Laws Are Not Force Fields

 

shutterstock_344065673It would seem a self-evident truth that laws are not force fields. Simply creating a rule does not in and of itself change anyone’s behavior. Unenforced laws are useless. This would seem to be a strong argument in favor of only passing laws whose enforcement can be done in a practical manner, and which do not duplicate existing law.

Not so, says the Democratic Party. Whether it be their desire to emote about how much they care, even when they are powerless to do anything of consequence, or a genuine belief that they can bend human nature to their will with words alone, the result is the same. There are problems in the United States, and regardless of the specifics, the Democrats have a law ready to solve it.

The most obvious examples are gun free school zones. In order for such laws to have value, one would need to station guards at all entrances to schools, and check all who enter for weapons. Some government buildings do this, and such laws can be rational under such circumstances. Yet the notion that schools are safer when only the law abiding citizens have been disarmed is laughable. A man who has already decided to violate the most sacred of all prohibitions against murder, is certainly willing to violate your petty gun carrying laws.

A sign which declares a location gun free is an impotent gesture which does no good, and almost certainly some amount of harm.

The template is almost too easy to resist.

  1. There is a problem.
  2. We agree there shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. Therefore, we should outlaw the problem.

Applying this method to your everyday life might look like this.

  1. Donuts make us fat.
  2. Donuts shouldn’t make us fat
  3. It is illegal for donuts to make us fat.

The President gave a speech only yesterday where he declared that “We have now cut off every single path that Iran could have used to build a bomb.” He is of course referring to the nuclear agreement in which Iran makes many promises, and the US has almost no mechanisms for insuring their compliance. Obama seems to believe the words of the agreement have powers to rein in the whims of theocratic fascists.

Hillary Clinton displayed this instinct when she named “guaranteeing, finally, equal pay for women’s work” among her top priorities for her first 100 days in office. Clinton is miffed that Republicans killed the Paycheck Fairness Act. The proposed law would, according to its supporters, solve the problem of unequal pay in the work place.

Of course, the Paycheck Fairness Act is not a new concept. It amends the Fair Labor Standards act of 1938, which had itself already been amended by the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Despite liberal protests to the contrary, it is already illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person by paying them less on account of their gender for the same job, and has been for more than 60 years.

Ignoring that the gender wage gap is primarily a myth, and instead allowing ourselves to work under Clinton’s assumption that there is significant discrimination that still must be combated, why would passing even more legislation be our answer? How much more illegal can we make it?

The language Clinton used tells us that she clearly views this bill as a permanent solution to the problem, leaving her in the same company as the authors of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, who believed they had solved the problem once and for all.

Sanders can hardly speak without displaying this liberal failing. As the only honest socialist on the stage, the Bern complained that there are still 29 million uninsured in the US, and that this is unacceptable. He neglected to mention that among these, at least 4 million are illegal immigrants, 7.7 million are young adults who don’t want insurance, 3.8 million who are eligible for Obamacare but haven’t signed up, and 7.5 million who are at or above the median income and appear to be able to afford insurance, but simply choose not to. Existing law pretty thoroughly covers Sanders desire to have universal availability of healthcare.

Obamacare itself may well be the ultimate example of the laws as force fields phenomenon. Faced with the problem of expanding insurance coverage, the left chose to literally make it illegal to not purchase insurance. As soon as the Democrats become serious about jailing those who do not comply, they may find some success in accomplishing this goal.

Some issues, such as increasing the minimum wage, reveal that this instinct goes beyond a belief that we can change human behavior with unenforceable laws, but that we can bend economic reality by having our government put words on a page. That the labor of some individuals is not worth $15 an hour is no obstacle to comrade Sanders. Even the left’s most dedicated apologists acknowledge that large minimum wage increases cause unemployment. Yet all of the Democrats on stage, and nearly all of them watching at home, fully intend to steam ahead with such a national increase as soon as they can retake the Congress.

