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Maximum Law Amendment

Enough is already too much
  (+4, -2)
(+4, -2)
  [vote for,

A two part constitutional amendment:

1) The total number of laws in effect (apart from constitutionally established laws) shall be fixed at a maximum of [MAXLAWS]. Any additional laws passed above this maximum number shall be unenforceable, unless and until some previously enacted law has been repealed such that the total number of laws in effect is less than or equal to [MAXLAWS].

2) Courts shall find laws that appear to apply to two or more unrelated matters to be entirely void as unconstitutionally broad.

ytk, Apr 07 2012

Anti-litigious_20mu...claved_20microstate [calum, Apr 10 2012]

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       any particular country you're planning on inflicting this upon ?
FlyingToaster, Apr 07 2012

       Interesting. As lawyers are becoming increasingly displaced by software, this should make writing the outer for loop that much easier.
theircompetitor, Apr 07 2012

       This will only work if people stop coming up with new crimes to commit, or stop commiting old ones.
Alterother, Apr 07 2012

       As it causes no harm to self or others 'we the person' find any law or statute encroaching upon our civil liberties to be invalid and therefore not recognized by 'we the person'.   

       ~peoples bylaw #47~   

       Arbitrary amounts of legislation will be added on as riders, or, amendments, or folded into omnibus bills, to keep the nominal number of laws under the limit. Much additional legislation will be created to govern this process. Laws will be passed to plug the loopholes in those laws, and the second-order laws will have loopholes which will be plugged by third-order laws. The system will be complex, conferring an advantage on those who understand it well. Who will be -- surprise! -- the ones who created it.   

       There are easy problems, there are hard problems, and then there's the class of problem in which a larger number of equally intelligent people are actively trying to break your solution. The problem of proliferating legislation belongs to the third class.
mouseposture, Apr 07 2012

       // lawyers are becoming increasingly displaced by software//

       Statutes are a starting point for laws. You have your primary act, and then you have your associated commencement orders and regulations. And then, when the lawyers look at your act, there is the informal, grassroots advice and customs arising and then, when appropriate disputes finally arise, you have your clarificatory judgements. This is how the system of legislation works, how even sharp statutory drafting necessarily begets gap-plugging, line-sharpening. Setting an arbitrary limit on the number of statutes will not alleviate this problem, it will simply push the bulk of your jurisdiction's law to the courts, bringing about a resurgence of the common law. And, I should add, the common law is a massive ballache to navigate.
calum, Apr 07 2012

       Agreed, but sooner or later they begin to conflict with one another, which tilts the playing field in favor of the defense.
Alterother, Apr 07 2012

       Here's a question I don't know the answer to: what proportion of a given nation's statute book is concerned with matters criminal? Either on a per act basis, or on a page basis? I would hazard less than 50% in either case.
calum, Apr 07 2012

       It would cause legislators to have to think carefully about whether laws are truly necessary, or whether they're just passing another piece of feel good legislation to pander to their voter base (as an unfortunately large number of laws passed at present seem to be). If a legislator potentially faces being painted as the jackass who repealed a law covering an actual crime that's subsequently committed in his district in order to get his pet spending bill passed, he's going to think long and hard about whether we REALLY need to pass that particular bit of pork-barrel legislation.   

       There really aren't that many different crimes under the sun. This amendment could apply to any country, but in the United States, for example, there are half a million people currently in prison for nonviolent drug related offenses. It's not at all clear that we actually need more things to be illegal than already are.   

       //Arbitrary amounts of legislation will be added on as riders, or, amendments, or folded into omnibus bills, to keep the nominal number of laws under the limit.//   

       Hence the second part of the amendment, which renders any law that attempts to circumvent the first part entirely void. That's why the second part is deliberately unspecific about what is too broad. It's up to the judiciary's discretion whether a given law is really just being too cute by half, and I think most people (and most judges) are able to know it when they see it. It also cuts through the complexity, because a judge can strike down a law for the mere APPEARANCE of being overly broad, and the onus is therefore on the government to demonstrate why it's actually not.
ytk, Apr 07 2012

       So the idea is to control quality by assessing/restricting quantity?   

