The Private Citizen 105: Law vs. Justice

A very much needed episode indeed, my compliments for laying it out straight and nice!

You’ve mentioned a principle that is widely acknowledged, and, in Russia, is usually formulated as “[person’s] ignorance about the law doesn’t indemnify [that person of the liability for breaking the said law]”. You cited a German saying to the same extent, and I immediately remembered an argument that I can’t quite remember the origin of (I read it somewhere, most certainly in some science fiction). I find the argument amusing, even if questionable, so I thought I’d share it:

If all people, or at least most of the people, were to obey the laws, the society would function the way the lawmakers indented. In a democracy, it is usually implied that the lawmakers’ goal is the good of the people, and the laws are written to that extent, which is why obeying the laws is desirable. However, to anyone looking at any modern legal system, it is absolutely obvious that a layperson can not possibly be expected to read and fully comprehend all the aspects of the laws relevant to the layperson’s life; even professional lawyers usually don’t claim to be well versed in laws outside of their immediate area of expertise, be that criminal law, property law, inheritance law, or some other area; and at the same time all those (and multiple other) laws apply to our layperson, who is supposed to follow these laws in day-to-day life. To follow and obey some regulation, one need to first comprehend that regulation, and the vastness of our legal systems makes it an impossible task for a layperson. It is therefore obvious that our legal systems are not suitable for following in day-to-day life, and were likely not created for this intent at all.

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In the No Agenda Show something similar was suggested, and it makes kind-a sense: That legislation proposals seems to be done intentionally too complex, and then the people who proposed them eventually leave their roles to work as consultants who are of the few who understand the ins and outs of these laws they inflicted upon the people!

Food for thought

Oh, as I was listening to @fabsh mentioning this feedback on the new episode, I remembered another nice thing I read somewhere (must have been science fiction, too):

Lawyers make their money from the gap between the law and the common sense.

I think it’s very well said. Indeed, in a layperson’s day-to-day interactions with the legal field the layperson usually makes the judgements based on tradition, custom, and, ultimately, common sense (which includes assessing how much the tradition is applicable, for example). However, when things come to court, it’s not common sense that the judge will use to evaluate (and punish) these judgements, but the law. Had it been otherwise, most people would be able to present their own cases and deal with the whole system on their own, using their own common sense; instead, everybody needs a lawyer as a proxy to the system, and uses the lawyer’s knowledge of the law to achieve the same goal. Had the law reflected the common sense closely, much less lawyers would be needed.

Of course, I don’t know how to build a legal system in which the law would reflect the common sense close enough, I’m not even ready to go as far as declare such a system possible…