Distributed Stupidity and the Anti-Lottery

This is a great post from Brian Micklethwait of Samizdata describing government as "distributed stupidity" and demonstrating how we all face an anti-lottery every day as more arbitrary laws are piled on top of us:

I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that there is now a
crisis of excessive lawmaking in the West generally, and in the
Anglo-Saxon world in particular. It is not that our political class is
hell bent on tyrranny, impure and simple. It is more that they have
become legislative entrepreneurs, so to speak. And just as a
businessman who is delighted to make a fast buck selling mobile phones
does not bother himself about the grief inflicted by railway travellers
with mobiles on other railway travellers, so too, lawmakers who are
"aiming" at one particular group of alleged wrongdoers have a tendency
to neglect what you might call legislative collateral damage. The laws
pile up, and the other legislators, the ones who you would hope would
be sitting there solemnly trying to limit that collateral damage,
neglect that duty, because they are too busy hustling through other
little laws of their own, aimed at other preferred clutches of alleged
wrongdoers. Laws go straight from legislative entrepreneurs to
government regulators, without no intervening process of scrutiny that
is worthy of that adjective.

Which means that government regulators are then tempted to mutate
into what you might call regulatory entrepreurs. They cannot possible
enforce all their laws, rules and regulations. There are not enough
hours in the history of universe for that to happen. So, just like the
legislative entrepreneurs, they also lose sight of the big picture (it
having become too big to bother with) and decide for themselves which
regulations to take seriously. How? Any way they please. In accordance
with what rules? Whichever ones they decide to go with.

Add a dash of right wing fervour (a point which Go Directly to Jail
apparently brings out very strongly) about crime being very, very bad
and having to be fought with implacable ferocity, and to hell with
those silly old legal safeguards, and you end up with a kind of
anti-lottery instead of a government. Any person, at any moment, is
liable to be picked on and turned into a criminal. At any moment, in
the words of those British National Lottery adverts, it could be
you-ou!!! And everyone is obliged to enter this one.

Theres more, and its all good.


  1. Doug Murray:

    I have long felt that many laws are enacted for the sole purpose of making criminals of those who cannot otherwise be controlled. Even if not enacted for that they are often enforced that way. Think RICO. Or "Driving while black."

  2. KurtP:

    Just want to mention that it's not only the right that that goes after those who cross the ideological line.

  3. Salmo:

    I own a private campground. This Friday, we had five campers arested for burning one of our picnic tables. There was no doubt about it - there it was in their fire, it was the one at their site, and they were sitting around the fire. Their defense was that they were too drunk to know what had happened, but they sobered up quickly when the handcuffs went on. They will have criminal records because it was a criminal act - there is nothing of a partisan nature about it. Since one of them is reportedly a prominent politician in a neighboring state, I am sure there will be claims and defenses to the effect that this was all a big mistake and he was swept up by zealots. Well, burning our property is a crime and whether or not he actually put the table in the fire, he was clearly the dominant member of the group that did it and they were effectively a small mob. He will get no sympathy from me.