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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
repealed such that the total number of laws in effect
is less than or equal
2) Courts shall find laws that appear to apply to two
more unrelated matters to be entirely void as
[calum, Apr 10 2012]
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||any particular country you're planning on inflicting this upon ?
||Interesting. As lawyers are becoming increasingly
displaced by software, this should make writing the
outer for loop that much easier.
||This will only work if people stop coming up with new
crimes to commit, or stop commiting old ones.
||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'.
||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
||// 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.
||Agreed, but sooner or later they begin to conflict with one
which tilts the playing field in favor of the defense.
||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.
||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
||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
||//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
||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
||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.
||//So the idea is to control quality by
||I prefer to think of it as raising value by increasing
||//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.
||//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
||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.
||//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."
||[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
||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
||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
||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.
||[mouseposture]. Thanks for the kind words,
but I think you meant [Loris]