Open thread: change the law

July 16, 2015 • 2:00 pm

by Grania

Here’s a question Jerry posed this morning: If you could change one law in your country, what would it be and why?

Please say which country you are in too, seeing as this is a multi-national website (ahem).

There are a bunch of laws that I would like to change in Ireland which is the country I live in – the blasphemy law here is deeply misguided; but I think the one that is most urgently needed to change is the current ban on abortion, except in rare cases where a woman can convince a panel of doctors that her life is sufficiently in peril. So far this law means that anyone needing an abortion in Ireland has to travel to the UK to obtain one. Anyone who is unable to travel has no recourse at all, and the few cases where women have attempted to obtain a termination legally here have all resulted in grotesque violations of their human rights.

So far most political parties in Ireland are wary of the subject, so I suspect the law will take a long time to change.

What law would you change?

258 thoughts on “Open thread: change the law

  1. From the UK: I’d repeal the exemptions that schools have from obeying the 2010 Equality Act, which outlaws discrimination over religious beliefs.

  2. From the U.S.: I don’t know what one law would do it, but I would like to get rid of (or at least revise) the legal concept of corporate personhood.

    1. Concur. (Let’s see a bloody corporation physically go into combat. Also, no deals where a corporation can get by with refusing to admit guilt.)

  3. I’m in the US.
    So many choices. Is it cheating/a cop-out to say The US Tax Code? It *is* technically one big law. While there are a lot of social ills in this country, that one probably creates the most disparity (in prosperity and happiness) for the most people. And you can work all sorts of changes with this “one law.” For example, the entire ACA (Obamacare) is just one addendum to it.

      1. I think a slight change in existing law would be sufficient. Once you consider churches as “for profit businesses”, which (for the most part) they are, then existing law exempting truly non-profit organizations could remain intact.

        1. I think I would eliminate exemptions for all non-profits. There are myriad ‘non-profits’ that pay their CEO’s ridiculous sums and pour a lot of their revenue into buildings that generate more revenue – hospitals come to mind.

            1. Keith – maybe so, since I am not familiar with how the taxes work for non-profits. My bias is that there should be a way to fairly tax all organizations, especially when I note that there are more than 2.2 million NPO’s in the US and over 80 in our community of just 100,000 people and 28,000 in Colorado

              1. Do you know what those organisations are, though? 80 sounds a lot, but they could easily be just things like a chess club, or a recycling group, or a group of runners/joggers, or similar. They really shouldn’t be taxed. It’s the commercial ‘nonprofits’ with big turnovers that are suspect.

                cr

  4. I’d change campaign finance and districting laws. (USA) I’m calling that just one law. So there.

      1. A lot of countries have independent electoral commissions, the responsibilities of which include electoral boundaries. This prevents gerrymandering. There’s plenty of international precedent for the US to introduce such laws.

        1. By “a lot of countries” you really mean foreigners, don’t you? Ya, those people who eat their children and d*gs.

          By “independent commissions” you really mean socialist control panels of some sort, right?

          Not gonna happen here no time soon, don’t ya know.

          1. You’re doing a good impression of someone I ended up getting majorly abused by on Twi**er once! 😀

            He thought no other country could ever offer any solution to any US problem, because if they hadn’t thought of it, it was a bad idea. Etc. Etc. American exceptionalism. Etc.

            Oh, and I’m not sure you’d call NZ, Japan and Aussie socialist – we rank higher on the world business rankings than the US. 🙂

      2. The assignment of boundaries isn’t random BTW, but based on independent criteria and formulas, and is transparent.

        1. That certainly helps to prevent intentional gerrymandering. It’s still possible for the impartially-drawn boundaries to produce inequalities, such that the party winning the most electorates (districts) actually got less total votes than the opposition. Though with shifting populations and redrawn boundaries an electorate can go from ‘safe’ to ‘marginal’ just like that.

          FPP (first-past-the-post) also entrenches the two-party system and means that third parties find it almost impossible to get a seat. These two factors were a major driver for the introduction of our MMP (proportional) system a while back, wherein (roughly speaking) parties get seats in Parliament in approximate proportion to the total number of votes cast. This can lead more frequently to coalitions and occasionally small parties acting as king-maker. On the (big) plus side, it means my vote is worth exactly as much as anyone else’s whether I’m in a ‘safe seat’ or marginal, and I’m unlikely to have to ‘strategic vote’.

          cr

          1. Yeah – whatever it’s faults, we’ve been a lot better off since we got MMP. We had some very unfair election results before that, and any vote that wasn’t for one of the two major parties was basically wasted. Parties in a kingmaker position have actually been pretty good at not taking advantage of the situation. Everything being locked up between two parties is a lot of what’s wrong in the US imo.

            1. I agree.

              The thing about a ‘kingmaker’ position is this: That though it’s often straw-manned as ‘some tiny party imposing weird ideas on the country’, this can’t happen. For the position to arise, the two main sides have to be nearly equal in votes, close enough that the election result could have gone either way and may (in the past) have been decided by some quirk of the electoral system. The ‘kingmaker’ can’t produce some huge political anomaly from nowhere.

              The kingmaker may have some strange agenda of their own to advance, but they won’t get it through Parliament without the support of their major coalition partner; and they can’t afford to endorse anything too wacko because they know they’ll suffer for it at the next election.

              The other criticism levelled against MMP is that it ‘results in indecisive government’ or ‘makes it too hard to pass legislation’. I see this as a plus! Since we only have one House of Parliament in NZ (no Senate or House of Lords to put a brake on things), what I most fear is having ONE party in absolute control with ONE leader in command who can pass what laws he likes at short notice.

              (Google ‘Muldoon’. The thing that made Muldoon’s nominally conservative government tolerable was that he believed in social security and equality).

              cr

              1. It can be very indirect. For example, I understand that Statistics Canada provides input to Elections Canada for riding boundaries. But when the quality of the census of population is compromised (as happened recently …) potentially this could do some harm. Also, Elections Canada itself was messed around with recently. (Arms length doesn’t do you any good if people can just pass legislation or issue orders-in-council to override matters!)

              2. Agreee completely – a small party might be able to force something unpopular to be considered, but they can’t get the legislation through without support.

      3. I’d suggest that boundaries have to follow existing, not arbitrarily changed lines, city line, river, major highlway etc. This limits the manipulation that can be done.

        However many groups, including civil rights groups, would never go for that because they are as obsessed with using gerrymandering to gain power as the political parties are

        1. I don’t think that’s a practical way to limit gerrymandering, more likely encourage it. Too many ways around it, and too rigid to take into account population shifts. (Google ‘rotten boroughs’).

          cr

    1. I’d vote for this as well. There is no competition in nearly all of the carefully drawn districts, the districts favor whichever party was in power at the turn of a decade, and even if a Republican wanted to show a streak of independence from their daily talking points, they’d have to do so knowing that a Koch or some other billionaire would be willing to fund a primary challenge against them.

      As long as you’re lumping issues together, I’d lump the abolition of corporate personhood into this one as well.

      1. Works for me. Put all these basic democratic fixes in place for the whole country under one law that replaces the mess we have now.

  5. This is a difficult one. The Netherlands doesn’t have a separation between church and state and it is a monarchy. I dislike religion and monarchy and the combination of them makes me particularly nauseous.

    The monarchy doesn’t have much power here, so I would abolish art. 23 of the constitution (which grants people the right to start state-funded religious schools) and replace it with a clear separation of church and state. This would benefit a lot of people, especially children.

      1. Hahaha. No, we’re quite proud of our art. I meant ‘article’, but you already got that I think.

  6. This is easy for me: In the US, I would rewrite the Second Amendment to clearly state that guns are only for the military, National Guard and police forces.

    Current:
    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Mine:
    “A well regulated Military and Law Enforcement Agencies, being necessary to the security of a free Nation, and the right of the people to keep and bear Arms as the States’ National Guard, shall not be infringed.”

    1. This is why I feel this is most important:

      CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire at two military facilities Thursday in Tennessee, killing at least four Marines and wounding a soldier and a police officer, officials said. The shooter also was killed.

      …”

      U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said officials were treating the attacks as an “act of domestic terrorism,” though FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said authorities were still investigating a motive. The first shooting happened around 10:45 a.m.; the attacks were over within a half-hour.

      Berke said five people died in all, including the gunman. A police officer was shot in the ankle, and others were wounded, he said.

    2. Well, Bob…as one of the very few libertarians here, I certainly do understand the resident hoplophobia. I disagree with it, but I understand it.

      But here’s the part that I don’t understand. Wanting guns out of the hands of civilians, why on earth would you allow the police to have them? Surely you know that the police are by far the most violent group in society. (Looking just at domestic-violence rates, they make the NFL look like choir-boys.)And their irresponsibility with guns themselves is just off the charts.

      So what’s your rationale for taking guns away from civilians, but allowing them in the hands of the most violent and irresponsible?

      1. An interesting comment. I’d note that in Britain and New Zealand, police officers *don’t* regularly carry guns. So I would say an disarmed police force is not out of the range of future possibility. However the short-term answer is that even if you made firearms illegal in the US tomorrow, there would be enough hold-outs and illegal firearms circulating for the next several years that it would probably be a bad idea to disarm the police immediately.

        1. It is true that, in Britain, police officers do not carry weapons as a matter of routine, but the police forces are not disarmed. We do have armed response teams for situations where guns are needed e.g. if the villain is armed.

          1. I think the “as a matter of routine” is the significant point there. Makes all the difference.

            cr

          2. I did say ‘routinely.’ Even in the hypothetical future where there is no gun ownership and no gun violence, I have no problem with the police having a literal (storage) arsenal, just as I don’t have a problem with the national guard having one now.

            1. I do agree with that. No problem with the police being issued guns in specific circumstances (which should not be allowed to creep into ‘quite often, just in case’ territory).

