Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Fri Dec 21 23:06:32 2007
Black Hat Logicians

I should get a T-Shirt (or set of them) to dispel easy misconceptions people get about me from the books I carr around -- today a law book on contracts led someone to start to tell me about their plans to sue the military to annul a contract they were intimidated into signing, recently I got scowls from people seeing Machiavelli (even though his Discourses would be considerably more paletable than the Prince, even to people who are not philosophically openminded), and on occasion when my Torah goes out with me, people assume I'm Jewish (my looks probably contribute a bit there too). Therefore, I need a T-shirt that says IANAL, IANAV (Villain), IANJ (although in some parts of the world and society, the groups are largely synonymous..)

Cruft is a big part of law, it seems - older laws built to well serve one society don't necessarily serve a hundred years down the line when economic relations/systems have shifted, social realities and expectations drift (age of majority, etc), and similar changes have taken place. Apart from the strict constitutionalists (whom I think are likely to be very harmful to society, again because for the name of consistency, they lose sight of (or require the legislative body to handle) the purpose of the law in advancing the public good), there seems, at least based on what I've read so far, to be some tension in how and when to restructure law to adapt to changing realities. If we were to see momentum for a new government that would take a much more public-interest-centric prespective (e.g. if the United States moved from a Corporate Capitalist mixed republic to a Social Democracy), would it be better to write a new legal code from scratch, to adapt an existing legal code from an existing Social Democracy (e.g. Scandanavia), or to pragmatically evolve the present legal system we have with appropriate nudging of the courts as to their new perogatives/responsibilities? While I would not want to take a position on that yet (even if my gut instinct for the third option is "no"), I'm wondering what the first would look like - if we were to want to start a new legal system, how would we go about doing so? (this is not asking what its content should be so much as the method of seeking said content). One of the things that impresses me about the legal system we have here (which I did not appreciate when I was younger, didn't value the public good much, and had read less about our legal system) is how many of the opportunities for abuse and ill result are already thought of and addressed. Acquisition of as much of that "wisdom" (probably not the right word) as possible from the start would be wise. If we imagind a committee establishing a structure for writing a code, we'd probably want to see some black hat logicians (that is, CS-intrusion-detection-like people with a philosophical background) thinking of ways to break any part of the system that was being designed, traditional lawyers (ideally not bound by self-interest enough to replicate the same system, and also ideally with values in alignment with the new legal system being established -- tricky matter here), realistic "guardians of the new values" who would be pragmatic enough to bend as needed, and judges who would ensure that the law would not represent an impossible task on the judiciary. All of this does, of course, presume some features of the new system - separation of meta and actual legal construction cannot be absolute.

For a dose of the surreal, the music videos for The Avelanches' Frontier Psychiatrist and Since I Left You are really cool..