The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

5 March 2006

Mission creep

New cars have a genuine appeal, but if you've hardly gotten any mileage out of your old one, you're probably loath to trade it in.

It doesn't seem to work that way for laws, though; even if we're not getting any use out of the old ones, we still want new ones. Eric Scheie explains:

It's just a recurrent pattern. The drug laws started as a tax measure in 1914, and ever since, they have become ever more draconian. Examples aren't really needed, although the latest trend (now that they've run out of drugs to make illegal) is to criminalize precursor ingredients. So Americans are no longer allowed to buy cold medicine over the counter — all because it might be used to manufacture illegal drugs. What's next? Glassware which might be used to cook drugs?

Sssh. Not so loud.

It has always been illegal to cross the border into the United States without documentation, and without going through the proper protocols. Yet for many decades, there has been a de facto open border policy with Mexico, which has allowed millions of illegal immigrants. The laws are there, but people act as if there aren't any laws. Instead of going after the existing non-citizen law breakers (who are, after all, the ones who broke the law), Congress proposes dramatically toughening penalties against American citizens who hire them. Doesn't this put the cart before the horse?

The pattern seems to be pass laws, ignore them, wait until the problem is huge, then pass draconian laws, plus new laws against conduct which resulted from the previous climate of non-enforcement.

It goes on:

It has long been illegal for felons to buy or possess guns, and to buy, sell, or transfer a gun to a felon. But felons buy guns all the time illegally. Which means that we need a crackdown on what? On perfectly legal purchases of guns by ordinary citizens.

Because, you know, the felons might steal them or something.

Only slightly closer to home, there's a different worry: when some kid climbs my fence while I'm away and drowns in my pool, and it's my fault because, well, I had a pool. Now I don't actually have a pool, but this is what I have come to expect; the lawyers call this an "attractive nuisance."

(Aside: About ten years ago, I was still living in one of the CrappiFlats™; I was hauling my laundry bag across the complex one morning when I saw some unexpected activity at the pool area. I dropped my bag and peered in, and there were a couple of kids I hadn't seen before, their clothing tossed aside, their grins as wide as could be. No, I didn't turn them in; but someone did, and a few days later, there was a new fence around the pool area, harder to climb and easier to see through.)

So I figure that eventually I'll be told that effective on such and such a date, I won't be allowed to have a pool, inasmuch as pools are demonstrably a nuisance and all that. A neighbor once asked me if I was considering a pool, and I said I wasn't, and indeed I'm not; but should anyone propose a ban, I'm calling the contractors first thing in the morning.

(Yes, it is sorta warm and sunny today. Why do you ask?)

Posted at 1:22 PM to Political Science Fiction