              I also agree this would not be attainable in the US immediately, hopefully a longer-term goal.

              cr

      2. Except your statements hold no water in countries that have restricted guns for civilians. The US has one of the highest rates of death by firearms in the world (300% over France, 4000% over UK,Japan has almost none; Central and South America and some African countries are higher than US)

        I also disapprove of Libertarianism because it has been proven time and again that some regulations are necessary for running a society.

        1. Bob, I do believe that you might be conflating libertarianism with anarchism. Libertarians also believe in at least SOME laws, often expressed (at a minimum) as those protecting the citizens “from force and fraud.” In other words, at least a limited police and court system.

          It may surprise you to know that there are even a fair number of us libertarians who are not horrified by the notion of having Bernie Sanders, the supposed “socialist,” as our next President.

          1. To me, saving 19,000 lives from suicide by guns and 11,000 homicides by guns per year in the U.S. Is worth putting restrictions on gun ownership. It would not cut it to zero but it would reduce it by a significant amount.

            1. Agreed. I’d like to point out that phrase “well regulated”. an armed force of any kind, be it police, military, or citizen, needs to be well regulated in order to function properly and safely. This clearly isn’t happening and it is high time we let go of the wild west mythos and move beyond this brutal, dangerous, and frankly infantile and idiotic obsession with guns. What we’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s making it worse.

              1. quiscalus, you might want to do a little research on what the phrase “well regulated” was taken to mean at the time that the 2nd Amendment was written. It was understood to mean “well equipped and trained.” Not “hobbled with laws,” based on wishful thinking or otherwise.

              2. or it means in proper working order. which our “militia” of gun nuts obviously is not. as for your “hobbled with laws” crack, just look to nations where they are not “hobbled with laws”, like Somalia, Yemen, Sudan & South Sudan. They’re doing great! Maybe all the libertarians and their guns could go move to one of those paradises on earth.

              3. The two of you are now sniping back and forth. Everyone had their say. Let’s cool down and watch kitty videos.

          2. I gather that libertarians are adamantly against military subscription. Yet do libertarians nevertheless expect SOMEBODY to enter the military and go in harm’s way as necessary on libertarians’ behalf?

            1. OK, let me say first that while I will attempt to answer these questions about “what libertarians think” only because I may be the ONLY one here, it’s important to remember that libertarians ain’t much, for obvious reasons, for grand statements about consensus.

              Most libertarians are pro-choice. But there is a “libertarians for life” faction. Most libertarians are more for open borders than the general electorate; I tend to think that border-control is a legitimate government function, but I wouldn’t presume to make sweeping statements about “what libertarians think” about that or much else.

              That being said, I think that your question is really looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Assuming that by “subscription” you mean CONSCRIPTION, I think that you have adequately stated the majority consensus among libertarians. But whence this “as necessary” part? Most libertarians are spending more time thinking aabout how to keep the Demopublican and Republicrat wings of the Warmonger Party from dreaming up situations where other people’s kids have to be put in harm’s way in the first place. To the extent that that needs to happen, are you suggesting that there is some evidence that the volunteer armed forces are not working?

              1. ‘Assuming that by “subscription” you mean CONSCRIPTION . . . .”

                Yes, I meant conscription. (I’ll take 10^-3 seconds and feel guilty.) Perhaps I should have rather referred to the “draft,” or to “impressment.” (How “-script,” with whatever prefix attached, possibly clearly describes the situation, I know not.)

                ‘But whence this “as necessary” part?’

                By that I mean as necessary to accomplish a given libertarian’s desired ends, especially the libertarian who consider the military draft involuntary servitude.

                “Most libertarians are spending more time thinking aabout how to keep the . . . Warmonger Party from dreaming up situations where other people’s kids have to be put in harm’s way in the first place. To the extent that that needs to happen, are you suggesting that there is some evidence that the volunteer armed forces are not working?”

                It certainly works for those who don’t feel any duty or obligation to join. It certainly works for the entitled, self-regarding Romneyesque 1%. They certainly expect SOMEONE ELSE to do it. Does any sort of duty exist throughout all socio-economic classes, or is it merely and solely a matter of the economic marketplace, of a young person seeking to somehow escape from and rise above his most modest – if not dire – circumstances?

                (By the way, I’m for the law being changed to require the responsibility- and accountability-avoiding U.S. Congress to declare war – not having done so since December 8, 1941 – before sending the military in harm’s way, however major or minor the adventure may be, and to raise taxes – instead of borrowing – to fund any such adventure so that, however indirectly, “out of sight, out of mind” Amuricuns will feel like they’re doing their parts. Else, don’t go off on foreign adventures.)

              2. Filippo, what country are you talking about? The US has no draft or mandatory military service, and its not just libertarians that oppose a draft, pretty much everyone does. The last time Gallup polled the population on the issue, 80% of Americans opposed it.

              3. This is in response to Eric’s below:

                “Filippo, what country are you talking about? The US has no draft or mandatory military service, and its not just libertarians that oppose a draft, pretty much everyone does. The last time Gallup polled the population on the issue, 80% of Americans opposed it.”

                I apologize if my writing is not clear. I thought it was clear.

                I’m aware there’s been no U.S. military draft since 1973. (I heard somewhere the notion floated about that Nixon did away with the draft as one way to at least partly take the wind out of the sails of the Vietnam anti-war movement. All else being equal, someone not subjected to the draft would be less likely to actively protest against that war.)

                Whatever else I’m saying, I’m inquiring about what if any duty or obligation a U.S. citizen has to join the military and possibly (more likely, probably, for some) go in harm’s way to be killed or maimed for life, and on behalf of what values and whose (financial?) interests. I don’t doubt that 80% of Americans oppose the draft; I’d like to see that same poll at least ask them the questions: “Shall we totally do away with the military? If not, what Americans do you think should join the military? Are any Americans entitled to be exempt from feeling any such duty or obligation and, if so, just who are they?” Again, everybody expects SOMEBODY (ELSE) to voluntarily join up, unless they’re perfectly OK with totally doing away with the military.

                I’m a veteran. I joined the navy because at the time I didn’t really know a better, tolerable “Plan B” to set out on. (“Plan A” wasn’t working out.) There was an economic/job security aspect to it. And I also did it for the experience and for what sense of adventure might be had out of it. Got to see some places I’d otherwise never get to see. I soon enough figured out that I was not all that good a fit. And I admit I selected a safer path compared to those selected by others who have paid the ultimate price; I wasn’t seeking to drastically raise my chances of getting killed. One might reasonably ask why I didn’t pursue a riskier military specialty, and I might be hard-pressed to give him a satisfactory answer.

              4. Whatever else I’m saying, I’m inquiring about what if any duty or obligation a U.S. citizen has to join the military…

                None.

                …and on behalf of what values and whose (financial?) interests.

                Well, the State’s, their neighbors, and their own (not respectively).

                what Americans do you think should join the military?

                Barring some existential threat against which large troop numbers are valuable (such as a CONUS invasion) those who wish to.

                Are any Americans entitled to be exempt from feeling any such duty or obligation and, if so, just who are they?” Again, everybody expects SOMEBODY (ELSE) to voluntarily join up, unless they’re perfectly OK with totally doing away with the military.

                I don’t see any hypocrisy in an all-volunteer military. I am “not” a lot of things: not a soldier, not a medical doctor, not a fireman, not a plumber. All those jobs are socially important, but I’m not a jerk or social parasite for becoming a scientist instead of a fireman any more than a soldier is a jerk or parasite for not being a scientist. To your last point: my choice to become a scientist doesn’t mean I’m claiming we can do away with medical doctors, firemen, plumbers, or soldiers; we obviously can’t. Does your choice to become a soldier mean you’re perfectly okay with totally doing away with surgeons? That’s a pretty stupid implication, isn’t it? Of course you don’t feel that way. Neither do I. You couldn’t possibly do all the important jobs that society needs doing, so not-doing one of them doesn’t imply that you think that job is unimportant. And the same is true for me.

      3. If the US police force is one of the most violent groups in society (which I don’t doubt) that says a lot about the type of person who is selected, and their training. Recruitment should focus on finding people who want to serve their communities, not just put away bad guys. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that police in the US aren’t very well paid either, making corruption more likely too. Here (NZ) and Britain, police are more likely to negotiate in tense situations, and firearms are a last resort and rarely used. Of course, we have no Second Amendment, hand guns are rare, and most gun owners are genuinely farmers or hunters, so the culture is quite different.

        1. “Recruitment should focus on finding people who want to serve their communities, not just put away bad guys.”

          Well, the pool of candidates won’t include Romneyesque MBA/JD Wall Street types.

        2. The U.S., don’t forget, has a long history romanticizing guns. When I grew up in the mid-20th C, westerns were the popular genre, in which men swaggered about town with spurs and a “6 gun” strapped to their hip. They were violent and sexy. They called them the great equalizer.
          Now, if we could just go back in time and confiscate those memories…

          1. Yeah, the culture thing is a big issue that we don’t have to contend with, and is always going to make it much more difficult for you guys to solve the problem.

            Guns in NZ are culturally associated with pig and deer hunting, plus getting rid of pests like rabbits and possums. We never had the Wild West thing.

            1. There’s a difference in the type of gun too. 99% (wild guess) of guns in NZ would be rifles and shotguns, owned by country folk. Very few townies would own a gun.

              Licences are mandatory and selling a gun to an unlicensed owner is illegal. The licence entitles you to own rifles or shotguns but not pistols unless your licence is specially endorsed. A pistol is defined as a firearm less than 30″ in length (!). The pistol endorsement typically permits only target shooting at an approved pistol range.
              It’s all fairly restrictive.

              http://www.loc.gov/law/help/firearms-control/newzealand.php

              cr

              1. Me, if I had a gun. They’re an introduced pest, and the damn things eat the bush. The alternative is 1080 poison.

                When I’m out driving on back roads at night, I see more possums than rabbits. And rabbits only eat grass. I don’t care about grass, I care about the native bush.

                cr

              2. You have my sympathy. It would be nice to be able to get rid of all invasives everywhere. Unfortunately it seems impossible.

