Blooper Reel Legislation
Laws are what hold the fabric of our society together. You know, the things that prevent us from driving on the wrong side of the road or urinating in public. Some of these laws are completely necessary. Others, I would say, are extraneous, unnecessary or just stupid.
Take for example the current situation in New Zealand. A few major news resources, most notably Slate Magazine and The Huffington Post, have garnered some attention this past week a law proposed by New Zealand economist, Gareth Morgan, to eliminate the country’s population of domesticated housecats.. First, he is an economist. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that the field of economics is extremely important. But, how did a humanities intellectual figure this out before any of the five scientists on the island did? Apparently, the cats’ hunting habits are causing the endangerment of several rare species of birds.While it may be a natural truth that cats eat birds, is it necessary to start a systematic elimination of them?
I am all for protecting endangered birds. However, Morgan neglected to acknowledge that there are other ways to protect endangered species other than just eliminating their predators entirely. It just seems like an extremist approach – that is, the blatant executions and forced neutering of the feline population is not quite the way to go. Despite this, I don’t think Morgan is actually crazy. He saw a problem in his world and did his best to try and fix it.
Is his proposal surprising, though? How many times has a government passed a ludicrous law? There is a book about the crazy laws that each state has: in Dallas, Texas you cannot ride an ugly horse. Interpret that one, courts.
For argument’s sake, let’s explore the ridiculousness of a new bill in the Arizona state legislature that will require high school seniors to swear an oath before receiving their diplomas. This oath has the students pledge their undying support to the country:
I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.
Not only does this required affirmation of faith in a dichotomized mess seem reminiscient of some fascist agenda, it also places religion back into schools in another form. It is called separation of church and state, legislators. Is it not your job to know this? Every few years we see another politician trying to get creationism taught in schools or ban the teaching of evolution. Schools teach science; there is no place for faith in the education. If you would like I can name a couple good, local religious institutions for you to join. Another reason to laugh at this law is the sheer irony of it. Go ahead and swear an oath to follow the Constitution, a Constitution that defends free speech, freedom from religion and separation of church and state.
Clearly, certain current laws based on tradition or customs were often created centuries before modern science and thinking, yet remain for practice’s sake. These codes suffocate society’s ability to grow. Laws need to change, evolve and be thought about. We should question – why do we have half of the laws we do? At some time or another they were seen as the correct way to govern society.
Gareth Morgan, the economist, may be a bit smarter than first thought. Unlike other people who blindly follow mindless laws, he questioned the governance of his country, I mean city or township or whatever, even if it was not his place. Morgan is trying to make a difference and make the world a better place. Maybe we should follow his lead, question our world and start plotting to kill the neighbor’s cat. •