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JLW

Writer looking for writing advice.

35 posts in this topic

I did not reference your stuff about the positive uses of law because I was trying to construct a different argument.  I'm a utilitarian, so for me, by definition, the society with the highest average standard of living is the best.  I wanted to demonstrate that law raises the average standard of living, thus law a lack of law is inherently immoral.

So having an ipod and a fancy car makes up for having no choice in life, no privacy, no rights and no future? That's a fucked up world view you have.

 

Oh, and "average standard of living" is deceptive. In any country, especially the US, the average suggests a much better standard of living than most people actually have because the super rich have enough money and exist in enough numbers to offset the average a great deal. In the US, as an example, the top 1% has 45% of the money, and pays practically no taxes, which means that figure has likely risen since I last looked. That's not a small departure from the norm, most people have several hundred times less than them, but as always outliers this high raise an average so much it's effectively useless as a form of measure.

But I think you're quite wrong that in small communities no one would be able to go around acting like a complete asshole.  In a small group of people one is always going to be the most powerful, whether they get that power by being intimidating, ruthless, physically strong, persuasive, or what.  Whether you are talking about the chief or the best hunter of some isolated tribe, or the owner of a feudal estate or slave plantation, history is full of people who got away with all kinds of horrifying things including murder, rape, enslavement, forcible castration, and torture.  There are also many historical examples that people will cooperate to oppress others, defending each other against anyone who might want to stop them from doing so.

Those are ALL examples of law of one form of another. Those people, the "tribal chieftan" and "best hunter" are protected by tribal law, the owner of a feudal estate is protected by his paid soldiers, who enforce his law, the owner of a slave plantation is supported by law, and people working together to oppress others, even informal, is still a form of law. In these cases, it is one form of law or another that is convincing people to go along with them, and thus protecting them while they do things that normally would get them beaten to death and hung by their entrails as a warning to others.

 

"No, people would all get away with horrible things without law! Look at all my generic examples of people getting away of horrible things because of law!"

 

Oh, so compelling.

 

And for the most part, the issue with a complete lack of law is how overboard humans naturally go. "He hit ma kid! I'mma blow 'is fuckin' 'ead off!" "He kicked ma dog, I'mma blow 'is fuckin' head off!" "He pushed me! I'mma blow 'is fuckin' head off!" "He looked at me wrong, I'mma..." You get the idea. 

 

Now people don't normally respond to everything with death, and in fact for the most part are a lot more reasonable than given credit for. But the simple fact that in a lawless society, people are able to vastly overreact like that and still justify it to others well enough to avoid reprisal means that every so often it WILL happen. If you really wanted to make a point, you probably should have brought that up.


All that aside, from a more technical point of view it is just much easier to use a story to show that a specific type of government or law is bad than to try to show that all law is morally wrong even though it can have good effects. Any concept that abstract and non-straightforward is difficult to illustrate with a story. (By non-straightforward I mean that you can't just show all law causing bad effects, since you agree it can cause good ones.)

 

For the most part, that's what I do in all my settings. The excessive law in my near future setting in the US, Canada and Britain is shown as largely negative, and any time the law is directly referenced it's either painfully stupid or unbelievably evil. And of those nations, I'm quite aware that only the US presented matches the genuine article to any degree. The others aren't supposed to.

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Further, in smaller communities this isn't an issue. Nobody is going to be able to go around being a complete asshole in a lawless society because somebody else will make them regret it. Even if nobody else can, the community can do it. Even the vile, wicked murderers in the lawless old west would never ride into town and start killing people, at least not without a lot of help, because they'd have a lifespan of about ten minutes if they did and the risk clearly could never be worth whatever reward they could pull from it. (Unless they were trying to die, and law couldn't stop that. Actually, law might encourage it.)

First you say that your primary concern is dealing with laws that cover anything other than direct 1-1 physical harm to another person. You then start making a demonstrably false case that absent any law, things only get better(behold Somalia, Mr William's wonderland).

First off, I NEVER said things would get better without those laws. I said that the fear of reprisal would keep people in line anyway, even in absence of law. And Somalia HAS law. It follows Sharia, Islamic LAW, the most demonstrably evil legal system I've had the displeasure of reading. So does almost the entirety of Africa and the Middle East.

I would not be inclined to see vigilantism used to fix rape and murder cases. It does not go well in the Islamic countries that handle it that way, today.

That's because Islam blames rape victims for being raped, rather than their rapists, and those areas follow Sharia law. Those people may not be wearing uniforms, but they are enforcing the local law.

And mind you, I actually agree with you, that we have too many laws and the law should primarily deal with prevention of harming other people, rather than keeping people from harming themselves or behaving in a certain fashion. Yet even I find your case to be unpersuasive, because I can easily look to other countries in our own time and see your desired lack of law playing out. It is much worse.

Except that you can't. There's never been and never will be a society without law. It's an inevitable consequence of forming society. Your issue is that you don't know the local law and assume there isn't any. The "lawless" areas of Africa and the Middle East are still following and enforcing Sharia. Sharia is fucking evil. And it's available online, go read it. You'll see what I mean. Hell, while you're at it, go read the Bible and Koran. Keep in mind that without any formally enforced law, THAT is what people will fall back upon. And it's sick, isn't it? It's not a matter of choosing between law and no law, we just don't have the option. We just have to avoid religious law through formally enforced law, lest the entire world fall under the direct control of religion and end up looking like Africa.