              3. OMG are you trying to annoy her? Those things are culled becaus of the damage they do. My nana once gave me a possum fur purse when I was a kid.

              4. And when they eat the native tress etc, their bite poisons them. They eat the eggs of native birds, many of which are flightless because we have no native land mammals exceot a bat. Rabbits only eat grass, but if you’re a South Island high country farmer, where there are huge numbers of rabbits, it can be the difference between whether or not your business survives.

              5. There’s also an established alternative to shooting and poison: automatic captive bolt traps.

                NZ is perhaps the only place in the world where such traps are fit for purpose, in that there are no native animals likely to put their heads in the death zone.

              6. @ John

                Interesting. Presumably the possum-attracting bait is not appealing to cats (the only other animals likely to be able to climb a tree trunk). And subsequent possums presumably ignore the dead ones at the base of the tree.

                I note the ‘do not insert fingers’ sign on the side of it. Presumably it should be set out of reach of kids.

                cr

        3. Canada has similar problems as the U.S. With the police except they aren’t yet armed like the military. The attitude is the same though.

      4. Police are indeed more violent than the average citizen, this is true. But “by far the most violent group in society”? I’m going to need some stats to back that up, and I’m not finding them.

        Domestic violence: According to the National Center for Women and Policing, studies have found that between 24-40% of police families experienced domestic violence within the last year, compared to 10% nationally. That’s definitely a huge increase, and the abuser being a cop adds a huge amount of extra difficulty for the victims in such cases, but is it the highest rate? A 2002 Yale Medicine study found combat veterans to be more than four times as likely to have committed domestic violence, placing them equal to or above cops – and in many ways, plenty of cops could be considered combat veterans themselves.

        Homicide: For starters, we need to decide what we’re talking about here – are we including homicides that were ruled as justifiable in the line of duty, homicides that were NOT ruled justified and/or resulted in charges against the officer, or total homicides police officers are involved in? Numbers for justifiable homicides aren’t too hard to find; 2009-13 FBI stats, for instance, show an average of a bit over 400 a year. Numbers for total cop killings are harder to find, with http://www.killedbypolice.net using the tactic of surveying news reports of all deaths cops are involved with to provide numbers of 767 and 1105 for ’13 and ’14 respectively, but reliability of reporting is a question, and the site makes no distinctions regarding case details. The website FiveThirtyEight sampled 146 and found 85-93% fit under the general conception of arrest-related deaths, but again, this number does not distinguish between justified or not.

        So, combining the FBI’s numbers with FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of KilledByPolice’s numbers, we get about 300 killings not justified by the FBI in 2013, about 600 in 2014. Still bad numbers, no doubt. According to the US Dept. of Justice, in 2008 (latest count I could find) state/local govts. had 765,000 sworn officers able to make arrests, while the federal govt. employed 120,000 – these numbers have likely gone up, previous patterns suggesting by about 60,000. This gives us an estimate of 885,000 officers, responsible for 300-600 unjustified deaths a year, 700-1000 total deaths. Not good, but the worst? The National Gang Center estimates about 850,000 gang members, roughly similar to the number of police, responsible for about 2000 killings a year – twice as many. Gang culture would seem more violent than police culture here.

        Now, I know it’s a weak defense of police to claim that they’re less violent than gangs or combat vets – but it’s a weaker argument to say that they aren’t. I’m not arguing in favor of current police culture nor against reforming it. I’m not saying police aren’t more violent than the average citizen – they clearly are. But perspective and facts are needed in this discussion.

        1. “This gives us an estimate of 885,000 officers” should have been “This gives us an estimate of ~950,000 officers”. Editing fail. Doesn’t change the ratios much.

    3. Here in the USA, I know too many people who rely on hunting to provide a significant amount of food for their families to be able to back eliminating all civilian gun ownership. But I could back a prohibition on automatic weapons. I could agree to registration for all guns, to requiring safety instruction, to mandating background checks for all gun sales, and to preventing ownership by certain classes of people (certain felons, etc).

      1. I would go for what you propose but they are using the second amendment as a reason for not accomplishing most of it.

        But really? Many who hunt to provide a significant amount of food for their families? By choice or by necessity? I’m know no one like that.

        1. Bob, I do believe that you’re correct about that one. As we sometimes say, the 2nd Amendment isn’t about growing tomatoes.

      2. JoanL…automatic weapons already have been essentioally outlawed in the U.S. since 1934. (Technically it is possible to buy one, but unlikely that you can pass the draconian requirements. And if you can, you can only buy a weapon “grandfathered” from 1968 or earlier. This explains why a new SKS can be had for maybe $500, and an AR-15 for less than $1K, but a pre-ban AK-47 will cost you north of $10K, and an M-16 more than $15K.

        And automatic weapons are almost never used in crimes anyway. (They’re too rare and valuable for it.) The last instance that I recall is the 1997 North Hollywood bank shootout with Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu. But that’s not even fair; they used illegally-modified Norinco AK-47 variants. Good luck stopping THAT with a law…

        As to “preventing ownership by certain classes of people,” felons are ALREADY disenfranchised from gun ownership in all jurisdictions that I’m aware of.

        1. My understanding is that Los Angeles (or maybe all of California) is the only place where someone’s firearms are confiscated after they become a convicted felon. The law is there, but it’s not enforced. I’ve never heard much about straw purchase laws being enforced either, although I’d be happy to be proven wrong and I admit I don’t really know because I haven’t looked into it. It seems though that places like Chicago can trace a lot of their problems to legally purchased guns being on-sold. Background checks seem to be pretty sporadic in many places too.

        2. And automatic weapons are almost never used in crimes anyway.

          This is a truth that obfuscates an important point. Yes, when you count robberies, thefts, etc.. then the overwhelming weapon of choice in the US is the handgun. But when it comes to mass killings, rapid-fire high-magazine weapons are used a lot. There were 142 mass shootings during the 30 years between 1982 and 2012 (when the assault weapon ban failed to be renewed). During this time, such weapons were used in more than 50% of mass shootings, and combined with high capacity magazine weapons, account for about 40% of all weapons used in such killings. See the third chart here.

          1. I guess we’re dealing with two different categories of crime here. One is the ‘ordinary’ minor criminal who just uses a gun to commit a robbery and usually doesn’t actually plan to shoot anybody with it unless he ‘has to’. A handy easily-concealed pistol is all he needs.

            And the other is the nutter who wants to go out in a blaze of glory whose ego requires a BFG with huge magazines and high rate of fire and the more dramatic it is, the better.

            cr

            1. ‘Two different categories’? – You can put an arbitrary divide wherever you like, but according to Richardson’s Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (which most of us will have seen mentioned, at least in Pinker’s Better Angels) there’s no dichotomy between murder and massacre (or between a bar brawl and thermonuclear war), just a smooth power law of frequency varying with scale.

              1. So you don’t see a difference between some deadbeat who holds up a liquor store with a saturday night special so he can get a few hundred bucks to buy drugs, and a psychotic who heads off to his local school with an assortment of big expensive large-capacity weapons intent on massacre?

                In gun control terms, that is definitely two quite distinct categories of guns you would have to control.

                cr

          2. eric, hold on a second: if we want to avoid obfuscating, let’s start by being precise with our terms. JoanL’s objection was to AUTOMATIC weapons. This is a term with a specific meaning, and it is NOT synonymous with “high capacity magazine.”(All SEMI-automatic weapons are by definition “rapid-fire,” but then so are revolvers, which at least just by using a cheap speed-loader, are also “high-capacity.”)

            I didn’t click on EVERY bubble in the Mother Jones chart, but I did click on ten or so of the largest (where one might logically expect to find automatic weapons) at random, and as I suspected, NOT ONE involved any such weapon.

            The terms “assault rifle” and “assault weapon” are so vague as to be useless, and in fact are only used in the press for the express purpose of obfuscation, or at least in complete ignorance. A weapon WITHOUT a selective-fire switch (in other words, true auto, or at least “burst” capability) is by definition NOT an assault rifle. If there is any confusion about this, please specify a modern military that sends its soldiers into battle (in other words, to conduct ACTUAL assaults) with an SKS or an AR-15 or similar, rather than an AK-47 or an M-16 or similar.

            1. I will let JoanL answer as to whether she supports a ban on just literal automatic weapons, or was saying she supoorts legislation like the assault weapons ban we had in place up until 2012. Though if she knows a lot of hunters and gun owners, I doubt she’s ignorant of the ban on literal automatic weapons and I suspect she was referring to the latter.

              1. ‘Fraid I’m ignorant. I meant the assault weapons ban. I do know a surprising number of hunters and am aware of a lot of meat being caught. Is this choice or necessity? I suspect both, though I know people who really do count on hunting to cover a portion of their household expenses. Without hunting they’d live poorer than they do now. On the other hand, they could fish, and trap small game – and the larger deer population could cause even more traffic accidents.

                I’d really like to think we could have laws – that were enforced – to control guns without totally banning them.

    4. Actually no. If it were that clear, then it would have been settled long ago. Militias were not the National Guard, they were ado hoc groups of residents.

      There is a history here that explains why weapon ownership was the second amendment, after only freedeom of speech and religion. Historically feudal and later monarchic Europe pretty much prohibited commoners from maintaining armaments. Only the aristorcracy and their henchmen could be armed. Once they came to the ‘new world’ where it was necessary to be armed, they realized they did not want to go back to the old system. They put this in the second most prominent position in the Bill or Rights. It was not an accident .

      Returning armaments to exclusively the government agencies (police, quasi military etc) is the kind of feudal situation they were trying to avoid.

