On July 1st, a long list of new laws went into effect here in Virginia. I wonder why.
The major new law prohibits text messaging while driving - it carries a $20 fine for the first offense and a $50 penalty for subsequent violations, and drivers can be cited only after being stopped by police for another reason, such as running a red light.
On the one hand, texting while driving is so dangerous that one side of me is glad it's been outlawed. On the other hand, I think it's depressing that we need a law to keep people from doing something so dangerous. It's also depressing to know that the Common Virginia Dumbass (moronus oblivious) will keep on doing it anyway, until he kills himself or someone else.
We seem to have the idea that problems can be solved simply by passing laws. My personal view is that a proliferation of laws breeds resentment and what one might call "law fatigue." I've never believed you can legislate common sense - we can ban smoking in most bars and restaurants (coming here in Virginia on December 1st), and people intent on killing themselves and others by smoking will still find a way to do it; you can ban texting while driving, and fools who think they'll live forever will still do it; you can require motorcyclists to wear helmets, and morons will line up to prove they have granite heads impervious to injury when they come out second in a contest with a fixed object.
I have the same feeling about so-called "hate crime legislation." If a person is murdered because he's black or white, gay or straight, Jewish or Muslim, male or female, or whatever - the crime is murder. Murder has been illegal since Cain slew Abel (unless, of course, you are a radical Muslim, in which case you believe killing infidels is okay). The victim, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or anything else, is still dead and the killer needs to be punished. Adding another layer of legal obfuscation atop the original crime does nothing except give new ammunition for lawyers seeking to drag out the procedings and make more money.
Paradoxically, more laws can lead to less-lawful behavior as scofflaws ignore them, shrewd lawyers engineer workarounds, and venal legislators legislate exceptions for their campaign contributors. We started out with 10 Commandments...the United States Code alone is divided into 50 separate "Titles," and each state, county, city, and minor municipality piles its own laws on top of those. Each of us can almost certainly be arrested for something.
Common sense isn't so common any more. We've buried it under heaps of laws.
Have a good day. Do the right thing because it's right - not because the law forces you to.
More thoughts tomorrow.