Introduction

In my previous post, I talked about how a king or other ruler can judge choices that they will have to make. I did not, however, go into detail or give a way for normal people to judge how their king or ruler is doing. I would like to provide that in this post.

And I will do that with a diagram:

Diagram of how to judge a law.

(Click to zoom in.)

Expect this post and diagram to be updated with more questions as I think of them.

Questions

Some of the questions may not make sense, so I would like to explain them.

Does the law repeal a bad law?

“Bad law” in this question refers to any law that this diagram would label as a bad law. After that, this question is obvious: repealing a bad law is good, so doing that is automatically good.

This is so important that I will say it again: repealing a bad law is great! So good, in fact, that I was going to run for the legislature in the state where I live on the platform of doing just that for as many laws as possible because I think it's time for a legal spring cleaning in every jurisdiction in the United States.

Unfortunately, I did not meet the residency requirements, so I cannot run this year.

Note that a “no” answer to this question does not automatically make the law a bad law.

Does the law repeal a good law?

“Good law” in this question refers to any law that this diagram would label as a good law. Good laws are essential to the smooth functioning of a society, so repealing a good law is automatically bad.

Does the law apply equally to all relevant people? Most of the time, “relevant people” means all citizens. Sometimes, it is a particular group of citizens. An example is a law that applies only to lawyers that says, “Lawyers must not have any conflicts of interest in any case that they participate in.”

One way to tell if a law violates this is to look for the word “except”: “All citizens except the president must pay income taxes.” (The president is still a citizen, and putting a loophole for him makes this a bad law.) “All citizens except police officers must get a driver's license before they can drive a car.” (What makes police officers special?)

Does the law maintain the liberty of all of the people?

The most important thing that laws must do is to make a people free and respect their agency. Thus, if a law does that, it may still be a good law.

However, if a law does not do that, it can still be a good law because there are times where restricting freedom is not only necessary, but good. And those times will be addressed by the next three questions.

Does the law only restrict the liberty of those who have trampled on the liberty of others (crooks)?

There will be times when some will trample on the liberty of others. This is bad because where one's liberties end, another's begin. When someone oversteps their bounds, they have trampled on the rights of another. And allowing that to happen unchecked is a recipe for disaster.

So such oversteps need to have consequences, and the proper consequences are to remove (some of) the liberties of the trespasser. However…

Does the law only restrict the liberty of crooks in the same way that they restricted the liberties of others?

When restricting the liberty of a crook, his liberties should only be restricted the same as he trespassed on another's rights. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is still true.

Yes, this means that capital punishment should exist.

But this goes both ways. A lenient punishment is bad just as a harsh punishment is bad. The punishment must fit the crime.

Does the law prevent crooks from trampling on the relevant liberties of others?

Because leaving crooks free to trample on the liberties of others is bad, not prescribing enforcement and punishment for doing so on all relevant liberties is bad.

But what does “relevant” mean here? It means that, if you are judging a law about free speech, you should not judge it poorly on the fact that it won't prescribe a punishment for theft, but you should judge it poorly if it does not include punishment for a crook that trespasses on the right to free speech.

Does the law make every person responsible for his or her own actions?

Bad laws try to make people, or the government, responsible for the actions of others. For example, a law that makes the government responsible for the actions of pharmaceutical companies is not good; pharmaceutical companies should bear the burden of their actions.

I don't care where you fall on the debate about whether vaccines are safe or not; we should all be able to agree that not holding companies responsible means that abuse is more likely to happen.

Does the law preserve the free market?

Government interference in free markets is bad, so a good law will not allow the government to interfere in the free market. Should be self-explanatory except for Socialists and Communists.

Does the law preserve private property that was gained through mutual cooperation on the free market?

Part of agency is being able to use/spend your honest gains the way you would like. Any law that does not take property from people, or that returns ill-gotten gains to the rightful owner, may be a good law.

However, any law that takes property from people needs to be carefully checked for…

Does the law take private property for the sole use of funding the government's administration and enforcement of good laws?

Unfortunately, the government does need money to run, but it should be clear that the only things the government needs to do is to enforce and administer the law. In this case, “administer” means everything from writing new laws, repealing old ones, running DMV's, etc, and enforcement includes all of the court system along with reasonable defense and diplomacy.

International relations fall under enforcement because they are the means by which the government enforces its control over its territory.

Those services are the only things for which government can ask for money. Any more than that, and the law is a bad law.

Examples of things that make laws fail this category:

  1. Welfare
  2. Science grants
  3. Education
  4. Housing

Does the law maintain and encourage civil society?

What do I mean by “civil society”? I mean this:

Yes, please watch all six hours. It's worth it because he read 8 or 9 books to compile all of that information.

Does the law respect the Constitution of the US as intended by the authors?

This one is self-explanatory, except for what I mean by “authors.”

What I mean by that is this: for any part of the Constitution, including the Amendments, the authors are the ones who wrote and ratified the Constitution and the Amendments.

This means that the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment are considered the authors for the purpose of this question when considering whether a law respects the Fourteenth Amendment.

Conclusion

I hope that this diagram and these questions make it clear what makes a good law and what does not. But even if so, remember the most important question:

Does the law respect the agency of the people?