Crime per Ayn Rand, James Madison

“who knows what the law is to-day”

James MadisonI must admit I’ve never actually read Ayn Rand. The opinions of many who have either perused her books or watched the movies based on them were unimpressed.

Yet, a Quote A Day thing popped up in my email, and it made a certain amount of sense. Of course, I don’t know the context. “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

This seems to be a fairly accurate description of the laws of America, at different points in time, for a select population. For instance, the Black Codes of the Jim Crow era. Black people could be fined if they worked in any occupation other than farming or domestic servitude. There are LOTS of examples of this, such as the now-repealed Rockefeller drug laws.

Federalist 62

James Madison probably penned Federalist No. 62. It is largely about the nature of the House of Representatives versus the Senate. For instance why a Senator should be older than a member of the House.

But there is this one paragraph that just jumped out at me.

“The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself.” In other words, one ought not to change the law frivolously.

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read…” Has not the Congress, and undoubtedly state legislatures, regularly passed omnibus bills? They have provisions that almost no one had looked at. And they often have repercussions that were unforeseen or foreseen only by a devious player or two.

“…or so incoherent that they cannot be understood…” I was watching one of the Sunday morning news shows. The moderator said a particular bill meant X. An inept White House representative – let’s call him Larry K. – said it meant Y. The moderator said, “I’ve read the bill!” Larry mused that the MEANING of the bill was beyond what was actually on the paper. Ouch.

Consistency

“If they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.” Some traffic speed traps are like that, suddenly changing the speed limit without proper signage.

“Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?” I was struck by something on Trevor Noah on July 15, 2020. Teen Jailed for Not Doing Homework. Where is such a law? The case was in Michigan, and was actually a judge’s ruling.

“In mid-May, a Michigan judge found a 15-year-old Black student guilty of ‘failure to submit any schoolwork and getting up for school,’ and sent her to juvenile detention.” She stayed for 78 days before “the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the teen’s immediate release. The situation sparked “conversations around the school-to-prison pipeline and systemic racism. ”

Thus endeth the musings for today.