My utopian society would be enlightened anarchy… but I don’t have a clue how to get there.
I don’t want to live in a world where everyone behaves like the perfect citizen because they mindlessly follow an immaculately constructed set of rules that they don’t understand. That would devalue us as autonomous beings and leave us dependent on the benevolence of our leaders.
The more laws we have the less we think and take responsibility for our actions and that, in my opinion, has affected the national psyche in a really detrimental way, as you discuss in point 4.
But my continued frustration is that laws do work. Many people have remarked on your drink-driving example but I would like to add a slightly different angle.
Drink-driving legislation, and the education around it, creates a stigma that prevents people from taking the wheel in a way that knowledge of an increased penalty for a potential accident does not.
The rule then becomes the norm and each generation is more aware than the previous. Legislation is not just about catching and punishing harmful acts, it is a manifestation of the moral compass of society and its greatest success is in deterrence. Smoking in public and driving under the influence are now socially unacceptable in a way that creates peer pressure, effective beyond any expectation of prosecution on our good behaviour.
That said, I think that driving regulations are the worst laws of our society, and as such they are the only ones that I feel like I am obeying, my particular bugbear is waiting at red lights on empty roads. Having driven a bit in India I have a lot of respect for their more organic approach to road order, the problem is that everyone is so reckless. In Goa there are plenty of tourists with cuts and bruises and broken bones bemoaning the way the locals drive but my analysis is that it is we westerners who are lost entirely without the strict regulation of our highways.
I have to accept that most people don’t seem to want the risk and responsibility of increased liberty and that the majority opinion seems to be exactly that which I opposed at the start; that a if the rules of society are statistically sound in ensuring our greater well-being then that is justification for their introduction and acquiescence. The problem here is that it depends on society having both a uniform set of values that lead to that optimal well-being, and a government that is pure in motivation and competent in action, neither of which are in much evidence.
But your argument is more pragmatic than libertarian and one only has to look at the tax code to see how increased rules lead to loopholes, complications and inefficiencies enough to keep armies of accountants and lawyers very comfortably employed indeed.
Politicians legislate because that is what they can do, their bills will be the mark of their career and the ideal of government being a committee of elected representatives working together to rule effectively has long been lost to the divisions and competition of party rivalries.
We clearly need a more scientific approach to policy making but where does that come from?
No answers sadly but you have given us pause for thought. Thank you.