My law banning donuts from making us fat is no more absurd than Sanders mandating that companies pay salaries for employees at wages that cause those employees to be a net drain on the company. Those companies will of course layoff workers who cannot produce $15 an hour of labor, as surely as my gut expands when eating Krispy Kremes.

Watching the Democratic debates, one cannot help but notice that every solution they offer is a new law. Not once do they explain that while a given issue may be a problem, it is not one where the government could or should take action. No issue is too trivial for the federal government to be involved in. No problem is too complicated for a clumsy, one-size-fits-all federal law.

With real poverty having effectively been eliminated in the United States, and our lives constantly improving because of human innovation, what need is there for a party of big government to take care of us, unless they find new problems to save us from? And what need would there be for such a party if they were incapable of saving us from such problems?

There are 29 comments.

  1. Stad Thatcher

    Anyone who thinks passing a law solves a problem should look at the “Do Not Call” list. We screen our calls, and we must get ten gazillion calls a day with caller IDs like “South Carolina”, “Toll Free Caller”, or “IRS Enforcement Division” (my personal favorite is “0-000-000-0000”).

    I’ve said it before: if the NSA would track down and destroy these annoying callers, they’d be looked at with admiration, not suspicion . . .

    • #1
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:09 PM PDT
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  2. donald todd Inactive

    Democrats. Blind to the damage they do. Ignorant of laws such as economics and human psychology. Advocates of the law of political correctness, and of multiculturalism. Contemptuous of actual human beings.

    And, as I learned watching the spectacle of Bill Clinton, if one law won’t deter you, add some more which will only be applied to those they hate so that the object of their hatred will face multiple felonious charges in hopes that at least one will find the target. Bill Clinton was not the target of their hatred so the law wasn’t applied to him.

    • #2
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:11 PM PDT
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  3. Songwriter Member

    Surely laws stop bad behavior. Just consider freeway speed limits…

    Okay, maybe that’s a bad example.

    • #3
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:15 PM PDT
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  4. James Gawron Thatcher

    Frank,

    A sign which declares a location gun free is an impotent gesture which does no good, and almost certainly some amount of harm.

    Why yes exactly. Most of what the other side proposes and implements are exactly “impotent gestures”. I think they are, in fact, The Party of Impotent Gestures. Being able to name something isn’t much but it’s a start.

    Thanks Frank.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #4
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:22 PM PDT
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  5. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Frank Soto: It would seem a self-evident truth that laws are not force fields. Simply creating a rule does not in and of itself change anyone’s behavior. Unenforced laws are useless. This would seem to be a strong argument in favor of only passing laws whose enforcement can be done in a practical manner, and which do not duplicate existing law.

    You misunderstand the purpose of laws in our modern day system. The purpose is to have a law for every situation so any person the system does not like can be put in jail or at least inconvenienced whenever the government wants. This way fear is instilled in the populace and everybody learns to keep their mouth shut and go along or if they don’t the government can just find a law to lock them up, take their stuff, destroy their business, destroy their livelihood, and destroy their family.

    • #5
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:39 PM PDT
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  6. James Of England Moderator

    Frank Soto: Ignoring that the gender wage gap is primarily a myth, and instead allowing ourselves to work under Clinton’s assumption that there is significant discrimination that still must be combated, why would passing even more legislation be our answer? How much more illegal can we make it?

    I believe that you owe Phyllis Schlafly an apology. It really is possible to make a major dent in the wage gap, simply by having the government determine how much people should be paid, and making gender a key input into that decision. While that might seem obviously un-American, the pursuit of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was a major goal of a younger HRod, and it is only because the actual legislative solution has been comprehensively defeated that a more mature Clinton has to settle for legislative ideas that won’t work.

    In addition to the Republican defeat of the ERA, the defeat of private sector unions and the halting of the expansion and now approaching defeat of public sector unions has also been helpful.

    It has not always been the case that this stuff was beyond the Overton window. Clinton’s reaching for now unavailable solutions is like an amputee trying to open a door with his phantom limb.

