Ignorance of the law is no excuse, according to an ancient and oft-quoted legal maxim, but by now the ignorant surely deserve some forbearance. The rule was reasonable enough back when the law limited itself to such obviously objectionable behaviors as robbery, rape, and murder, but in a year that starts with 40,000 new laws taking effect across the land it is asking a lot of even the most diligently law-abiding citizens to be apprised of them all.
In our most creatively anti-social moments we would be hard-pressed to think of 40,000 objectionable behaviors, much less find the time to commit them all, but presumably the nation’s very busy lawmakers have a valid reason for each of these new laws. With the current total of laws approaching a gazillion or so it seems likely that we’ll eventually be inadvertently in violation of one of them, however, and we hope that a jury or judge would be sympathetic to our explanation that we had no idea one of our life-long habits had now become a criminal offense. In an ideal world we could successfully argue that it’s a damned silly law and those who violate it should be lauded rather than punished, but in this world we will settle for some measure of mercy.
Some substantial portion of the new laws are a result of Obamacare, and it seems that even the hospital administrators who make their livings keeping up with the new rules are finding it overwhelming. The mere amateurs who are now obliged to comply with the law’s numerous requirements, especially those young folk who will find that the bare-bones catastrophic coverage that was formerly their best option is now illegal, and all those older folks who find that the president’s repeated promises that they could keep their coverage if they liked it were not meant to be kept, should be forgiven any minor failures of compliance. Obamacare’s eponymous president has already announced his intentions to not comply with several of the law’s provisions, so it seems only sporting that his subjects should be allowed some similar degree of discretion.
Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut has retired from public service in the wake of a corruption scandal, and Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts has at long last been booted out of office by his all-too-tolerant constituents, but the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act will now befuddle the financial industry for years to come. Those incandescent light bulbs that have satisfactorily served you all of your life are now illegal, with new mandates for those sickly yellow curly bulbs that require a plethora of hazardous material regulations when one of the damned things break. Shark meat is now an illicit delicacy in Delaware, leashes on dogs are required to be a “reasonable length” in Oregon, and guns that look scary to the squeamish are now illegal in Connecticut. Keeping up with it all will require a lack of attention to older laws that will surely result in some offense.
Not all of the new laws entail a restriction on the rights of individuals, at least not by intention. In California it is now legal for boys to use the girls’ restrooms, and vice-versa, but it remains to be seen how those not inclined to do so will regard this as an improvement. In Colorado it is now legal to purchase and smoke marijuana, although it remains a violation of federal law, which we expect President Barack “Choom Gang” Obama will not be inclined to enforce, but the state’s pot heads are likely to soon yearn for the good old days when the trade was illegal and thus un-regulated and un-taxed and the laws were not enforced with the vigor of a government intent on finding new revenues. Oregon has also eased its restrictions on smoking marijuana, but imposed new restrictions on smoking tobacco, and many of our friends in Oregon will regard that as a wash.
Should you find yourself breaking one of these laws, console yourself with the knowledge that they’ll make plenty more.
— Bud Norman