Monday, January 02, 2006

de Ford's Law of Abusable Legislation

What do I mean by "abusable legislation?"

First of all, I use the term "legislation" in its broadest sense. It may be actual legislation initiated and passed by Congress. It may be actual legislation requested by the President and passed by Congress. It may be an executive order from the President. It is something which has an effect upon the way in which government is carried out and/or the way government and/or the legal system interacts with the people.

By "abusable" legislation, I mean legislation that may be used in ways for which it was not believed to be intended. That is to say, the purpose of the legislation was sold to Congress and/or the public as accomplishing legitimate objective A and no other objective but can, in fact, also be used for illegitimate objective B. Objective B is often slightly related to objective A; more often objective B is simply objective A carried to unfair and unjust extremes. If you're lucky, you may have a Constitution and a Supreme court that will rule objective B unconstitutional, but you probably won't be that lucky.

As an example of abusable legislation, take the misnamed USA PATRIOT Act. It was sold to Congress (who were not given time to read its many hundreds of pages) as solely for the purposes of defeating terrorism. Congress was assured that, despite many of the provisions being open to abuse by being used to pursue domestic criminal offences, they would not be so used. Of course, they were so used, and very shortly after the act was passed. In fact, almost all the prosecutions under the act have been for domestic criminal offences of the type which Congress and the public were promised would not happen.

So here is my Law (and five corollaries) of Abusable Legislation:

If a piece of legislation is passed which can be abused then, sooner or later, it WILL be abused.


  1. Abusable legislation is almost always abused whilst those who initiated and drafted it are still in power.

  2. Abusable legislation is almost always abused by those who initiated and drafted it.

  3. The real purpose of those who initiate and draft abusable legislation is almost always so that they can abuse it, with the purported objective being a ruse to get it passed.

  4. Abusable legislation is almost always passed in response to "temporary" emergencies such as war, rebellion, acts of terrorism, or natural disaster.

  5. If abusable legislation is passed in response to a "temporary" emergency, either the emergency never ends or, if the emergency does end, the "temporary" abusable legislation is never repealed.

World history is replete with examples. President Bush seems to be going for the world record, topping all previous empires, kingdoms and republics in history combined.

It goes without saying that the ultimate objective of passing abusable legislation is to create a despotic dictatorship.

And finally, some Bush quotes...

You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier.

If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it.


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