Too many laws

A lot of people have written follow-ons to this post by Stephen L. Carter.  The gist of it:

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

I wish this caution were only theoretical. It isn’t. Whatever your view on the refusal of a New York City grand jury to indict the police officer whose chokehold apparently led to the death of Eric Garner, it’s useful to remember the crime that Garner is alleged to have committed: He was selling individual cigarettes, or loosies, in violation of New York law.

The Washington Post adds:

a society where almost everyone is a criminal will still be a society where the sheer number of hostile interactions between police and civilians will be very large, which in turn ensures that there will be considerable room for abuse. Moreover, curbing police abuse through training, supervision, and after-the-fact accountability is far from an easy task. Among other things, prosecutors are understandably reluctant to go after the very same police departments whose cooperation they need to gather evidence and apprehend suspects. In addition, police are a well-organized interest group with considerable lobbying power and influence over both major political parties.

Rand Paul was mocked by Jon Stewart and vilified by others (see Sam Seder and a list in this thoughtful article in the Verge) for stating that Eric Garner was killed because of tax law, but Paul’s reasoning is correct:

“Well you know I think it’s hard not to watch that video of him saying ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ and not be horrified by it. But I think there’s something bigger than the individual circumstances. Obviously, the individual circumstances are important, but I think it is also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes, so that [drove] cigarettes underground by making them so expensive.”

The point, which those critical of the comment completely missed, was that there are just way too many laws out there to be enforced.  With enforcement (it has the word force right in it!!) comes inevitable abuse, because systems and people are not perfect.

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