      1. The feudal system is long gone. Time to move up 3 centuries. The are more guns in the U.S. than people. Insanity.

        1. Take Texas. (please).
          I mean, those Texans preparing for an attack by Obama. They envision Obama leading a thousand men in red coats down the highway toward our home town.
          This is not how civil war would actually happen in the 21st century. If the U.S. did have such a deep division, each side would need the support of a significant fraction of the military. The two sides would battle it out within a few days probably, using jets and tanks, etc if not nukes. The average citizen would not have a chance to become involved in any serious way. Guns in the hands of ad hock militias is just to satisfy a handful of immature hotheads. The likelihood of this actually happening must be exceedingly remote. Feudal is long gone.

          1. An interesting op-ed in the 7/17/15 hard copy NY Times about certain “Texians”‘reaction to the current U.S. military exercises there.

            1. And in conclusion: ” We’re moving slowly into maturity. But you know, there are always a few who take longer to get there.”

      2. There is a history here that explains why weapon ownership was the second amendment, after only freedom of speech and religion.

        Um, no not really. Madison originally submitted seven numbered suggestions, each of which was multi-part and the total comprising about 40 specific, different changes he wanted made to the Constitution. Both our first amendment AND our second amendment are derived from Madison’s #4. Several other amendments came from his #4 too; he listed them all together.

        After Madison submitted this, Congress rewrote and reworked his list into 12 more narrow amendments which they then sent to the states for ratification as a set. However the states did not agree to all 12, and only numbers 3-12 ended up getting adopted. These became our bill of rights. The actual “first amendment” – i.e., #1 on the list Congress sent to the states – set the future size of Congress at 1 Congressman/40,000 citizens. Our current first amendment was actually #3 on Congress’s list.

        Which is a long way around to saying you really shouldn’t read much deep meaning into the number order of the bill of rights. Madison lumped our first and second amendment together when he wrote them, and he had them both as #4 of 7 on his personal list. Congress made them #3 and 4 on its list of 12. Its only because the states didn’t like Congress’ #1 and 2 that they became our first and second amendments.

    5. the security of a free Nation[…] the States’ National Guard,

      Why does America persist with this fiction of being several dozen independent, distinct states who happen to have a single leader? I mean, it can’t be for historical reasons since most cities have several times as much history as any and all of those counties, districts and feudalities (“Penn’s wooded country”, indeed!)
      I mean, some of the states were flat-out brought from foreign powers, instead of being stolen from the inhabitants.

      1. flat-out brought from foreign powers, instead of being stolen from the inhabitants.

        Sorry, forgot the obligatory addendum of “in the Biblically approved manner”.

  7. In the US, campaign finance laws are way up on the list. On a par with that, and in the same vein (bribing / buying the people that govern) are whatever laws regulate (or that don’t) lobbying.

    1. My pet problem is similar to this but I’m pretty sure finance laws and lobbying cannot be solved without…you got it – Constitutional Amendment. We must separate our politicians from money, totally and completely. So, the Amendment must go something like this —

      All federal elections will be paid by public funding completely and with no private money of any kind used in these elections or campaigns. All persons running for office will take no private money or use any of their own money for the purpose of running for or campaigning for office.

      I won’t go into all the details of this but to say, this law will stop all pac money, private money and all other money used to campaign or run for Senate, House of Reps or Pres. The huge business of Lobbying will probably go out of business as there would be no reason for it. We could actually get some people to run for office who would do good things.

      1. I disagree. Even with SCOTUS saying donations = speech, I bet Congress could get away with taxing those donations. Say, for example, an 80% tax rate on all political donations over $10,000/year. That would have no effect on 99% of individual donors, but have a significant impact on corporate and large donor spending.

        1. Not sure if you understand what I’m calling for? A constitutional amendment making public funding of all federal campaigns will eliminate all other money going into any of these elections period. No corporate money, no private money, no donations. The money to campaign for an office would come from our taxes. So every proper and legal candidate would get the same money to run his or her campaign and nothing more. And since everyone gets the same amount, it puts the poor guy and the billionaire on level field.

          1. I understand what you want. I understand you see it as the ideal solution. But I think you are making perfect the enemy of good; I disagree that a constitutional amendment is the only way to solve the problem. Basically any measure that reduces special interest influence over candidates is an improvement, and IMO many such improvements are possible (a) even with SCOTUS’ last ruling and (b) without requiring a constitutional amendment.

          2. 1) How do we choose who is entitled to the government money?

            2) As it is, candidates that raise a lot of money do so because lots if people are willing to put their money where their mouth is. That IS their choice, as well as the choice not to give any money to anybody. Why should the government make that choice? With taxpayer money?

            3) this is based in part on the assumption that money wins th race. It helps, but it’s usually the most popular candidates who get the most money, where no one funds the candidates they don’t like.

            4) How would you handle the free speech problems caused by this. Where people, whether authors, bloggers, want to advocate publicly for their preferred candidate? Citzens united (which had nothing to do with lobbying) was about freedom of people and groups of people to express themselves about the election. It was a great victory for free speech despite
            what the presssure groups say. There’s no way to restrict ‘money/speech’ without severely limitiing political free speech, which is one of the most important kinds.

            1. Regarding your #4, this is obviously not an insurmountable problem given that most western nations already *do* have strict campaign finance regulations. It is really preposterous to claim that campaign finance reform would ‘severely limit political free speech’ when political free speech seems alive and well in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, etc…

              1. What does ‘political free speech’ mean? The ability to say anything you like (so long as it’s not libellous)? Or the ability to buy as much publicity as you can afford and swamp anyone whose finances are more limited?

                By the way, ruling that corporations are not people would help in that respect, but wouldn’t fully fix the problem, you’d still have the Koch brothers, Donald Trump et al able to swamp most opponents with their genuinely ‘personal’ views.

                cr

      2. Our elections in NZ aren’t publicly funded, but we do have very strict campaign finance laws in which parties, politicians, and interested parties (like unions, super-pacs etc) all have spending limits, which are quite low. Campaigning is also restricted to three months before an election. These are enforced, and if a politician is found to have exceeded the spending cap by even 1 cent, they lose their seat. This has happened, although it was a few hundred dollars, not 1 cent.

  8. There’s too many to pick from:

    Allow assisted dying; Make early abortion easier; get rid of religious privilege; get rid of the monarchy; get rid of FPTP voting…

    Bet I could think of more relics that need to be disposed of!

  9. I agree that here in the U.S. many laws need to be changed, but the one I would start with is the law that establishes a social security “trust fund” which fosters the pretense that the Federal Government can’t spend any more on social services than it collects form the people in taxes. Once the people realized that is untrue, a lot of other things would change in due course.

  10. From the U.S.

    My apologies for the length of this rant, but this is a subject that I’ve studied and editorialized about a LOT.

    First, in the U.S., to discuss “a law” is strange in that we have fifty state systems with laws not only different from each others’, and from the federal system, but often contradicting each other. For example, and in the very context I’m writing, the feds still arrest marijuana users and growers in states that have decriminalized those acts.(Proof enough by itself of the complete idiocy and insanity of all such laws.)

    So…deep breath…here goes: ALL recreational drug laws that pertain to adults. Period.

    First of all, all federal drug laws are by definition unconstitutional. At the time of alcohol Prohibition, “law”-makers understood that this was not something that the government could make laws about without amending the Constitution. So…where is the amendment allowing the prohibition of cocaine, heroin, meth, whatever? It isn’t there, and all court decisions finding justification elsewhere (like in the Commerce Clause, if you can believe that) come across as what they are: the purest horseshit.

    Legalize ALL drugs now. Not just pot; ALL recreational pharmaceuticals. Period.

    So many of the ills of our time arise from this one cause: the completely insane and idiotic War on Some Drugs. Consistency? Forget about it. Taking ALL drug deaths together, you don’t even get close to the number killed by tobacco alone.

    Wholesale corruption of the police and judiciary. The prison-industrial complex. The militarization of civil society. The complete obliteration of minority communities. Disastrous foreign policy–over 100K dead in México alone just since the time of the Calderón presidency. SWAT teams busting down the “wrong” door (as if there is a right one) and shooting grandmothers in the back of the head.

    Sure, there are lots of laws that need to be changed, but this one is a no-brainer. If there were one single intelligent, or even not-clincally-insane thing to be said in favor of ANY drug law, surely we would have heard it by now, yes?

    And an ounce of history is STILL worth a pound of theory. So: “Portugal.” See http://mic.com/articles/110344/14-years-after-portugal-decriminalized-all-drugs-here-s-what-s-happening

    1. I have often noted that there are areas where Libertarians and I agree, and this is one of them.
      But we do need laws. Not only laws to control our government and its military and the police, but also laws that are a means to control our civilians. So I would like to hear what laws you think we should still have.

      1. ” . . . but also laws that are a means to control our civilians.”

        Re: this week’s U.S. Public Broadcasting System’s “American Experience” about civilian behavior during the 1977 New York City blackout.

      2. Mark: as I said to Filippo, I claim no right to say “what libertarians think,” so I’ll address this as one libertarian only.

        As I already stated to Bob, libertarians generally think (and I agree) that there should be laws, and enough of a police/court system to put some teeth into them, that protect citizens from acts of force and fraud. Including “civilians.” While most libertarians tend to be more for open borders, I think that border control is a perfectly valid government function. I am also not opposed to regulations preventing behavior that is so threatening to the population, especially where other remedies are inadequate. Hence mandatory vehicle insurance laws, which I don’t oppose, although other libertarians might. Hence environmental regulations, which I don’t oppose, as sometimes you can’t undo damage, and money is an inadequate remedy. Many libertarians might not agree with that statement, but like I said, I’m not any kind of spokesman.

    2. That’s what I was going to say if no one else had by the time I got to the bottom.

      That would solve the vast majority of the USA’s violence problem as well, and give those with a visceral fear and hatred of guns fewer statistics to misrepresent.