    • #6
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:50 PM PDT
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  7. Basil Fawlty Member

    Stad:Anyone who thinks passing a law solves a problem should look at the “Do Not Call” list. We screen our calls, and we must get ten gazillion calls a day with caller IDs like “South Carolina”, “Toll Free Caller”, or “IRS Enforcement Division” (my personal favorite is “0-000-000-0000”).

    I’ve said it before: if the NSA would track down and destroy these annoying callers, they’d be looked at with admiration, not suspicion . . .

    If your phone company provides the simultaneous ring feature, sign up for Nomorobo. The government’s Do Not Call list takes care of calls from legitimate companies. Nomorobo takes care of 95% or more of the scammers. It’s a model of private-sector ingenuity.

    • #7
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:52 PM PDT
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  8. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Basil Fawlty:

    Stad:Anyone who thinks passing a law solves a problem should look at the “Do Not Call” list. We screen our calls, and we must get ten gazillion calls a day with caller IDs like “South Carolina”, “Toll Free Caller”, or “IRS Enforcement Division” (my personal favorite is “0-000-000-0000”).

    I’ve said it before: if the NSA would track down and destroy these annoying callers, they’d be looked at with admiration, not suspicion . . .

    If your phone company provides the simultaneous ring feature, sign up for Nomorobo. The government’s Do Not Call list takes care of calls from legitimate companies. Nomorobo takes care of 95% or more of the scammers. It’s a model of private-sector ingenuity.

    I changed my phone over to an internet phone service called ooma several years ago. They have a feature that filters out SPAM and robo callers and when one comes in it does not ring on my end and the caller gets a line disconnect message so they take you out of their list. It is very very quiet at my house now.

    • #8
    • January 18, 2016, at 12:57 PM PDT
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  9. Profile Photo Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt: The purpose is to have a law for every situation so any person the system does not like can be put in jail or at least inconvenienced whenever the government wants.

    See: THREE FELONIES A DAY by Harvey Silverglate

    • #9
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:03 PM PDT
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  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Stad:Anyone who thinks passing a law solves a problem should look at the “Do Not Call” list. We screen our calls, and we must get ten gazillion calls a day with caller IDs like “South Carolina”, “Toll Free Caller”, or “IRS Enforcement Division” (my personal favorite is “0-000-000-0000”).

    I’ve said it before: if the NSA would track down and destroy these annoying callers, they’d be looked at with admiration, not suspicion . . .

    A Candidate ought to run on that platform! “No More Calls!”

    • #10
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:08 PM PDT
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  11. Bob Wainwright Member

    The example that first comes to my mind is illegal immigration: the idea that since we cant deport them all, just make a law that legalizes them. As if that solves the problem created by millions of unassimilated people within our borders. The problem persists whether we pass such a law or not. Sort of like saying that we eliminate the problems caused by illegal drug use by just making it legal: Voila! Now there’s no more illegal drug use!

    • #11
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:10 PM PDT
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  12. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Governing by myth: the new Democrat Party slogan.

    • #12
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:13 PM PDT
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  13. I Walton Member

    The beauty of bad law however is that you get to add regulations to it for decades empowering trial lawyers, bureaucrats and allowing companies large enough to have big legal and accounting departments to have a competitive advantage over small, new or potential new companies. It creates post retirement positions for regulators. Bad law keeps on giving to Democrats so they aren’t as stupid as it first appears, just cleverly parasitical. The donut analogy can be recast as a law against serving fried dough with yeast because it is fattening, unless it is really just the size of a donut hole, then its a law with prescedent.

    • #13
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:18 PM PDT
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  14. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    Frank Soto: Unenforced laws are useless.

    Not necessarily true. Unenforced laws can arguably be effective at compelling desired behaviour from the law-abiding.

    Consider the census. Few people are prosecuted for not responding to the census, but it’s arguable that more people would refrain from responding if it was explicitly voluntary.

    • #14
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:42 PM PDT
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  15. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Misthiocracy: Not necessarily true. Unenforced laws can arguably be effective at compelling desired behaviour from the law-abiding.

    That’s called social engineering, not lawmaking.

