in it.

  4. My father and I had a similar conversation last night… He pointed out that, as you suspected, I-594 is being massively disobeyed in Washington, both at the individual level and at the governmental level. People are going to the ranges, doing as they like, and no one is saying a blessed thing about it.

    As it should be with stupid laws.

    He likewise pointed out that stupid laws like this one unfortunately inherently undermine all laws, by getting people accustomed to breaking laws, and wanted to stress the importance of adhering to the important laws, despite the stupid laws.

    I noted that the stupid laws are massively outweighing the important laws these days, so maybe a little mass civil disobedience would be a beneficial thing for the purposes of pruning.

    Like Stossel says, I do not want anyone to get hurt, but reminding people just how many utterly asinine laws there are on the book cannot be a bad thing in the end.

    • I remember Sarah Hoyt on her blog describing how Christmas lights and decorations outside in Portugal were impossible, because people just stole the decorations. (They heavily decorated their indoor spaces, though.) This was largely because the people didn’t have any respect for the law.

      With the increasing law and regulation system, I’m afraid we’ll get to the point where we won’t respect the law either. I hope, though, that when we get to that point, we’ll remember the difference between “mal prohibitum” and “mal en se” laws, and follow the latter.

      It may have been a commenter on this blog (or was it at Sebastian’s “Shall Not Be Questioned”?) that suggested “Never be a snitch” makes sense, because you should mind your own business (particularly when it comes to stupid laws) but in Black communities, it has led to rampant murder and mayhem. This commenter suggested that there should be some sort of gradiant–if it’s bad, such as murder, you *should* snitch, otherwise you should mind your own business. Now that I think about it, I expect “mal en se” and “mal prohibitum” would be that boundary: if you witness someone hurt someone else, you snitch, otherwise, you just look the other way.

  5. “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”. G. Washington.

    • And also:
      “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?” — James Madison (in Federalist #62).

  6. Pingback: Bad Laws Get Ignored on All Sides | Shall Not Be Questioned

  7. Pingback: SayUncle » Let’s start with the tax code

  8. “However,” Gottlieb said, “If the state is willing to sign a consent decree that they will not prosecute any citizen under I-594 who is not prohibited from owning firearms, we will consider not filing an appeal.”

    Hmmm, are elected county prosecutors in WA agents of the state, such that a state consent decree (signed by whom? The state Attorney General?) would in fact prohib it them from initiating any such prosecution?

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