11 June 2013

You can't have sumptuary laws without having Fashion Police

ProfessorBainbridge.com | "The IRS is a tax collector; it shouldn’t be allowed to be the speech and belief police"

It's all well and good to say that the IRS should stick to collecting taxes, but you can't have the kind of complex, subjective, largely arbitrary tax code we have and also have a bureaucracy which implements it simply, impartially and consistently. Part of having complex laws is having complex (difficult to control, easy to subvert) enforcement mechanisms.

Or more simply: part of having laws is having enforcement mechanisms. Libertarians can get a little shrill about "all laws are violent" but at the core this is what they're dealing with. Legislation is just words. You can't make it affect people's actions without some instantiating force -- an enforcement mechanism.

It doesn't matter how pure your motives or how noble your intentions are. All new legislation must be backed up with bureaucrats, committees, regulations, three-ring binders, check lists, forms, file cabinets, councils, reports, fines, inspectors, permissions, certificates, licenses, records, clerks, judges, tribunals, ... and so on up to constabularies, jails, wardens, and armed guards.

If you don't believe me then pick a law. Any law. What happens if I don't comply? What if I don't cooperate? And then what? And then what? And then? And then? Then? The end of that chain of questions can only end in one of two places: (1) a toothless, hollow shell of a threat which is attempting to bluff subjects into compliance; (2) a guy with a gun.

You simply can not have laws which control who can spend what, and who can say what when about which things, and not end up with some "Speech Police." You have to choose.