The same goes for corporate law. We basically had no laws in the late 1800s and you'll never find a worse time to be an average citizen in America. It was not uncommon to work ninety hours a week and die in debt, thanks to the wonder of company towns. Labor laws are needed. Without them, nearly everyone's quality of life is absolute crap. It doesn't mean we can't go too far, but the minimum wage and overtime laws are vital to maintain a decent quality of life.

And once again, this isn't a lack of law. This is just evil laws written by evil people for evil ends.

If your goal is truly to open someone's mind to the concept that a law is not automatically moral or right, simply because it is the law, perhaps pick laws that harm people doing no wrong. Or better, relate the story to them in a way that makes it feel personal. A lot of people supported the Patriot Act because they felt it would only be used on "the bad guys". The numbers slowly fell as it became apparent that the "bad guys" were not a handful of foreign terrorists, but millions of people. And with the revelation that literally every single American citizen has the entirety of their contact history logged in intelligence agency tracking, I imagine those numbers will fall a lot more.

 

If you want to get someone over to your side, tell them why the law is bad for them or people they care about, not how it might be bad for other people. No one cares about strangers.

I'm quite aware. That's why my characters used as examples of all things, not just law doing harm, get plenty of screen time so it'll feel more personal when the time comes.

 

My second short story (about 60 pages, so it's really more of a novella) was mostly introducing a character who would be important to the setting (Justin Caige) and it used his smothering, if not malicious, parents and his smothering, most likely malicious, school as his motivation for running away from his rich neighbourhood. (Burn the bridges, salt the ashes, and then nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.) Later, the story mostly deals with tuning down how much of a total asshole he is and turning his aggression towards a productive purpose, through a girl (yeah, that's such a surprise) named Isabel. This later is followed up with a statement on biggest gripe (at the time) on modern society: the rampant corruption and abuse of power going unchecked in the police department, when... well, I'm not going to spoil it.

 

Now that I think about it, this one is actually still canon. I can just make a few minor edits to fix the non-canon details and it'll be ready to post. Granted, it's more than five years old, (fall 2007, I think) but it's still canon and that must count for something.

How many starving children could the sale of my luxury electronics and donation of money save? I don't know, but I'm very confident that number is at least "one" - yet I don't do it. Because I have distance from the issue. It would take on a whole other dimension for me if I found a homeless child rummaging through my garbage for rotten food scarps.

Here, I think I can answer your hypothetical quandry. The answer is most likely "0, because the food will be stolen by rifle-toting savages." Food shipments to the Middle East and Africa are constantly being stolen at gunpoint and then either wasted or kept to the leaders and their families. You're not going to save the starving children, you'll just help fatten the people that are gunning them down in the street.

Edited by Jeremy Williams
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Failing to sound intelligent, latch interjected, "This thread rocks!" He then remembered he should not respond to forum posts while driving.

I'm sorry, I don't get it. Was this supposed to be a joke? If it was, it's not funny.

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In the writing forum -- just make sure you keep the thread you create focussed on the aspects of writing rather than let it get derailed as this thread was. Which means don't open up subject areas outside of the scope of what you are seeking when you reply and ask others who divert your thread away from it's purpose to not take it offtrack.

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That's because Islam blames rape victims for being raped, rather than their rapists, and those areas follow Sharia law. Those people may not be wearing uniforms, but they are enforcing the local law.

At times. And at times not. Honor killings are nowhere in Islamic law anyway. It's entirely vigilantism and that's because they don't particularly have a legal system to deal with issues, so they handle things outside of the law. There is not even a cultural standard on a lot of this. It pretty much boils down to what each member of each family/tribe decides to do about it.

 

And once again, this isn't a lack of law. This is just evil laws written by evil people for evil ends.

I don't think you are using a dictionary definition of law. A law is a formal rule that is enforced by some type of authority, be it a police force, an army, your tribal leaders, etc. A corporation paying you less than you need to survive and working you for ninety hours a week is not in any way shape or form a law.

 

Except that you can't. There's never been and never will be a society without law. It's an inevitable consequence of forming society. Your issue is that you don't know the local law and assume there isn't any.

I am speaking to specific areas without law. IE there is no law against picking wild blueberries in my state, but in Indiana, there is. Therefore Georgia has no law regarding picking wild blueberries.

 

Many countries in the third world do not have labor laws. That means they have no formal rule that says you or cannot do anything. There is simply no law whatsoever. There are not "bad" laws that say you must treat employees badly. There are no "good" laws that prohibit what you can do. You are free to pay them well, or chain them to the floor and refuse to feed them for two days. There is simply no law at all.

 

those areas follow Sharia law. Those people may not be wearing uniforms, but they are enforcing the local law.

In those areas, "Sharia law" is not a particular thing. It is not enforced by a central body with consistent views on the matter. Every individual makes up their mind what is within or outside the bounds of "Sharia". It is absolutely a system of vigilantism.

 

This is totally different than something like Saudi Arabia which has formal definitions of Sharia and have uniform rules regarding it and designated authority figures tasked with enforcing these laws.

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I've really given up on this thread. It's been thoroughly derailed and I'm not going to argue what constitutes a True Scotsman with Blade of Wrath.

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I've really given up on this thread.

 

Okay. It's your thread, so I'll close it. We look forward to your next one and hope it won't go off like this one did.

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