    • #15
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:47 PM PDT
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  16. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    The King Prawn:

    Misthiocracy: Not necessarily true. Unenforced laws can arguably be effective at compelling desired behaviour from the law-abiding.

    That’s called social engineering, not lawmaking.

    They aren’t mutually-exclusive.

    • #16
    • January 18, 2016, at 1:56 PM PDT
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  17. Stad Thatcher

    I’m about ready to go postal on “South Carolina” at 1-843-614-3440. They’ve called us 4 times since I got home. I looked them up, and it’s some kind of BS survey.

    Now I know why ordinary citizens don’t have access to nuclear weapons . . .

    • #17
    • January 18, 2016, at 2:12 PM PDT
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  18. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Excellent article, Frank. What would be shocking would be if a reporter asked a Democratic presidential contender about some problem and they answered, “Yes, that’s a problem, but it’s really not within the jurisdiction of the federal government.” Heck, there aren’t too many Republican candidates who would give that answer, either.

    • #18
    • January 18, 2016, at 2:25 PM PDT
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  19. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    James Of England:

    Frank Soto: Ignoring that the gender wage gap is primarily a myth, and instead allowing ourselves to work under Clinton’s assumption that there is significant discrimination that still must be combated, why would passing even more legislation be our answer? How much more illegal can we make it?

    I believe that you owe Phyllis Schlafly an apology. It really is possible to make a major dent in the wage gap, simply by having the government determine how much people should be paid, and making gender a key input into that decision. While that might seem obviously un-American, the pursuit of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was a major goal of a younger HRod, and it is only because the actual legislative solution has been comprehensively defeated that a more mature Clinton has to settle for legislative ideas that won’t work.

    Decades ago I thought Schlafly was crazy with all of those dire warnings about implications of the ERA. In retrospect, how right she was! I’m sorry for doubting you, Phyllis.

    • #19
    • January 18, 2016, at 3:32 PM PDT
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  20. Reckless Endangerment Member

    Frank, thanks for writing. Lawfare is the idea that the law should be a sword not a shield. The left tends to be more open to its usage than the right. That’s because the concentration of regulatory power in the hands of the state, even if in the short run it may benefit a conservative entity, in the long run benefits progressives. Witness the host of ills caused by the accumulation of the number of items in the purview of the administrative state. It is why the most important task of whoever succeeds Obama is to restore the institutional standing of the political branches as a check on the executive. We do not want a Republican Obama (ahem Trump), but rather someone willing to cede back to Congress oversight and leadership on various issues that have been concentrated in the hands of the executive in the Obama years.

    • #20
    • January 18, 2016, at 4:18 PM PDT
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  21. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    There is another reason Democrats like new laws, particularly where it involves federal funding and/or when authority is given to federal agencies (controlled by the permanent government of heavily Democratic employees) – it’s another hook into governing behaviors and eliminating forces they don’t like. Once government funds and/or regulations flow in a direction it gives a ready made justification for government intervention. Without Obamacare, the Obama administration could not have decided on its own to issue regulations assaulting the religious freedom not just of individuals and corporations but of religious institutions! (see the vendetta against Little Sisters of the Poor).

    Whether a new law actually addresses the problem it is supposed to solve is besides the point. It’s real value is giving another entry point for control and ensuring all non-state institutions that are not aligned with the state are brought to heel or punished.

    • #21
    • January 18, 2016, at 4:37 PM PDT
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  22. Boss Mongo Member

    Frank, great post. As I read the article, and then the comments, this scene kept running through my head:

    • #22
    • January 18, 2016, at 4:40 PM PDT
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  23. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    “The President gave a speech only yesterday where he declared that “We have now cut off every single path that Iran could have used to build a bomb.” He is of course referring to the nuclear agreement in which Iran makes many promises, and the US has almost no mechanisms for insuring their compliance. Obama seems to believe the words of the agreement have powers to rein in the whims of theocratic fascists.”