    3. Absolutely right – this is the one I was going to bring up. The failures of prohibition have been proven over and over; it’s time to stop moral policing people’s recreational choices.

    4. I agree completely and said the same before reading your post.

      Although Australia isn’t as brutal and draconian as the US it is still bad.

    5. This topic is covered at length in a recent book called Chasing the Scream by the journalist Johann Hari. Unfortunately this is also someone who was guilty of some pretty unethical behaviour, but as long as there are no deliberate fabrications in the book, that’s irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. It makes what seems to me an absolutely watertight case, and there are some truly shocking stories in there as well. The story of how it all came about in the early 20th century would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.

      So yes: repeal all prohibition.

      http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Scream-First-Last-Drugs-ebook/dp/B00P9BOXWG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1437117228&sr=1-1&keywords=chasing+the+scream

      1. Thanks for this Alastair. I hadn’t hear of Hari before, let alone this book, although I’m of course VERY familiar with the story of the sociopath, Anslinger.

        One of the saddest parts of there being no afterlife is that we’ll never get to see Anslinger being tortured in Hell.

      2. I’m definitely of a mind to repeal all prohibition. Let drug consumers who deign to do so souse themselves to the gills with drugs, and let the chips fall where they may. (Are government “D.A.R.E.” programs in elementary schools still a good thing? Or is that too much of a “nanny” thing criticized by less-government conservatives?) Is it a possible consequence that governments will be expected to acquiesce to pleas for funding addiction treatment centers when addicts come desperately clamoring for help? (That’s the inner, latent libertarian in me asking that question.) Perhaps “social entrepreneurs” will find a way to make a profit from such centers, and government won’t have to involve itself.

        (And the same with the brouhaha about U.S. school lunch programs and students refusing to eat healthy meals. Let them eat what they will and let the chips fall where they may. No pun intended. Let these genius “social entrepreneurs” find a sufficiently profit-making way – on their own dime – of dealing with childhood obesity, diabetes, etc.)

    6. Brujo, good choice. I think I’ll stick with mine (below) but yours is tempting. And by the way, you’re not the only libertarian on WEIT – although I’m rarely in the comments. :->

    7. Until this happens we are doomed to the repetitive and complete misery of a society and it’s policy makers who won’t grow the f**k up.
      Law and order, what does this mean? it needs a mammoth revision because this single act, the legalization of recreational drugs, after the farce of alcohol and tobacco would in itself change ‘law and order’ to actually mean something in the 21st century.
      We might actually get to experience a little of it.

  11. I would repeal the Canadian Citizenship Law Bill C-24 which became law last year. It makes it easier for government officials to revoke citizenship for reasons other than fraud. It essentially divides Canadians into two classes, where the second-class citizens (i.e. immigrants) are subject to more scrutiny and possibly arbitrary rulings. At the end of the day it weakens the whole concept of citizenship IMO.

    1. I would also get rid of all of the inter-provincial trade barriers in Canada. It’s often easier to move goods from Canada to USA than between provinces.

      Insane!

      1. Australia was created in part for that very reason. To create free trade between the six colonies

  12. U.S. laws need lots of fixing, but if I could only fix one, it would be to allow self-euthanasia, including physician-assisted self-euthanasia. I wouldn’t mind safeguards to ensure it wouldn’t be misused as a cover for murder, but forcing people to suffer the last horrible minutes, days, or weeks of dying when we would consider it “inhumane” to allow an animal to die that way seems really backward to me.

  13. I live in Mexico.

    The law we need is: “Laws are compulsory”.

    Because in Mexico, even if there is a law, nobody cares, not even the government. The whole country spends all their time finding a way to avoid the law.

    1. That is so sad.

      Not least because I believe so many of Latin America’s problems trace to our–US–drug policies.

      Take heart, though–here, if you have enough money and the right connections, you can be above the law, too.

      1. Diane G., you’re absolutely correct. It’s been appalling to watch the predictable spluttering of U.S. “law enforcement” folks–most but not all Republicans–incensed by the escape of “El Chapo” Guzmán, claiming that he should have been extradited to serve time in a U.S. prison.

        As if it isn’t U.S. drug laws that CREATED the cartels. As if we haven’t actively supported certain cartels (including Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel) against other cartels, giving them arms and other fully military assistance so that they could more efficiently slaughter each other and any citizens who happened to get in the way. The cartels have U.S. military hardware for precisely the same reason that ISIS does…because WE GAVE IT TO THEM.

        I spend a lot of time in México (my wife is Mexican). The story of how we created and armed the cartels, and in doing so made war on the Mexican economy and people, is told pretty well here: http://www.amazon.com/Die-Mexico-Dispatches-Inside-Lights/dp/0872865177

  14. Brujo Feo beat me to the punch on the war on drug, and made an excellent argument in doing so. My law that would repeal is the odious “stand your ground law” which is not a Federal Law, it is only in effect in certain states. Not surprising;y, they are the most gun-loving states.
    This law accomplishes one thing and one thing only, to make shootings more likely. An individual could legally use deadly force to protect life or property before the passage of any stand your ground laws. Under SYG, deadly force is justified if the shooter has a credible fear for his life. This is why three years ago, an off duty fire-fghter in Tampa was video taped confronting neighbors about loud music. during the conversation he said that he feared for his life, then opened fire, killing two people.
    Add that to the fact that absent Florida’s SYG law, George Zimmerman and Michael Barrett would have been much more likely to be convicted of murder for the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both African-American teenaged males, respectively.

  15. Back to older interpretations of 2nd amendment of United States. Allow adult individuals who are not schizophrenic or convicted felons to own guns, but don’t root this in the 2nd amendment. Severely restrict semi-automatics and Saturday night specials.

    2nd choice: Ease up on marijuana

  16. In Canada we still have a stupid blasphemy law but I think the two most dangerous bills that have passed (and should now be law) recently are Bill C-51 and Bill C-24.

    C-51 allows sweeping powers of government under the guise of stopping terrorism. You can read how horrible it is here.

    C-24 creates second class citizens of which I am one, even though I was born in Canada. If I commit a crime, I can be stripped of my Canadian citizenship because I have a second citizenship. My dad could commit the same crime but since he only holds Canadian citizenship, he would be able to keep it.

      1. Yes, I went several years ago with the PZ Myers and the Secular Student Alliance horde. We got the group rate of half-price, which eased my guilt about going there.

          1. Hmm, Eve looks kinda foxy. I’d give her a tumble in amongst the (strategically placed) waterlilies… 😉

            cr

            1. I want to know if the models are anatomically correct where we can’t see them.

              Normally, that would never have occurred to me – what is it about religious stuff that makes me think like that?

  17. From Germany, in steeply decreasing priority:

    1) The Hartz IV legislation on unemployment benefits, which was instrumental in gutting our welfare system and making this country an effective low wage / high export nation, eventually leading to the European depth crisis;

    2) The EEG 2014 law on green energy, which stifled this previously booming market, especially solar power, in the interest of conventional energy producers, especially coal;

    3) §218a STGB on abortion. It’s legal here only up until the 12. week (even in the case of rape), and requires prior compulsory counsel followed by three days respite;

    4) The notorious §166 STGB on blasphemy, threatening utterances against religious convictions “in a manner suitable to disturb the public peace” with up to three years in prison.

    1. I would never have picked these laws as being associated with Germany, especially the anti- green energy one.

      1. Me too! I’m shocked. But Germany is still way better than Canada in this area because my PM is the Canadian Vladimir Putin – obsessed with an oil economy. It’s why are economy is tanking (like Russia’s) right now.

      2. Well, the EEG (“Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz” or Renewable Energy Act) is actually pro green energy, providing a subsidy to boost the market. It proved an extremely successful model – too successful for the taste of our conservative leaning government, and the reform of 2014 was backpedaling on several key issues, choking investments and thus prolonging the lifetime mainly of the old coal-fired power stations; the latter, to wit, are in the hands of a few powerful corporations, but see this monopoly being dissolved by the much more decentralized solar and wind power stations. They are just postponing the inevitable, but this they do quite well.

    2. And often Germany is held up as an example of how green energy can work and be profitable!

      1. It works only too good – see my comment above. Nearly 30 percent of Germany’s electricity is now produced by green energy, up from 10 percent in 1990.

        1. About 90% of our electricity is from hydro, and has been for a while. We’re very lucky with our geology.

  18. I think not change a US law, but instead enforce a US law… that is that churches are tax exempt but as such may not promote a biased political agenda (http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/The-Restriction-of-Political-Campaign-Intervention-by-Section-501(c)(3)-Tax-Exempt-Organizations)

    I would enforce that.

    Of a law, remove the tax exemption for churches, parsonages, and the like. Maybe even go so far as to say that tax exemptions may only be granted to non-profit organizations with a secular educational or disaster relief focus (i.e. more than 50% of activities must in those areas).

    1. I agree with a lot of what you say, and I’m not from the USA, I’m just being a pain here. I’m reminded of the last Asian tsunami where a USain group emerged in the first couple of days, raising money to buy rosaries for the victims. They would qualify for a tax exemption under your criteria.

      Just to be clear, I think if religious groups don’t stay out of politics, as the law requires, they should lose their tax exempt status as you say. I’d like to see them not be tax exempt at all, but that’s impossible in the US today.

    2. ” . . . but as such may not promote a biased political agenda.”

      Would enforcement of that include conducting covert surveillance ops inside church sanctuaries?

  19. From the USA, I agree with the above comments to repeal “Corporations=People” and “Money=Speech.” However, my real reason for commenting is to give kudos to WEIT. What a great idea for an open thread. It is very interesting to get information from across the globe on their laws and law making processes.

  20. As noted, so many to choose from. In the US, it is still the law that men have to register with the Selective Service System [draft]. I would get rid of that, and add a law for 2 years of national service for every 18 year old.

