Chapter Excerpt

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Excerpt from Chapter 25. Morbid Legislation

Laws are necessary to set boundaries of acceptable behaviour and practices within all manner of groups. But such is the nature of man that in applying his creative ingenuity – the hallmark of humanity – he will eventually find loopholes or ways to beat those laws, which must then be plugged with amendments and addendums. This same creativity is applied by the law makers in refining and enhancing their regulations. The evasion/ amendment/ refinement cycle is perpetual, so over time laws and rules have evolved into complicated monstrosities, requiring teams of lawyers or specialists to negotiate. This expansion happens in all systems, like government legislation, taxation laws, codes for buildings and structures, and bureaucratic regulations. Unfortunately much of this added legislation adds very little to the original intent of the code.

Law is complicated further by our tendency to develop things and add new features. Taxation laws are among the most complex, dense, useless, expansive and wealth-destroying black holes in this regard.

This is a morbid process because far more new regulations are added, than old ones ever removed. It is an unsustainable outwardly expanding spiral, the limits for which are our wealth-generating capacity. Therefore, such regulatory systems grow malignantly, choking productivity and progress while inflating administration costs.

Managing and enforcing these ever expanding, morbid procedures requires a correspondingly expanding, morbid bureaucracy, thereby compounding the problem.

Eventually the targets of such regulations – industrious individuals and companies in pursuit of their primary, prosperity-building endeavours – begin to lose oversight of the ever-inflating regulation body because there are just not enough hours in the day to stay up-to-date. This is further exacerbated by the need for copious administration staff and having to pay more and more fees and taxes, all of which are economically unproductive and self perpetuating. In reality many such rules can no longer be followed or enforced because of their voluminous complexity, rendering them all but useless.

Extrapolating this trend shows an inevitable collapse of productivity. The 1985 Terry Gilliam film, ‘Brazil’ (109) is a good depiction of morbid bureaucracy. Watch this movie to get an uneasy sense of ‘hey, this is unfolding right here, right now!’

There is a major quandary regarding morbid legislation in government. A large number of elected governmental lawmakers and legislators are lawyers[1] themselves and when not in office many of those make their living at high rates of pay consulting, interpreting and arguing these morbid laws in board rooms and in the courts. There is really no incentive for lawyers in office to restrain the advancement of morbidity in law or in government. It would take a very brave lawyer-politician to initiate reforms that would ultimately erode his own line of income. But somebody has to do it because law is no longer equivalent to justice. Justice is now only for those who can afford it.

Laws are now so complex and the justice process so convoluted and expensive that any attempt by citizens to find justice has a high likelihood of causing their financial ruin, regardless of whether they win or lose their case. This is not justice. Even the Attorney General of Australia recognised this dilemma and in 2009 proposed law reform measures to address it (110).

It is now time for some serious reform of law and its wealth-consuming structures. The information age is already facilitating some positive structural change in the size and configuration of law firms (111). We would do well to flow with this natural evolution, but the reforms must permeate deeply into legislation structure itself.

I see the solution to the dilemma of morbid legislation as twofold: We consider firstly the structure of legislation, and secondly its management and maintenance.

In the following sub-chapters I present my naive streams of lateral thought designed to stimulate workable ideas from courageous law experts, on how we can get morbidity under control.

[1] 32% of the members of the house of representatives in the Australian 2009 parliament, hold law degrees (my research)


109. Dirks, Tim. Brazil – (1985), by Terry Gilliam, film review. Filmsite. [Online] 1985. [Cited: 18 Jan 2010.]

110. McClelland, Robert. NATIONAL LEGAL PROFESSION REFORM – Address by the Attorney-General for Australia, The Hon Robert McClelland MP. The John Curtin Institute of Public Policy – Curtin University of Technology. [Online] 17 Sep 2009. [Cited: 18 Jan 2010.]

111. Reynolds, Glenn Harlan. Small is the New Biglaw: Some Thoughts on Technology, Economics, and the Practice of Law. Social Science Research Network (SSRN). [Online] 20 Apr 2010. [Cited: 25 Apr 2010.]

  1. sedweb says:

    Yesterday I was sent the following link which confirms my observations: This article is entitled, ‘Micromanagement in the regulatory state’ by Chris Berg, a Research Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs and Editor of the IPA Review. I will cite this article and add it to the bibliograpy.

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