Magic Words and Wizards in Black Robes

The recent Orlando shootings . . .

First, let me offer my prayers for the dead and for the living. This is a monstrous act of barbarism and hate that must not be allowed to happen again. My thoughts are still too incoherent an rage-filled to write about it with any sense of perspective.

What I can write about is the reaction to it. Americans DO NOT LIKE IT when this happens because we are a good and decent people. Gay, straight, black, white–mass murder is WRONG and it is EVIL no matter who does it.

Orlando nightclub massacre

The reaction I take issue with isn’t even the so-called politicizing of this tragedy: Some things need to be politicized because the causes of it are political.

What gets on my nerves is many people’s insistence that laws could have stopped this. If only we had the right laws, the thinking goes, this never would have happened. Such laws, apparently, will also have the power to stop future terrorism and violence.

Laws are magic spells apparently!

This is amazing, since law school was the furthest thing imaginable from Hogwarts. They never taught us mystical incantations in law school. If there were magic classes, I must have missed them.

Pictured: Not law school.

All the laws in the world aren’t going to work. Why? Simple:

Laws do nothing to change human nature.

Laws provide disincentives for law-abiding citizens not to break them. If you’re a criminal–you know, the kind of person who generally ignores society’s rules–why would a certain combination of words stop you?

Laws are useful after-the-fact mechanisms for punishing, and sometimes rehabilitating, the wrongdoer. As the theory goes, making an example out of lawbreakers will deter others from engaging in the bad act. There’s also the theory that society needs to see wrongdoers get punished in order to have faith that the state is looking out for its best interest.

But generally speaking, laws don’t solve problems–if there did, there’d be no drug addition in America, right?

What really changes people’s behavior are not laws, but culture.

This leads to an undeniable conclusion:

If you really want to change the world, go into entertainment.

But since most of us don’t have that option, we need to focus on what we can do.

Do you remember the cover of the New York Daily News after the San Bernardino terror attacks on December 2, 2015?

New York Daily News cover San Bernardino terrorist attacks 2015.jpg

You probably don’t because nobody buys that rag, but its editors embody the faulty thinking among our supposed betters. Prayers to God aren’t going to help solve anything, the cover snidely remarked . . . but somehow more laws will?

Words written on a piece of paper do not have mystical mind-control properties no matter how intelligent the people writing them seem. Said words do become a binding geas by virtue of being signed by some elected official.

Likewise, the black robes worn by judges do not imbue them with magic powers that make everything they declare all of a sudden be. This might come as a surprise to the people actually wearing the black robes, but for the rest of us it’s pretty obvious that just because a judge says that something is so doesn’t make it real.

The test for whether a law will be effective should be: Does this law take into account human nature?

Restricting or banning a certain type of weapon will do nothing to prevent human beings from killing other human beings (Boston comes to mind), the same way prohibiting certain substances does nothing to stop people from taking drugs.

Lawmakers really think words have the power to control human beings through the power of their magic words. What they really need to remember is that politics is downstream from culture.

If laws are to be effective, they need to help foster a certain kind of culture. For example, better addiction treatment and mental health services would be a much better way to help curb both drug addiction and violence.

When you vote, think about what kinds of laws the candidates are proposing and whether, if you think about them through the lens of human nature and your own experience, they will do anything to actually solve the problem they purport to solve.

Also, if a proposed legislative solution seems overly restrictive, ask yourself why. Remember: Governments never let a serious crisis go to waste.

The unintended consequences of laws create a lot of the mess that we find ourselves in, not due to the magic power of their words, but because they fail to take into account human nature. Let’s not pretend that similarly bad laws can solve our problems.

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