sunset over waterEarlier, I was thinking about the legal system and what could be done to improve it. There are tens of thousands of laws on the books, and many of them probably don’t need to be there. Software projects that have been going on for years accumulate what we call “cruft”—bits of code that are not needed any more. The legal system has been going on for quite a bit longer than the longest software project ever, so the amount of cruft that has accumulated probably defies description.

Yet very few laws are ever repealed. Some reasonably smart people came up with the idea of “sunset legislation” in the 1970s or 1980s, where if a law is not explicitly re-passed by the legislature before a certain date, the law no longer applies. I would like to see every law passed by the legislature from now on have a sunset clause in it. Furthermore, I’d like to put together a committee consisting of legislators, ordinary citizens, and practicing lawyers, and have that committee look at a whole bunch of laws on the books. Any law that’s been on the books for at least 50 years is subject to the committee’s review. If the committee finds that a law is A) obsolete, nonsensical, or stupid or B) enforcement of the law as written would have a deleterious effect on society, then the committee shall have the power to remove that law from the books.

I wonder what would happen if we did this. It would confuse things at first, but law books would probably get 50% thinner. And the committee would get suborned by evil bastards, or have its powers revoked by some seriously annoyed legislators. Oh well.

As long as I’m dreaming, I’d like a pony. . . .Ford Mustang