    By the way, the best take down of Obama’s fantasy is from a left-wing freshman Democratic congressman from California, Ted Lieu, who voted against the deal. He put together a 23 page analysis, based on the assumption Iran complies with the provisions and concluded:

    Iran will likely be (1) far stronger than it is today in terms of both its military and economy, (2) at a very short breakout time not just for one nuclear weapon, but many nuclear weapons and (3) capable of delivering nuclear weapons long range, potentially onto our homeland.

    According to Lieu, when the rollback provisions expire it will allow Iran to have “a vast nuclear infrastructure” and increases the chances of “a lengthy, difficult and more deadly war with Iran in the long term“.

    • #23
    • January 18, 2016, at 4:54 PM PDT
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  24. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Derek Simmons:

    Fake John/Jane Galt: The purpose is to have a law for every situation so any person the system does not like can be put in jail or at least inconvenienced whenever the government wants.

    See: THREE FELONIES A DAY by Harvey Silverglate

    I have heard about the book but have not read it. Also see what happened to Dinesh D’Souza. A law for everything with the laws applied against political enemies while political friends are given a pass or a fine. I suggest reading Dinesh D’Souza new book “Stealing America”. In it he explains much better than I what I have seen all my life and how the lower classes view government.

    • #24
    • January 18, 2016, at 11:20 PM PDT
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  25. EJHill Podcaster

    Ultimately, the case against ObamaCare is simple math. Most plans run $7,000 per year with a $10,000 deductible. That’s great if you have a catastrophic illness or accident. Otherwise it makes no sense.

    I get to be a bit Johnny One Note about this, but reform that confuses price control with cost control is doomed.

    • #25
    • January 19, 2016, at 2:20 AM PDT
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  26. donald todd Inactive

    Reckless Endangerment:We do not want a Republican Obama (ahem Trump), but rather someone willing to cede back to Congress oversight and leadership on various issues that have been concentrated in the hands of the executive in the Obama years.

    Two considerations.

    One. We don’t know how Trump would act as president because we have no experience of Trump as president. How do I know this? I don’t know how Reckless Endangerment would act as president because I have no experience of Reckless Endangerment as president.

    Two. The Congress has ceded its leadership on how the law is applied to the various executive cabinet departments and their subgroups. It permits the Congress to raise its collective voice in agreement with the citizens who are being abused, and then pass a law or amendment to the law which partially defangs the abuse that has been identified.

    Had Congress examined the ideas up front and put limits on them, we might not have gone through these kinds of episodes.

    • #26
    • January 19, 2016, at 7:24 AM PDT
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  27. PHenry Member

    It seems to me there is a sort of a bell curve on legislation. Once the pure volume of laws gets to a certain point, nobody any longer knows what is and isn’t legal, so they no longer spend much time trying to remain law abiding.

    We have passed the top of the curve at this point, making much of the legislation pointless. It has become nearly impossible for any one to be truly ‘law abiding’, since nearly everything you do can be interpreted as breaking some statute.

    • #27
    • January 19, 2016, at 9:38 AM PDT
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  28. Matt Upton Coolidge

    Hold up. Explain in greater detail your “No-weight gain donut” bill. I’ll sign your petition. Who wouldn’t be in favor of fat-free donuts? Probably republicans who want fat children, that’s who. Nobody ever thinks of the children, and we finally have the opportunity to act (unlike that do-nothing congress). Big Bakery just doesn’t want you to know about it. They own the politicians. We need to get money out of politics. We should pass a law or something.

    • #28
    • January 20, 2016, at 12:09 PM PDT
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  29. James Of England Moderator

    Matt Upton:Hold up. Explain in greater detail your “No-weight gain donut” bill. I’ll sign your petition. Who wouldn’t be in favor of fat-free donuts? Probably republicans who want fat children, that’s who. Nobody ever thinks of the children, and we finally have the opportunity to act (unlike that do-nothing congress). Big Bakery just doesn’t want you to know about it. They own the politicians. We need to get money out of politics. We should pass a law or something.

    I think I shall steal this.

    • #29
    • January 20, 2016, at 2:42 PM PDT
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