POLI: Forest fire amendment

The Low Golden Willow (phoenix@ugcs.caltech.edu)
Thu, 20 Feb 1997 14:23:51 -0800 (PST)

Some time ago someone mentioned Jefferson's belief that each generation
should remake its constitution and laws; Greg Burch replied that there's
a lot of wisdom encoded in parts of the law, and it would be inefficient
to recreate that over and over.

But we don't have to. People can read the old laws and re-enact the
good ones. The point is to force a reconsideration of the old
structures, and in modern terms get around the public good problem
(people won't organize to get rid of a bad law that hurts them
slightly). Think of it as a forest fire: the useless brush and dying
trees are consumed, the healthy live. Similarly the laws with strong
justifications would be re-enacted; dross would be pruned.

And I've been playing through dialogues on anarcho-capitalism in my head
and re-realizing that taken literally, the US Constitution isn't that
terrible a document, if anarchists were forced to acknowledge the
necessity (one way or another) of some government and were concerned
with limiting its spread. And I figure that chance of disgoverning the
US without a catastrophe, even if it was a provably good thing, to be
quite small. So a fair midpoint might be to pass an amendment with
language like "one year from today, all laws enacted prior to today will
be null and void." (The overlap is to allow continuity between
re-enactments, although testing the effects of a gap in the law could be
interesting.) It would also provide for the re-occurence of this sweep
on some 10, 20, or 30 year cycle. It should also include term limits
for legislators, now easily justifiable as it makes no sense to get rid
of laws if the exact same people who passed them originally are still in
office. A bumper sticker could be "Term limits for laws, not just

It could also serve as a benign partial test of libertarian ideas. If
we're right, and if there were a substantial debate over the laws, then
many should be left dead. If the post-purge state looks unchanged, then
either flaws in our arguments will have been found, or we'll know the
populace is hopeless and we should run away somewhere.

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*> http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~phoenix

Pedestrian, n: The variable (and audible) part of the roadway for an
-- Ambrose Bierce, _The Devil's Dictionary_