Monday, September 2, 2013

Do More Laws Equal Less Crime?


I was clearly in the minority on a recent online discussion about a possible ban on texting and driving. I think I was the only one who spoke out against it—not because I think it’s wise to text and drive, mind you, but because we already have penalties in place for reckless driving, not to mention vehicular homicide. The idea that we need “hate crimes” laws when it’s already a crime to injure or kill someone is also odious to me. If two people get jumped in a parking lot at night and both are seriously hurt, why is it worse if one attack was motivated by “hate,” and how is it less criminal if the other was motivated solely by the intent to steal? Both should be considered equally wrong, in my opinion.

The flawed line of thinking that demands more laws is that the law will keep people safe. One of the women who were outraged at my opinion declared, “We need the ban so my children will be safe!” Had we been having this argument in person, I would have laughed in her face. Who is so foolish as to believe laws protect you from harm?

Fact: It is against the law to drink and drive. The first law prohibiting drunk driving was enacted more than one hundred years ago. Has the law put an end to drunk driving? Of course not. People are still being killed in drunk driving accidents, just as they are being killed in reckless driving accidents. Tacking more and more laws onto the law we already have doesn’t make life safer. It’s naive to think otherwise.

People seem to want to outlaw any behavior that is stupid. Texting and driving is certainly stupid. So is drunk driving. But is it wise to outlaw every stupidity? The Bible says “the poor you have with you always.” The sad fact is that the stupid are here with us too. And who among us has never done something stupid? Right now, none of these laws affects me; I don’t imbibe, and I’m not fond of texting at my desk, so I certainly don’t attempt it while driving. I don’t have a hidden agenda for wanting to call a halt to additional laws. All I want is for people to use logic and not knee-jerk emotions when considering the addition of new laws where we already have a law. I think a lot of it is politicians posturing for reelection, and people don’t realize what is really going on.

I don’t have a problem with laws against driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. But when it comes to texting, applying makeup, eating, etc., enough is enough. Reckless driving law covers all that.

Lao-Tse said, a Chinese philosopher who lived around the time of Socrates and Confucius, wrote, “The more laws that are written, the more criminals are produced.” That’s the point I try to make. More laws don’t equal less crime; more laws equal more criminals. Criminalizing stupidity just makes criminals out of the stupid as well as the momentarily thoughtless. The reality is that if, in a moment of stupidity, someone is injured or killed, consequences will occur. Law will have an effect. Our government already has that covered.

Laws don’t protect the innocent as much as they penalize the guilty. In fact, I could regale you with stories of people contacting the police about crimes that were about to take place and how the police said there was nothing they could do until after the crime occurred, but that’s a lesson for another day.

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