Neologism Division
Arnold Kling at TechCentralStation: The Trackable Society

Arnold Kling notes that technology that makes laws easier to enforce will draw attention to those laws which we don't really want to be consistently enforced -- laws he terms legamorons. He writes:

I would argue that many laws are the legal equivalent of oxymorons - legamorons, if you will. A legamoron is any law that could not stand up under widespread enforcement. Laws against marijuana use are a prime example. Rigorous enforcement of these laws on middle-class college campuses would cause a furor.

There are many other legamorons, where we have become accustomed to low levels of enforcement.

  • immigration laws

  • laws against sexual harassment

  • laws against betting on sports

  • speed limits

  • software licenses

  • laws against music sharing

  • laws requiring people to pay social security taxes for household workers

In fact, the entire tax system could be viewed as a legamoron. Congress deliberately underfunds the computer systems and audit department of the IRS. Otherwise, if households and businesses had to get everything on their returns exactly right, the cost of tax compliance probably would eat up the entire Gross Domestic Product, and there would be nothing left to tax.

Better enforcement technology, as in the trackable society, would cause us to rethink our legamorons.
I hope we could jettison those laws which would be untenable if consistently enforced! But I worry: both hypocrisy and selective enforcement (against disfavored groups) are deeply ingrained habits of our society. We might get both legamorons and oppressive levels of enforcement.

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