Rule of Law vs the Rule of Reason

I was reading my usual RSS feeds this morning, partly to see if I could find some inspiration for my Slaw post for today, and found the following post on Techdirt. I couldn’t agree more – and since this is one of those “like he said” posts that I can’t really improve on – I’ve simply reproduced it below. I know the author, Mike Masnick, won’t mind so long as I don’t take credit for writing it.

The Rule Of Law Over The Rule Of Reason

from the stop-the-insanity dept

While not directly a tech/business related story, Jonny sent in this rather disturbing story of a grandmother arrested in Indiana for buying two whole boxes of cold medicine in less than a week. As you’re probably aware, most states have greatly limited the ability to buy cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine, the ingredient that makes most cold medicines effective — but also a key ingredient used in making meth. So, rather than deal with the growing meth problem head on, many politicians sought to annoy pretty much anyone with a serious cold by making it quite difficult to get any drug that actually contains useful medicine.

Apparently, the Indiana law forbids buying more than 3.0 grams of the stuff in a single week, and the two boxes of cold medicine exceeded that amount. The end result? Police show up at the woman’s house and arrest her — and then keep defending the arrest, citing meth abuse, even as everyone admits that this woman was not making meth:

“I feel for her, but if she could go to one of the area hospitals and see a baby born to a meth-addicted mother …”

It’s difficult to see what that has to do with anything considering that everyone knows this woman had no intention of making meth. The whole thing is ridiculous, but is symptomatic of a problem that we’re seeing all too often, where the focus is on enforcing poorly thought out laws, to ridiculous consequences, with no attempt to ever look at the negative consequences and seeing if the original law made any sense in the first place.

We’ve discussed this in the past with regards to other laws as well. In business, if you plan a new initiative, you have metrics and you check to see if you accomplish them, and you monitor negative effects of what you do as well. So why don’t politicians ever do this? When they pass a law to ban spam, increase copyright duration or take away privacy for some reason or another, why are politicians never asked to put in place benchmarks to see if the laws actually do what they promise? Why aren’t there any plans for a change or a removal of the law if it turns out to do more harm than good? Certainly, by this point in time, there’s a better process to creating regulations than simply saying what they’re intended to do without ever bothering to check to see if those goals are achieved?

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