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The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, May 17, 2003
 
My Senator, Rick Santorum, has said some stupid things recently. He put homosexual sex in the same plane as incest, and he said the government had the right to prohibit it.

The danger in this, I think, is more than just outright bigotry: it comes down to Santorum’s real confusion about the purpose of law. Santorum seems to feel that law should be a place where a community expresses itself.

I, however, am a legal minimalist.

I believe we should strive to make the legal code as simple as possible. Every law establishes a crime, and every crime should be prosecuted. The problem with sodomy laws is that they establish a crime that few people really want to prosecute (and the minority that do are more frightening than the “problem” they wish to eliminate).

We should evaluate each law by applying two criteria:

1) Is it really necessary?
2) Can we enforce it fairly? (Are we doing so?)

Sodomy laws are dumb because sodomy is not a problem (#1), and the laws can’t be enforced fairly, only selectively (#2).

I saw some dumb laws when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. Africa sets price controls on many commodities and foodstuffs. The laws are completely unfair (they hurt farmers and sellers disproportionately) and unnecessary (free markets work fine), and they are generally not enforced (because everyone breaks them quietly).

But they give a special ominous power to law enforcement, because they can be enforced - selectively. People in power select who will be prosecuted. If you speak out against a politician, you can expect to find that police will take quite a bit of interest in how your wife sells produce in the market, or how much you paid for the kerosene in your house. It’s a win-win for the bad guys: the politician intimidates you by having you imprisoned, and the police get the bribe money you’ll pay to free yourself.

I have a similar problem with speed limits in the US. I speed on the way to work. If you are on most US highways in the morning and you’re not doing 75 MPH, you’re part of the problem.

And the laws are enforced selectively:

First, they pulled over drivers from New Jersey, and I laughed, because I hate those SOBS…

Then they pulled over the car full of hippy kids with the anti-war bumper stickers. I thought this was groovy, because hippies belong in the Sixties…

Then they pulled over the sports cars and I was satisfied, because I have two kids and no money…

Then they pulled over the cars that were playing their music too loudly and SON OF A BITCH! Now I have points on my license!

I’m all in favor of setting realistic speed limits (on many highways this would be 75 MPH) AND REALLY ENFORCING THEM – using cameras mounted on highway overpasses. You speed, you lose – no questions, no bias. This would be fair (though not necessarily popular) and it would solve the problem.

Sodomy Laws? No. Bad idea, Senator.

(But as always, the democrats will overplay their hand in PA. Because Santorum’s bigoted, they’ll think that excuses them from having a platform. They’ll find some jackass trial lawyer from Philly with a dashing smile, some scripted answers and few dumb ideas on expanidng the government to help everyone. The guy will win Philly, but lose the state – just like last time. The democrats will be baffled that Pennsylvania is so bigoted and so skeptical of wonderful new government programs. Republicans have nothing to worry about as long as the democrats are so incompetent.)


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