Why do we need to limit our number of laws?
Although I hear it frequently complained of that we have too many laws (or, rather, I think “regulations” would be the better term) on the books, there’s two essential points that I think are missing from that statement:
- Laws are, generally speaking, enacted for the common good; and
- Laws are only relevant for the particular purpose for which they are enacted.
As a case in point, let’s consider the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health) regulations. OSHA deals with, among other things, safety in the workplace, particularly in construction sites. The regulations are…well, thick. There’s a lot of them. They might seem needless…I mean, why should a construction site be required to shore up walls greater than 8 feet in height? Why not nine? Why stick all these complications on the construction industry?
One of my lawyer buddies represented a woman whose husband was killed because his construction company didn’t shore up the walls at 8 feet. He was crushed to death. I bet she wished that company had been following the regulations. I bet she’ll be grateful for any compensation she gets when the court rules that their failure to follow OSHA was negligence per se.
My point: we can nitpick about how complicated laws get, but if you think about a great deal of them, they really are founded in the idea that people need to be protected, and that we need a predictable sense of laws on which to follow that. We could simply generalize that in terms of “Do no harm,” but how’s a construction company going to be able to translate that into “shore your walls at 8 feet” instead of 9?
And second: laws are relevant only to the situations in which they apply. OSHA regulations probably won’t apply when, say, you’re getting a marriage license or writing a will. The law might seem to be a complicated mess, but keep in mind that in any given situation, 99+% of our laws won’t be applicable to it.