A theory about bad laws

There’s a perception among the Democrats, that gun laws affect Republicans most. In a 50/50 state, passing anti-gun laws harasses enough Republicans into leaving to guarantee future electoral majority for the left. There’s also a perception among Republicans that most drug users and sellers are Democrats, so prosecuting the “drug war” brands enough of them as disenfranchised felons to guarantee future electoral majority for the Republicans.

These perceptions are probably cultivated by those who have something to gain from enforcing these laws, just like the Inquisition got a new lease on life once asset forfeiture became a standard practice. So these ridiculous laws criminalizing possession of plant leaves or bent metal washers more harshly than assault or rape are probably here to stay. Too many cops, lawyers, propagandists and bureaucrats are playing into the worst prejudices of bigots who are convinced that they won’t get swept up in the frenzy of vicious prohibition enforcement.

With guns, there’s also an angle of control. Firearms are subject to excise taxes, which are presented as a sort of “luxury tax” but historically have been levied on life-sustaining essentials. For example, salt and alcohol have been highly taxed through most of modern history. Both taxes were collected with deadly force readily used, and both untaxed salt and alcohol have been poisoned by tax collectors to prevent their use by humans.

The importance of salt before refrigeration cannot be overstated. Likewise, alcohol was once the only available method of disinfecting water besides less field-expedient boiling. So restrictions on these substances were meant to affect essentials for healthy living. Guns fit right into that category, being extremely useful for maintaining personal safety. Unlike salt and alcohol, guns are also useful for fighting the tax collectors and other government impositions, so the main fury of modern revenuers is on weapons more than it is on salt or alcohol.

When we see bad laws viciously enforced, we need to look past the official justifications and see who profits…or merely think that they profit. Blue laws have more trade than religion behind them, as do other apparently nonsensical restrictions. Without an understanding of evil, it’s difficult to eradicate it.

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2 Responses to A theory about bad laws

  1. Lyle says:

    Good points. I used to say that we failed to learn the lessons of alcohol Prohibition. I now consider that to been naive. We (or rather those who lust for power) learned the lessons very well. They learned that there is money, power, and justification for more money and power, in such laws. Sure they result in powerful organized criminal networks, but a) we can work with them, and b) they serve to further intimidate and irritate the public, and an intimidated, irritated public serves the government. Everybody (who is authoritarian) wins.

    Back in 1920 such a ban was understood to require an amendment to the constitution, but no such silly barriers to government over-reach are recognized anymore. Why should they be?

  2. Jennifer says:

    First paragraph – yeah, the more I’ve seen, the more I’m convinced that’s absolutely part of the calculus in the legislative back rooms. Both sides.

    A second factor I think is the increasing cultural speciation we’re seeing since the end of the broadcast-monoculture era. To borrow from Tacitus, “the more diverse the state, the more numerous the laws.”

    A dull 1950’s suburb doesn’t need to pass ordinances about loud block parties because no one there *wants* to have loud block parties. Stir in new people from a culture that loves loud block parties, and – lo and behold, you start having a political fight over it. And new laws.

    Repeat for everything from gun ownership to what color you can paint your front door. Vanilla monoculture may be dull, but there’s something to be said for none of your neighbors trying to legislate your rights away- because they all value the exact same things.

    Finally, there’s the pure monkey power games at the root level –

    ” It is about dominance, humiliation, and – perhaps most importantly – demonstrating to others exactly who has the power and who does not.”


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