Make a law, lose a law

After reading about Georgia’s new law that jails foreign travellers for even minor traffic offences, this article has even more relevance.

The community of Leaf Rapids has opted for political showmanship to deal with environmental challenges, rather than embrace solutions respecting freedom and responsibility.

The community’s town council passed a bylaw prohibiting retailers from providing or selling plastic bags. There is no room for any middle ground or creative solution.

The idea of the ban is not new. It has been used for different causes. The Ontario government “banned” the whole pit bull canine breed from the province. They are starting to see how difficult and oppressive this law is. We also see it in the movement to ban transfat and fatty foods.

This is becoming very common and it heralds a dangerous time when belief in promoting the “good” is used to justify increasing levels of personal oppression. Just look at our laws on “hate speech.” Sure, it is easy for those who hold orthodox views on these subjects to support these laws, but for dissenters it means financial and professional ruin. It is so easy to “ban” offensive speech rather than challenge it and defeat it through debate.

It is always someone’s particular vision of the good that is being imposed on everyone. Philosopher Isaiah Berlin spoke about the tendency of governments, including democratic ones, to use their conception of the good as a pretext to commit atrocities. Witness the French Revolution.

In Leaf Rapids, the legitimate right of retailers to sell whatever they choose to whomever they wish seems to have been thrown out the window for someone’s misguided belief they are saving the planet. Also ignored is the concept that attacking the rights of some is not justified by appealing to the “good” of the majority.

So much for discussion where dissenting voices can be heard. Banning is not about rational debate. It is the triumph of someone’s will over the many.

This is something that legislators should think about before they pass yet another law to solve some perceived problem by simply making something that was legal yesterday, illegal today.

We are now seeing public officials wanting to ban toy guns and we have seen serious discussion about banning ‘pointy knives’ (one of my personal favourites). One community was going to ban gang ‘colours’ from being worn – as if that was going to address the problems of gang violence.

If there is a problem that needs solving, there is someone with a solution: ban something. Why not? It’s easy, it looks like you’re doing something positive and if it doesn’t solve the problem who cares? It gets you publicity now and moves the debate to a later date where you can ban something else.

It was suggested by someone, somewhere, that every time a new law is passed the responsible body should be required to remove a law from the books. Not a bad idea. At least it would give politicians and bureaucrats something useful to do with their time.

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