Our rule of law and its slippery slope
Most of us believe that our rule of law is sacred and that passing laws will fix recurring problems, address unwanted behavior, even establish a universal moral code. Examples of relatively recent legislative activity are texting while driving and sexual harassment.
Note the wide definitional range between these two illegal activities. One that presents a quandary of epic proportions and is seldom considered.
- Our legislators pass laws for specific easily defined behavior-like my example of texting while driving- and for ambiguous and therefore poorly defined behavior like sexual harassment .
- One law firm defines sexual harassment as any undesired sexual conduct at work, which engenders a hostile, intimidating, or uncomfortable workplace for workers. Read that definition slowly, carefully and you will see that anyone can make a case for sexual harassment.
- How on earth does someone defend themselves against a claim of making another person…uncomfortable? Effectively creating the situation we have now, an ever growing miasma where huge money can be made for both plaintiffs and their attorneys. Unsurprising since two out of three Senators are lawyers.
- A staggering personal experience with our judicial system compelled me to write: Do You Solemnly Swear? A Nation of Law-The Dark Side.
Consider the fact that no one knows how many laws are on the books in this country.
- How can that be?
- Simple-565 legislators view their job as passing laws on your -or someone’s- behalf, resulting in the passage of 40, 627 laws and regulations in 2010. Given that same rate, in the last eight years, that means an additional 325,016.
- What about the laws passed in the previous 210 years? Mind boggling right?
The Ten Commandments Became 600+
- There is nothing new here. The irresistible temptation to look to the law for all solutions did not begin in America. It began when God chose Moses, the only person to see the Face of God.
- But there was a caveat- a big one. “Do not add nor subtract from these commands,” He tells Moses to instruct the Jews. “Do not add..”
- How many laws did the Jews add on to these simple 10? Wasn’t it about 613 or thereabouts?
There is an even more fundamental dilemma: The illusion of logic and reason as the grounds for decision making.
- We’ve been schooled in Descarte’s Cogito Ergo Sum- I think therefore I am. The same Descartes who performed autopsies on live dogs, the euphemism vivisection sounds far more rational, doesn’t it? He claimed that their screams were merely neurological responses by non-rational organisms who could feel no pain.
- Remarkable, isn’t it? The power we cede others to shape our view of reality and our world? Don’t be too hard on Renee however, after all, he lived during the phase of human development called the Enlightenment. The dawn of man’s self-deification. Descartes would be stunned to learn the truth about the animals he tortured, if he were capable of accepting the breadth of his ignorance and cruelty.
- Years ago, while working on my doctorate, I became intrigued by decision making. I worked in academic medicine, with physicians who were ostensibly at the very top of the heap of rationality and should be the quintessence of reason. My experience with physicians was different; they were a group who appeared no more, at times far less, reasonable than non-physicians. And frequently, their decisions were based on emotion rather than data.
- The administrators whom I worked for were the same, driven more by emotion than by the data we all drowned in. Therefore, when my dissertation adviser found the Nobel Prize winning Garbage Can Model of Decision-Making, I was ecstatic. The researchers confirmed my increasing suspicion even the most highly educated of us rely far more on emotion than reason when making decisions- even when lives are at stake.
Okay, you have convinced me- if the rule of law isn’t the answer, what is? In my experience, the need to fix something can stem from some sense of outrage. At injustice, inequality, unfairness, a deep sense of wrongness.
- Perhaps like you, I am so extremely familiar with the seduction of outrage that I wrote an article called, Us vs Them: The Deliciousness of Moral Outrage.
- And will once again quote a man who knew far more about the manipulation of law than has most of us ever could, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. While writing about the Gulag and what should be done to seek redress, he wrote these searing words:
- “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
- The obvious- indeed the only answer then- is to turn that pointing finger so eager to blame ‘them‘ around and point it at ourselves. The blame is our own. Therefore, so is the solution,