  21. I’m in New Zealand.

    1. We still have a blasphemy law. It’s only ever been used once (1922), and is actually contradicted by other laws like the Human Rights Act, so it’s pretty pointless. I find its very existence embarrassing in a modern secular democracy, and it sets a bad example when we’re arguing against the use of such laws in other countries. Politicians don’t think this is an important enough cause to champion.

    2. Several times politicians have tried to introduce assisted dying legislation, and there’re some good drafts out there, but so far no political party will take it up, and it’s gone nowhere.

    3. Christian religious instruction in state schools by volunteers from evangelical churches is not only legal, it’s common. There’s currently another push by groups like the Secular Education Network, and they have strong support, but as always, the politicians don’t want to upset the extremely loud (though very small) squeaky wheel of religion.

    1. How does New Zealand compare to Australia in religiosity and religion in combination with public policy? I heard Tony Abbott is a religious loony, hopefully things are better in New Zealand.

      1. Tony Abbott is a conservative Catholic. He has fortunately kept most of them to himself but some things do slip through. He is nowhere near the fundamentalist ilk of people such as Huckabee. That just would not work here in Australia. Here is why.

        As a nation at the last census (2011) 60 percent of the population where notionally Christian. Interestingly only eight percent of the population attend church regularly and it is decreasing rapidly. Just over 64000 people claimed Jedi as their religion which is larger than some small denominations like the Salvation Army.

        We have a section (Section 116) within our Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion although the courts do interpret it more narrowly than SCOTUS.

        1. I see section 116 not only ensures freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion. So how did that “National school chaplaincy program” ever get through? Nevertheless, it’s still beter than what we have over here in the Netherlands.

          And you guys took a pretty big risk taking a census. God was furious when king David tried that stuff. (1 Chronicles 21)

          1. Different High court Justices interpreted it differently.
            Especially differently than the strict us interpretation.

      2. We’re less religious than Aussie, but not much. At the last census (2013) 41.9% reported themselves as no religion, 48.9% reported as Christian, the rest were other religions (obviously no others have very big numbers).

        We’ve had atheist prime ministers continuously since 1999, from both major political parties, so there’s little public conception that atheists are bad, or you have to have a religion to be good, like there is in other places. NZ is pretty laid back and accepting about most things, but we’re suspicious of ideological extremes, whatever they are.

  22. Laws to change or make:
    Blue Laws. Out
    Roadside Memorials. Vandalism
    How to approach assisted suicide. Mandatory for all medical schools.
    And property tax for all religious organizations.

  23. Australia

    Marriage Equality nuff said
    Ending tax exemption for charities that get involved in politics

    1. We in NZ make a lot of money out of you guys not having marriage equality. A third of all marriage licences issued to same-sex couples are for Australians. It’s pretty sad they can’t get married at home.

  24. I am located in the U.S.

    The law I would like to end would be state sponsored murder. The death penalty.

  25. Since all the serious proposals have been taken I’ll mention a personal obsession.

    Pass a law that treats cell phone usage like tobacco usage. Anywhere you can’t light up you can’t use your cell phone!!!

  26. Australia. I’ll settle for re-introducing the carbon tax legislation of the previous government, repealed by the current government. I’d re-introduce it in exactly the same form largely because I’m not sufficiently well-informed to know what would count as an improvement.

    Gay marriage, while an obvious choice for Australians, is (fingers crossed) inevitable in the near future – it requires no fiat from me.

  27. I believe on that second Amendment issue, the Amendment should simply be removed/repealed. There is no reason at all for the Amendment in 21st century U.S.A. A law that was thrown in there 230 odd years ago, when bullets had not yet been invented and there were less than 4 million people in the county. Please. If it makes someone feel better do this — change the thing to say, you can have all the muzzle loaders you want.

    1. “[W]hen bullets had not yet been invented”? WHAT? One problem with discussing gun issues with “antis” is that they never seem to know much about the weapons that provoke such strong opinions in them…

      OK, let’s assume that you meant “center-fire cartridges,” or something. True. Not known when the 2nd Amendment was written.

      Which is why that I’m just SURE that you routinely argue that the 1st Amendment should not apply to typewriters, radio or television, let alone the internet. But of course, you can “change the thing to say, you can have all the” steam-powered rotary presses you want.

      Am I right?

      The Supreme Court was very clear, in U.S. v. Miller, (1939) 307 U.S. 174, that the purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to protect PRIVATE ownership of CURRENT MILITARY weapons. But of course, you can, with the same amendment with which you get rid of the 2nd, simply expressly overrule Miller. Send me a postcard to let me know when that’s been wrapped up…

      1. Very interesting but what the Supreme’s said in 1939 or whenever can be just as wrong as the court has been on many issues. Besides, the idea that 9 old men in 1939 had determined the meaning of the second amendment, written around 1790 is simply their opinion and apparently yours. If you do not believe laws and rules should change to reflect the century you are living in, that’s too bad. Seems kind of like people and their bibles to me.

        I will not argue with you about the meaning of the words in the second amendment because you have already accepted what the court said more than 75 years ago. But the facts remain and I would only repeat — the gun happy crazies can have all the muzzle loaders they can carry because that is all there was back when this Amendment was accepted.

        Also, comparing this to free speech of the first amendment and radio or typewriters is a none starter. I believe in a living and flexible Constitution that can be changed in anyway necessary to the times we live in. Not some stone tablets that remain stationary forever.

        1. Randy: I think that you’re assuming WAY too much about what I think of the Supremes, or for that matter the Constitution. And you may note that I’ve refrained from criticizing ideas expressed here today solely on the basis of them being wishful thinking or even magical thinking. After all, the nature of the question was “if you were king,” not whether the ideas were practical or politically possible.

          What I have criticized is folks–and I think that you’ve transgressed here–who are simply misstating what the current state of the law IS. (Anti-BoR arguments often start that way.)

          The question isn’t whether Miller was correctly decided or not; it’s simply what it IS–at least until the Supremes overrule it. Like they have with any number of other things. Plessy v. Ferguson, Dred Scott, etc. You’re absolutely correct–times change, and the Supremes with them. But right now you may not like it, but it IS the law. And in fact, the Supremes, sooner or later, will have no choice but to revisit Miller. By providing protection for military weapons, the door is open to make silly arguments about aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The usual dodge is to pretend that Miller really refers only to sidearms, but that’s not exactly obvious from the decision itself.

          As for my analogy to the 1st Amendment being a “none starter,” why? Because you’re personally offended by it? You just said that you believe in a “living and flexible Constitution.” OK; fine. What you haven’t done (and in fact you can’t do) is make an argument as to why the 1st Amendment (or any of the others) is going to be magically impervious to attacks while the 2nd Amendment is somehow ripe for abolition. “I love the 1st, 4th, and 8th Amendments, but I think the 2nd one is icky” is not a legal argument. In 1790, there were an equal number of SKSs and high-speed internet connections. You think your pet oxen won’t get gored? Mr. Schenk…meet the Patriot Act. We got your “living and flexible” right…HERE.

          1. If I may interject with an off topic aside,  I love your use of the term “the Supremes”. Not only because it is much more elegant  than the ugly SCOTUS acronym (POTUS too gets my goat), but because I now have a lovely mental image of Diana Ross in her prime passing judgement on matters constitutional.

            1. I agree. POTUS sounds really ugly and rather vulgar, somehow. They really should find a more elegant-sounding acronym.

              ‘The Supremes’ is elegant, if only Diana Ross hadn’t pre-empted it.

              cr

  28. In the Bigger Picture,there may be more important problems, in terms of morals and social justice, to legally remedy here in the U.S., but I’d like to see a law do away with:

    – the “carried interest” so dear to the hearts of Romneyesque capitalist hedge fund managers.

    – investment income being taxed at a rate lower than the lowest rate paid by the “working class”/working poor. (It is telling that investment income is reflected in the “Unearned” Income section of the U.S. federal income tax form. I also note that, in capitalist parlance, any actual work done by a business OWNER is referred to as “sweat equity,” “labor” apparently being a term below the dignity of the owner.)

    – any possibility that a corporation can get by with paying no federal income tax (2010?, General Electric, what with its 975-employee tax department. Verizon also, more recently IIRC?), when the “working poor” employee, laboring with that toilet brush in the executive washroom, incurs a tax liability from her labor.

  29. U.S. Campaign funding would be restricted to individual constituents of a candidate–that is, individuals who can actually vote for the candidate–and monetary contributions would be tied to the minimum wage.

  30. At the risk of derailing the thread, I do agree with Grania that in Ireland (Northern and Eire) the abortion laws are particularly horrendous.

    (There’s a small UK charity, Abortion Support Network, that helps Irish women travel to UK for safe legal abortions. I like it because it’s a practical way to show disapproval of the ‘pro-life’ side. Recently Mumsnet(UK) nominated ASN as one of 5 small charities for their ‘Giving Week’, the Torygraph did its usual shock horror outrage nonsense, which was staunchly refuted by almost everyone on Mumsnet. I was heartened to read the discussion and the acceptance by all the involved parents that parenting (as ASN put it) “is not a job that you give to people who don’t want to do it”.
    http://www.mumsnet.com/special-events/giving-week/giving-week-2015-update

    Back on topic:)

    Here in NZ – where to start. Abortion seems pretty much OK. Euthanasia (voluntary) – a majority of people are in favour, but our MPs are mostly too cowardly to tackle it. Ditto legalising marijuana, particularly medical marijuana.

