After this morning’s Board of Commissioners meeting, I spoke for a few minutes with Kelly Robinson, commissioner for my district in the county. I wanted to remind him that I was a constituent in the district he represents, and present a point of view different from the one that, during the meeting, he said constituents expressed.
I told him that the change the board had just made – reluctantly, in his case – wouldn’t make a lot of difference since it only provided an option, one that most people probably would not exercise. I also said that things were rarely as simple, or as positive or negative as people on the far left or right – the ones who seem to have the loudest voices – made them out to be.
In the meeting, Robinson suggested he’d like to find other ways to make laws around the law they were in the process of substantially undoing. The county attorney explained why the language in the revised law was as restrictive as it could be, and Robinson let it drop. Really, this wasn’t that big a deal; Robinson has a habit of taking nearly every available opportunity to comment on agenda items, whatever the subject matter. I think he likes to practice his oratorical skills as much as influence outcomes.
I realize I can’t easily change – or maybe ever change – the mind of someone who thinks that they’re smart enough to write a law that’ll achieve only the positive end they seek, nothing more. Let’s just nevermind that what one person thinks is positive may in reality be the opposite. But…I had to try.
We had as decent a dialogue around the issue as could be had given that I think I see it as clearly as he’s probably convinced he does. But I wanted him to back up and think about something that is probably not even within his ability to consider: Laws attempt to clearly define and regulate life, but life has too many variables for even the most intelligent among us to plan and control. The best laws are those that put into writing a code of conduct most of us follow anyway: don’t kill anyone or otherwise deprive them of their basic rights, etc. Beyond that things get pretty murky and we agree on less.
The more laws we create, the more we erode liberty and the more we change the form of the regulated or outlawed thing without changing its substance. We still have problems in the general area we have outlawed; the problem just goes underground or shifts in a way that creates a problem that is a net equal. And then we have to make more laws because we didn’t realize a situation would become problematic as a result of our previous legislative tinkering. I’m trying to get Robinson to see, at least for a minute, that laws can’t ever perfectly solve a problem because life is too complex.
It’s government’s job to protect and to serve, he says. “We can’t be without government.”
Why not, I ask.
Because people are evil, he says.
But government is comprised of people, I remind him. So government is evil.
No – we are held to a higher standard, he says.
By whom, I wonder to myself – the people? Who you say are evil?
At this point I am ready to stop kidding myself and know that the conversation accomplished nothing beyond me letting him know that I don’t share his point of view. He’s a nice enough guy and to his credit he always listens. But I’ve decided that he is not one who has been drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid – he’s been selling it.