Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Toaster Plooking and Vague Laws

Frank Zappa was a visionary. While I don't count myself as an ardent fan of his music (I have to be in just the right mood to enjoy him), his forays into philosophy were prescient at times.

This is one of those times.

Joe's Garage was a magnum opus of a work. Centered around the idea that music was outlawed and the central character of Joe having been arrested for plooking a toaster (don't ask), somewhere there is a passage that referred to a government that eventually hoped to make everything illegal.

Well, boys and girls, we aren't that far away from fulfilling Frank's dark dream. Here's the crux of the biscuit'

A conservative think tank and criminal defense lawyers are forming an unusual alliance to try to get Congress to quit writing criminal laws so loosely that they subject innocent people to unjust prosecution and prison.
Now, let's say we're in business. We want to make money. We identify a sector of society where we find a need for our services. We decide, "Hey, we can fill that need and make some money". This is how it works for the vast majority of businesses in America.

However, the rules are different when it comes to the legal industry. Since the creation of laws is the backbone of our government, the more laws we have, the greater the need for lawyers. And when one factors in the multiplication of rules and regulations to support a law, the need rises exponentially.

Voila! You can now forcibly increase the market for your services, something that an average business cannot do. Even better, you can design a law that is so convoluted, no one can comprehend it and thus increase your market share (and billable hours) through the appeals process.

I'll use another musical reference: One song on Don Henley's album Building the Perfect Beast notes that when you cross a lawyer with a godfather, you get an offer you can't understand.

*rimshot* I'll be here all week.

Our Founding Fathers valued clarity, openess, and honesty in government. For if the citizenry is to hold power, the rules must be clear and easily understood. Legal principles should be based on concepts of right and wrong that the average person knows already in his or her heart. Our legal system need not be complicated. It shouldn't require an oracle to decipher (for an hourly fee).

However, in what appears to be an effort to increase market share, our legal system is awash in unecessary and obtuse laws, so many that just counting them would take a lifetime. All this is great if you're a lawyer. If you're an average citzen, not so much. Eventually, you could become frozen with fear that you might be violating a law that you were not aware of. Even if you were to read a law and think that you were in compliance with it, there's no certainty that it couldn't be interpreted in a different way by a different judge. Then what do you do?

This situation need not be. It presents the perfect argument in favor of citizen legislators who will write clearly worded laws, ones who understand the potential impact of their actions in the everyday life of the average American, and will strive to minimize their legal footprint upon society.

Until we reach that point, do what Evelyn does. Don't plook a toaster.

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