    What I’d really ban forever is any ratification of the TPPA. This is a particularly evil ‘trade agreement’, the terms of which nobody will discuss (other than leaks). But among other things it very probably could:
    * Hamstring Pharmac. Pharmac is our national drug-buying service, by using the power of bulk buying and competition and buying generics where suitable, it makes prescription drugs affordable. The big drug companies hate it.
    * Allow overseas corporations to sue our government for loss of profits from government decisions. e.g. if NZ decided – democratically – to ban smoking, or regulate the import of saturated fats, or – anything.
    * That power to sue could (would!) also be used by big multinationals to walk all over any environmental regulations and planning restrictions.
    * Inflict worse ‘intellectual property’ laws on us. e.g. Currently I can buy DVDs from UK (Region 2) or US (Region 1) and they’ll play in my multizone player. What’s the odds the MPAA/ RIAA would like to make multizone players illegal? Or make ‘jailbreaking’ iphones illegal? Or a host of other restrictive crap.
    * Prohibit ‘parallel importing’ so stuff could only be imported by the authorised trademark agent, at whatever markup they like.
    * Don’t even get me started on ‘software patents’…

    It really is a Pandora’s box of evil.
    Fortunately it seems to have stalled, a number of other countries less stupid than our government don’t like it at all.

    cr

    1. Ooo! That TPPA sounds horrendous. I wonder if that is the one recently advocated by Obama and finally supported by capital hill?

      1. Yes it is. Same one. I called it a ‘Pandora’s box’ and it is. There is just so much stuff in it that has nothing to do with trade access and everything to do with promoting vested interests. Or I should say, there is *believed* to be that stuff in it, the negotiators won’t tell us, but what has leaked out via Wikileaks etc does not inspire confidence.

        cr

        1. The negotiators have consistently said they wouldn’t do anything that would screw with Pharmac. Every time there’s an FTA on the table, the issue of Pharmac is brought up, and it’s proved to be a red herring every time. I don’t think any government would be stupid enough to risk Pharmac. I know the big drug companies hate it, and for good reason, and I enjoy Pharmac sticking it to them, but there are only 4.5 million of us, so I don’t think we make enough of a difference for them to make an issue of it.

          I could be wrong of course, and I’ll reverse my opinion if circumstances change. However, for the last fifteen years our negotiators have consistently proven they’re up to the task, so I’m currently willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

          1. I’m afraid I’m not quite so trusting in our negotiators (though I hope they’re up to it). In any case, I see the demonstrations against the TPPA as essential, both to remind our negotiators that they’re working for us, possibly to give them ammunition that they can use in their negotiations, and to serve notice on our and their political masters that this one won’t slip through unnoticed.

            As for Pharmac, it’s the same argument as for our nuclear free stance – it’s not the size of our market that really tweaks the big companies, it’s the thought that if they let us get away with it, everybody else will want to do the same.

            cr

  31. US: First thing that came to mind: eliminate tax exemptions for any reason having to do with religion. Oh, and make government support of “faith-based” organizations illegal.

  32. I would change the US Constitution to eliminate the Senate. This would take away the inordinate power of relatively unpopulated states which possess far too much influence in proportion to their size.

    1. I would get rid of the House of Representatives instead. Very few of them are qualified to govern on a national basis or at all. When the committee on science is populated by anti-science ignorant, malicious buffoons, you know something is seriously wrong.

      1. Yeah, but they turn over a lot quicker and their districts are based on population stats.

        You like it that California & Wyoming have the same number of Senators?

          1. Yes, but that’s another problem. As long as we’re solving all of them, let’s eliminate the electoral college as well. 😉

            1. OK. I can see we are converging on a general solution to the problems of civilization. Get rid of the elected representation nonsense altogether. Decide everything by plebiscite. Now, I know it would be cumbersome, but it would take away the ugly necessity of finding enough honorable people for congress.

      2. I wonder if we should get rid of the House, and have the senate composition determined by the votes of state legislatures, as obtained prior to the amendment to the U.S. constitution providing for popular vote, going into effect in 1930?

        1. If you all truly want representative government you have to change or eliminate the Senate. The idea that Wyoming would have the same number of Senate votes as California is nuts. Nearly 40 million people get the same number of votes as roughly half a million. The Senate is an institution that should go away but won’t so at least change the playing field and do something like one Senator for every 5 million voters. That would bring many states back to one and give a state like California about 8.

          Both the Senate and the House need to stop all the Gerrymandering in most of the states as well but that is another story.

          1. I neglected to indicate sarcasm in my posting. I have no problem with the Senate being done away with, and having a unicameral national legislature. And it should be called the House of Representatives, not the Senate.

            I have to wonder what rational objection could be made to that.

            1. I think that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The US Constitution was carefully set up to have a number of checks and balances, precisely because they didn’t want any one body to have absolute power. Reform the Senate by all means, but throwing it out is a bit like abolishing police because some of them are corrupt.

              cr

              1. Does a bicameral legislature provide more “checks and balances” than a unicameral? I guess it does in the sense that it makes it harder to get a bill passed. (If that’s a good thing, then it seems that, with regard to the Executive Branch, we should follow the Roman example and have a Triumvirate (or some such odd single-digit number-virate), where executive action depends on a vote.

                Specifically how should the U.S. Senate be reformed? Also, it seems that the U.S. House of Representatives needs even more reforming, what with the latter more and more composed of the mindset to shout out “You lie!” during the president’s state of the union message. Though one should remember the likes of Cruz, et al, in the Senate.)

                The U.S. Constitution provides that the Congress make up its own rules, which to my mind are quite undemocratic. E.g., the majority party has a majority of party members on each committee, and a bill can’t get out of committee for consideration by a given House without a committee majority vote in favor. In the House of Reps there’s a procedure called a Discharge Petition, whereby 218(?) signatures will get the bill out of committee for general consideration/voting. Of course, that doesn’t set well with those in power and jealous of their perogatives, and who seek to maintain “party discipline.”

              2. I’m NOT any sort of expert on your constitution, and I won’t even try to suggest how to reform the Senate. You asked if any rational objection could be made to ditching the Senate and I made (what I think was) one. I suspect that would be just as likely to make things worse (possibly in unexpected ways) as better.

                cr

            2. As far as I recall the main thrust behind 2 Senators per state was to make give the more difficult to reach states representation in Washington. In today’s world where this comment I am typing is likely going to ping the inboxes of people on several continents, the worry that Washington can’t effectively communicate with the less populated states is obviously a non starter.

              One possible objection I can imagine hearing for the states’ rights promoters (I do mean that slightly pejoratively in this case, referring to the people on the right usually lean on that argument when they don’t want to illegality their bigotry) is that all the big urban places will be overrepresented and the small states don’t have equal say. That’s of course ridiculous because every individual should have equal representation, not every group of arbitrarily drawn geographic boundaries with widely differing numbers of people in them.

              So, a logical and objective reason not to support this? I don’t think so, but there would be dissent.

              1. I do agree that representation should be proportional. However just abolishing the Senate, without putting anything in its place, does remove one of the ‘checks and balances’ that (I’m led to believe) was deliberately written in to the Constitution. That’s what I think would be a retrograde step.

                (Here in NZ we only have the one House of Parliament. I would like to see more checks and balances here. MMP helps a little in that respect).

                cr

              2. “That’s of course ridiculous because every individual should have equal representation, not every group of arbitrarily drawn geographic boundaries with widely differing numbers of people in them.”

                Same with regard to the U.S. presidential election Electoral College, IMHO. And with regard to that, if for some out-of-the-blue reason it can’t be a general election, then at least let the winner-take-all vote be on a per-county rather than a per-state basis. Maybe Senate and House elections should be on a per-precinct – of whatever size – basis, instead of one man-one vote.

                (It’s unconscionable that a presidential candidate can win an election, though the opponent has a greater popular vote. I’m waiting for the next Electoral College elector to change his/her vote, especially in a tight election, and then see what constitutional amendments are proposed.)

    2. That’s a very good proposal. And as broken as the Senate is, I would imagine it’s only getting worse, since people are moving out of the rural heartland to the big coastal cities. The situation is just going to get more and more ridiculous over time, with a tiny minority of the country having veto power over the ability of the whole rest of the country to get things done. I wonder whether there will ever be a tipping point at which the majority realizes it needs to find a way to change that?

    3. I think almost every Western democracy with a Senate hates it. In Canada, and I think most Commonwealth countries, the senate is appointed. This is good in that there are few political alliances (once the appointer has left office). The bad thing is it is a “job for life’ with little to motivate good work other than being the kind of person who wants to do good work.

      I believe Ireland had a referendum a few years ago asking if they should abolish the senate and they decided to keep it but only by a marginal number of votes.

      1. The ‘job for life’ aspect cuts both ways. It does make it hard to do away with delinquent Senators (or members of the House of Lords, or Supreme Court judges, or regular judges in e.g. Britain or New Zealand); but on the other hand it does render them less prone to influence or pressure. They (the better ones) frequently prove surprisingly reluctant to toe the party line, to the discomfiture of their appointers.

        I know that, to me, the thought of judges and sheriffs – and DA’s – having to stand for election (have I got that right?) seems quite reckless and liable to subject them to all sorts of undue influence that would make their decisions suspect.

        cr

    4. Unless you fix corrupt gerrymandering this is no solution at all. At least senators are elected by all voters in a state. That gives them at least a marginal need to represent more than a narrow segment of the population.

      But, fix how districts are created and I’d be willing to go with your ‘abolish the Senate’ strategy.

  33. While I’ve got higher priorities (drug law repeal, campaign finance reform, repeal of tax exemption for religious groups, etc.), they’ve all been stated already. The one that hasn’t is legalizing prostitution and other sex work. As with drugs, being illegal does little more than make prostitution more dangerous, prevent mistreated workers from seeking legal aid and punish people for acts that harm none.

    1. I’d agree there.

      Here in NZ, prostitution is legal, however a number of city councils are trying to make it de facto illegal by local by-laws, back-door zoning restrictions etc.

      cr

      1. They do the same in the US with abortion and voting rights. For the former, it’s requiring hospital admitting privileges, waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, etc., all done while claiming the intent is to make abortion safer. For the latter, it’s voter ID requirements and limiting registration and voting periods to make it harder for minorities/poor people to vote, all done while claiming it’s about cutting down on voter fraud. Are your anti-prostitution people at least honest about their intentions?

