Digital Laws

When discussing individual rights, I like to borrow a concept from software engineering and say that human rights are digital in the sense that one either possesses them or they do not. All humans possess a right to property, a right to self-defense, and the right to freely contract, for example, while they do not possess a right to tell others how to live their lives, or a right to dictate how others use their property. So these rights are either a one (1) if you possess them, or a zero (0) if you don’t — they are digital.

Governments will, from time to time, attempt to convert one’s rights into privileges by qualifying them, or restricting them in some way. This is equivalent to applying a potentiometer to your right, and turn it from a digital right to an analog one. Someone may, at their own discretion, dial your right down from a one (1) to a 0.99, say, imposing some small restriction on how you are allowed to exercise that right.

But a right that requires the permission or endorsement of someone else is not a right at all. It’s a privilege. That’s not to say that a privilege can’t be legitimate, but for someone to call it a right is, at best, disingenuous, and, at worst, immoral.

So given that the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect the rights of the individual, and all government action occurs through the passage of laws, laws that protect the rights of the individual must be digital as well. That is, a law cannot restrict a right, or qualify it, thereby turning it into a privilege.

Some restrictions may seem completely reasonable on their face, but the logical problem with inserting a potentiometer into the mix is that someone (other than the person whose rights are being acted upon) must have their hand on that dial. Who is this person charged with watching the dials to ensure they are all set correctly? And, indeed, who watches the watcher to verify that they do their job?

This is, in a nutshell, what is wrong with our government. There are far too many analog laws, each of which require a whole host of attendants to ensure that the potentiometers are set at the proper level, and that they are enforced, and that the people setting the levels and doing the enforcement are properly supervised.

The easiest way to tell if a law is analog or digital is to look at its length and complexity. Digital laws are short and simple: do not murder other people, do not steal other people’s stuff. Analog laws are long and complicated, like our tax code, for example. Another way to tell is by how much pain or inconvenience it causes you. For instance, if you find yourself standing in line at a government office for a long period of time in order to talk to someone behind the counter and give them money, then you can be sure that an analog law is the reason you are there.

As part of the digital revolution, let’s not forget to upgrade our laws too. Analog is out, digital is in. And now that you know how to tell the difference, you can be on the lookout for those analog laws and avoid or ignore them.

One Comment

  1. This is a brilliant entry, mane. Brilliant, and a very useful way of evaluating what’s going on in the country. It is curious how people sometimes come down on the side of analog laws; I’m all for compromise, but only when it benefits everyone involved and is not to the detriment of individual rights. You’ve hit on something here; with your permission, I may expand on this in a future blog entry, and I’d encourage you to as well.

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