       Unrelatedly, there are old lawyers' tales from back in the days of vellum and brandy lunches in the club of the feeing methods, particularly of executry practitioners: at the end of the work, the file or files would be collected together and weighed. The heavier the file, the greater the fee. On this principle, why don't we change the metric from number (of what?) to a set number of grammes (in the US, bushels, cups and roods). Regulate paper gsm and text size outside this maximum and allow the electorate the chance to vote on how heavy the statute books have to be at the end of the term. Legislator salaries are paid at end of term only and are linked to (either directly or inversely proportional to, depending on the whim of the voters) the final weight also.
calum, Apr 07 2012

       //So the idea is to control quality by assessing/restricting quantity?//   

       I prefer to think of it as raising value by increasing scarcity.
ytk, Apr 08 2012

       //Arbitrary amounts of legislation will be added on as riders, or, amendments, or folded into omnibus bills, to keep the nominal number of laws under the limit.//   

       I propose a character count restriction rather than a law count. Abbreviations are permitted, but only up to a set number, and must be defined at a constant place in each law.
Loris, Apr 08 2012

       //deliberately unspecific// //It's up to the judiciary's discretion// If you mean for the judiciary to have *sole* discretion, then the amendment needs a third part, prohibiting the legislature from making any law concerning (or, maybe, affecting) the application of the first two parts. Does not Congress, otherwise, have that power?   

       But a similar complexification process could as easily occur in the courts. And the courts are *slow.* [Ling] has the right idea, in seeking a completely unambiguous criterion -- but already, by the second sentence, the recursive loophole-plugging has begun, and I, for one, would not expect it to end there.
mouseposture, Apr 08 2012

       //If you mean for the judiciary to have *sole* discretion, then the amendment needs a third part, prohibiting the legislature from making any law concerning (or, maybe, affecting) the application of the first two parts. Does not Congress, otherwise, have that power?//   

       In the U.S. at least, Congress can't pass laws that override or otherwise contradict the Constitution. Or rather, they can, but those laws are subject to being declared unconstitutional. Congress can direct the courts how to interpret statutes, but not constitutional provisions. So a law stating that, say, three completely disparate matters should nonetheless be treated as the same matter by the courts wouldn't fly, as it would run afoul of a constitutional provision. It would be the same as passing a law blatantly restricting freedom of speech, and adding the statement "this law shall be held not to violate the First Amendment."
ytk, Apr 09 2012

       [vtk] when the constitution uses //deliberately unspecific// language like "Army" or "due process," which branch of government decides how that language shall be applied to specific cases? The size of the army, for example, or whether it will be all-volunteer or conscript? How many tiers of judicial review constitute due process, and whether these are organized by state, or circuit?   

       My contention is that, if you want to rely on courts to prevent //blatent// violation of a law, then, either the law must be specific from the outset, or it must become so, and that it can become specific in several ways: by the accretion of subsequent legislation (legislative branch), via a regulatory agency (executive branch), or by the accumulation of case law (judicial branch).   

       The regulatory route need not be prohibited explicitly, since such agencies are created explicitly by Congress. But translating //deliberately unspecific// constitutional language into specific legislative language is a normal function of Congress, and would need to be prohibited, if you want to keep it out of their hands.   

       The meta-problem, though -- and the "Framers" saw this clearly -- is that, when you take power out of the hands of one group, you can't find a philosopher-king (or philosopher-judge, as in this case) into whose hands you can put it. The best you can do is to balance the powers of one group against another's.   

       What has become clear, though, is that this arrangement gives rise to very complex, inelegant systems (it's the same that gave rise to Life, after all), in which individual agents exploit the complexity for their own advantage. The whole ungainly mess limps along, and it's only beautiful from a distance. If you stand up close, and see in detail how the sausage is made, it's pretty nauseating.
mouseposture, Apr 09 2012

       I have been thinking about this idea quite a bit. I have some minor quibbles. The first is that I think that the idea is seeking to fix a problem which doesn't really need fixing. The second is that the solution to the problem doesn't fix it. The third is that there is already a mechanism for solving this problem.   

       1. It may be that legislators in the US have an imperial buttload of time to be coming up with zany or self-serving laws but elsewhere in the world, legislatures are sufficiently clogged that such bills are strangled at conception (with the possible exception of bills being pushed forward by the UK's current govt, though they do have something like a mandate to do this). This is because passing something into law is a time-consuming process and, for the most part, bills are pushed through yr legislative assemblies because there is something that needs addressing. If you are not happy with the laws being pushed forward by your government, then that is (a) a political assessment and (b) properly remedied by a political solution (see 3, below).   

       2. The proposed solution does/will not work. There are two reasons for this. First, it is akin to setting arbitrary constraints on entrants to a programming competition. As I have mumped on about ad nauseam elsewhere, law is not code, because the input with code is 1s and 0s, and input with the law is all of the insane, illogical bullshit that however many millions of people can come up with. Second, it is trying to use market forces to increase quality. Laws are not a commodity, they cannot be traded or exchanged. Scarcity of a non-commodifiable asset (for want of a better word) does not result in an increase in quality: a good heart these days is hard to find but this does not mean that such a heart is tradable or capable of having a $ value attached to it, which means there is no straightforward and manipulable way to encourage good heartedness.   

       3. If you are not happy with the way your legislators are behaving, vote them out.
calum, Apr 10 2012

       [mouseposture]. Thanks for the kind words, but I think you meant [Loris]
Ling, Apr 10 2012


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