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Grant Sutton

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What are the primary characteristics of good laws? How can we get government to pass better structured laws?

I am curious what in the mind of Ted people makes a good law.

I am also curious how we can get legal bodies to pass better laws.

For sake of unscientifically monitoring the results I would like people to post tenants of a good law separate from commentary on how to pass them. This way people can say their feeling on the tenants of the structure, as well as giving follow up statements for why the tenant are important. If one agrees with the tenant, but not the follow up they can then vote their approval. Assuming TED forums let me this will be followed with 2 post showing the structure I am proposing.

Topics: law
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  • Mar 18 2012: I think good laws should keep men from infringing on the rights of others to pursue life, liberty or happiness. They should define boundaries, when needed, to resolve issues between men that might otherwise be resolved by the strong taking advantage of the weak directly. They should set boundaries for the amount influence or control one person can have over another person. They should permit people of all ages, races, religions, and intellects to have the opportunity to live in harmony with each other such that their ability to share the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the path of least resistance. In instances where disharmony occurs, laws should be present of ensure opportunity to resolve the issue through an equitable due process of the law. Laws should also define how all three branches of National, State, and Local governments are to provide public services, administer laws,and pay for all aspects of the procedure. Outside the US, Laws should permit nations to exist and apply their own versions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to their people. Laws should exist for handling the international issues similar to the ones described above.
  • Mar 6 2012: Laws governing the conduct of citizens tend to be developed in response to people with property to protect wanting the less well-off to leave their property alone. It is a matter for lament that the rich and powerful never feel any sense of obligation to those without. The banking crisis was a recent exemplar. Wealthy people gambling with the money of ordinary citizens in order to increase their own wealth. No apologies and banks continuing to pay bankers obscene amounts of cash by way of salary and bonus payments.

    Good laws should apply equally to all.

    The recent theft of public money by a large number of British MPs did not see immediate formal trials for perverting the course of justice nor were there a mass prosecutions for theft and false accounting. A poor person stealing anything from their workplace, let alone when they are in a position of trust and power, would probably have been jailed without question. At the very least, their lives would effectively have been ruined.

    The legislature comprises people who are already on the gravy train. I would not expect too much in the way of just legislation from people who find that they are in a position to lose too much, especially where they pass legislation which applies to all people equally. Lip service is paid to the concept of everyone being equal before the law yet if you have an unpaid legal aid, you can be sure that they have little interest in the outcome of your case.

    Equal access to the law, regardless of income and wealth is a starting point. Laws which do not seek merely to criminalise those without property would have little chance of being widely accepted. People will fight to protect what they have and people without property to protect are not usually considered as having a voice worth hearing.
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    Mar 5 2012: "Good laws", to me, would be relevant to the time and existing form of government. As an example the Puritan Ethics Laws were necessary for the survival of the early colonists (you don't work you don't eat). Religious laws were often for the good of the followers ... The eating of pork was ban because of trichinosis not religious reasons, so it was for the good of the people. In the early 1900's the abuse of alcohol led to the ban and a Constitutional Amendment adopted. This was found to be imposed without choice and later repealed. The US today is also facing drug wars. The use of recreatinal drugs is a costly and personally harmful habit and is seen as adictive. It has led to cartels entering into the US illegally and is blamed for widespread crime and murders. A ruler should rule--unnoticed, so compatible with his environment and doing his job so seamlessly as to escape notice. Lao Tzu Chinese Philosopher 6th Century BCE so should it be with laws. Legislators rush to "make" a law where the need is questionable and the research less than necessary. I therefore propose that all BOBs be revered as intellectual leaders for the good of the people and mostly for the BOBs out there. Regards .... Bob
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    Mar 5 2012: Primary characteristics of good laws are that they work.
    Sounds incredibly obvious, but your country has had the war on drugs going for roughly 40 years..

    Perhaps we should begin with infant observational training for law makers before moving onto something as complex as reasoning and structired law.
    • Mar 5 2012: Working is very hard to objectively measure. While I agree great laws work much better than poor ones, I may have exact opposite views from another reasonable human on what the definition of working is. Prohibition decreased the consumption of alcohol in the US even after it was repealed, by most measurements and certainly during the time it was illegal. It past with a group of people feeling that it would not effect them, and touched most American lives in some way. It also promoted crime, lying, and an under-culture disrespectful of the laws.
      Most laws that restrict personal freedom have this dual edged nature. While I agree with you that my country has waged stupid expensive wars on drugs some of which I think probably have the opposite effect on usage, while costing the tax payers money, and being racist in enforcement. I am not sure how to measure work. Does your country have a good way of evaluating working law structures?

      BTW I think our war on drugs has been going on for at least 90 years in a fashion. And we think Iraq and Afghanistan were long lasting... oops off topic.
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    Mar 5 2012: many laws can be corrected using a red pen and a straightedge
  • Mar 5 2012: One could increase the legibility of laws by opening and measuring how many people understand what the laws that are being passed are trying to accomplish. By posting laws that are soon to be past on a website and asking readers of the law do you understand the law. If people register a lack of understanding and post why this is vague with semi-direct feedback. Some of this behavior was tested with the SOPA bills, and trying to separate legibility from dislike could be very difficult.
  • Mar 5 2012: Legibility: I think the laws should be understandable to the people that are subject to them.