        1. They mostly claim to be about the nuisance value to the neighbourhood (i.e. nimbys). Which may be partly true but I’m sure they’d be less ready to ban e.g. recycling depots.

          cr

  34. I would support abolition of the death penalty. I support mandatory life in prison for those who murder other people. I think our entire penal system needs to be reworked and we need to reduce the number of people we are locking up. We have a prison-industrial-complex of politicians and prison guards and their local communities. This will not be an easy task.

    Regards,

    John

    1. I think you would find many people today who agree with you on this one. Even the crazy republicans are coming around in some numbers. Our system of bail and pleading cases is the worst anywhere. We throw thousands of people in jail based on what they think someone did and then require bail to get out. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Then the guy can’t afford bail so he pleads out to get free. Such a joke.

  35. US

    I would have legislators chosen by lottery. And term limit congressional staff.

    Much more likely to wind up with representatives who are representative.

  36. Has anyone mentioned the laws that destroy the lives of millions of mostly poor and black people — the war on drugs? Perhaps they don’t count.

  37. From the UK: pass a law forbidding religious organizations from having control of state schools.

    A friendly suggestion for the US: pass an amendment that repeals the 10th amendment and enshrines the opposite principle, i.e. that new stuff is the purview of the federal government by default.

  38. I would like the drug laws changed.
    All drugs.
    If not all, then marijuana should be completely legal ( I don’t use it) and there rest de criminalized.
    But legalise all and remove the criminal element, for all drugs.

  39. Voluntary euthanasia/death with dignity (or treat humans as you would your pets). I have seen too many relatives die in pain or without any comprehension of their situation to want this to happen to me.

  40. I think we probably have too much law & that only makes lawyers happy!

    Do you mean repeal a law by change a law? Or impose a new law?

    I am in London, a world unto itself…

    I would make ALL new housing conform to this standard –
    http://www.edie.net/news/6/Solcer-House-carbon-positive-eco-friendly-energy-efficient-home-Wales/

    Had I to repeal a law it would be the one they are about to bring in! – the ‘snoopers charter’
    http://news.sky.com/story/1518373/government-warned-over-snoopers-charter

  41. Sweden:

    I would change the last special pleading benefits of the religious:

    – Having tax benefits for “cultural activities”. Not every activity is of cultural interest…

    – Having info benefits for “social information”, with lower postal rates and no say of stopping magic publications into everyone’s mail boxes.

    – Having a lutheran monarch by fiat. [We can as well drop the monarchy for selected representatives while we are at it.]

    1. You sound quite fortunate Torbjörn. What you list there sounds positively mild considering the U.S. and others.
      You could consider those items like the scum left when you let out the bath water.

  42. From the UK

    Ideally, introduce the separation of church and education.

    As a minimum, remove the requirement in schools for “a daily act of collective worship, broadly Christian in nature”. It’s widely ignored anyway, so removing it would be more of a symbol than anything else.

  43. UK

    I would reform the intellectual property laws. Copyright would finish on the death of all people cited as a work’s author.

    Software companies that no longer wish to sell or support a product must be prepared to licence the source code to anybody else who wishes to maintain it themselves.

    You can only sue people for patent infractions if you or your licensee are actively marketing (or making a good faith attempt at marketing e.g. it’s in development) a product incorporating the patent.

    1. Jeremy, would I ever second that!

      And w.r.t. patents, I’d go further and refuse to grant software patents ever. (On the grounds that software patents are only ever good for patent trolls, big companies trying to squelch competition with overbroad ‘patents’ and threats of litigation, and lawyers).

      (Needless to say I run Linux).

  44. Maybe it is not one particular law, but I would completely overhaul how public schools are funded in the US. This business of funding schools mainly through local property taxes leads to wide disparities in the quality of schools, and forces many parents to make great sacrifices just to get their children a decent education.

    I some of this growing up in the Midwest, but now that I live in the Northeast, I see the problem in probably one its most extreme forms in the country. Go to one affluent little town or hamlet, and you see high schools that almost look like private colleges. Go a half mile onto the other side of the tracks, and you see schools that Mr. Clark from Lean on Me would not venture into.

    Funding for schools has to be spread out more equitably, and the quality of a child’s education should not depend on the wealth of their parents.

  45. I’m going to post first and then look at what others have said. I’d like to interpret “law” broadly; the “law” I’d like to change, for the U.S., is actually a Supreme Court ruling. I’d like to change the idea that corporations are “people”. That pernicious idea is, I think, at the root of many of the biggest problems in the U.S. It has shot down numerous attempts at campaign finance reform, anti-lobbying laws, etc., because corporations are held to have free speech rights. That, in turn, has led us into the corrupt plutocracy we live in today. It’s at the root of modern decisions like Citizens United and Hobby Lobby that have taken the idea, in reductio ad absurdum style, to its logical conclusion; but the root lies much earlier, in decisions like Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific (1886) and Smyth v. Ames (1898).

    1. Maybe I should clarify, for international readers. Citizens United = unlimited political donations by corporations, because corporations are people, people have free speech rights, money is speech, Q.E.D. Many people vilify the idea that money is speech, but I actually think that is correct. I just gave $1000 to Bernie Sanders (as you said, Brujo, he fits surprisingly well into a libertarian worldview!), and I do think that was “speech”, and I don’t think the government should be able to prevent me from doing it. The problem is the idea that corporations are people. And then Hobby Lobby = corporations can deny contraception coverage to their employees, because corporations are people, people have freedom of religion, and some religions believe that contraception is wrong. That decision just boggles me on so many levels; but the root of it is the idea that corporations are people. If the Supremes reversed that decision (fat chance), many other things would fall into place.

      1. The problem with money = speech is that it leaves different people with vastly different capacities to speak. You “spoke” with the volume of a grand, but the Kochs, for instance, will be speaking with a volume 500,000 times higher than yours – the idea that you are an equal citizen with equal say in your govt. with the Kochs is utterly ludicrous if your money is how you speak. Democracy is supposed to be about rule by the people, not rule by the pocketbook.

        You decry corporate personhood as contributing to our current plutocracy; money as speech is at least as big a part of it.

        1. Yep, the Masters of Mankind acquiesce to political rights, but not to economic rights, for the unwashed masses.

  46. USA: I am leaving in a few minutes to attend a public hearing on a new law that was passed
    by the Nevada Legislature this June. It involves school vouchers and will allow any parent to have a voucher to send a child to a private or parochial school, or to home school. Under this law a family, large or small, could take the per student allotment that would be given to the public school (in Nevada this is a paltry $5,000 or so, per student, per school year) and pay themselves to educate their children.

    THe regulations are being written to implement this law. I do not want my tax money used to pay tutors to use religious curricula to indoctrinate students, free from any kind of public accountability. That is what this law could allow.

    I think the school choice movement is the new front in the anti-evolution, anti-science war. While this may be a state issue now, it
    will spread. It will be an issue Republicans raise in the presidential race.

    1. Clearly the law is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Do you know if this subversive strategy been addressed by the Supremes yet?

  47. There are a lot of awful laws here in the US, so I’ll go with some of those that ruin the most people’s lives. The 2nd Amendment (it was quite sensible as written, but not since it was reinterpreted in 2008) and civil forfeiture (a single federal law could end it).

    1. I.V.: two thoughts. Yes, civil forfeiture laws are ghastly, but they’re almost purely a creature of the War on Some Drugs. (Police violence is wildly exacerbated by that insane crusade. Gun violence in general owes much to the same, although I am NOT among those arguing that it would be sub-symptomatic “but for” the WoSD.) So why attack the problem(s) piecemeal?

      And the 2nd Amendment being “reinterpreted” in 2008? What’s your factual basis for this claim? You’re of course referring to District of Columbia v. Heller, (2008) 554 U.S. 570. It is my understanding that this was the first instance of the Supremes directly addressing the question of whether the 2nd A protected an individual right. (Although the conclusion that it does was certainly foreshadowed by the 1939 Miller case.) So…what prior law are you aware of to the contrary?

      The clearest indication of the founders’ intent is probably found in the quotation from Tench Coxe, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress (emphasis added):

      “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which might be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their PRIVATE arms.”

      What authority do you cite contradicting this view, such that Heller “reinterpreted” it?

  48. Canada here. C-51, the “CSIS can apply to a secret court to break the law” act. (Amongst many other stupidly dangerous things.)

    (CSIS is roughly equivalent to CIA if that helps understand the context.)

    There are attempts to get a court challenge for this, fortunately.

    So if the court challenge succeeds, Quebec’s charter of the French language (Bill 178).

    I assume that in both cases that this magic prevents the re-passing of equivalent bills. (Otherwise the latter for sure and likely the former will be wack-a-mole.)

  49. Peru. Abortion ban. Here is illegal in almost any case. Even when the life of the mother is in danger, it is really a pain to get it approved, almost impossible. Very close, same-sex marriage.

  50. USA. I agree with Ben, the Citizens United interpretation which allows corporate control of election financing leads to a whole host of bad laws and policies. The lack of campaign finance reform is ruining us. Related to this is the wide use of gerrymandering that distorts our representation.

  51. USA

    Oy, where do I start?

    I’m torn between an amendment obliterating the Citizens United decision, and ending tax exempt status for churches. I think in the main I’ll plump for ending churches’ tax exempt status, as I wouldn’t trust this current Congress within a cubic parsec of a Constitutional convention.

  52. In the UK, the first one that jumped to my mind is the allocated bishops in the house of lords (upper chamber of parliament).

    However i think that once the dysfunctional First Past The Post voting system for parliamentary elections is scrapped, that will be much easier to do.

    So i would change the voting law to Proportional Representation.

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