• Values Are Important

    While values, in the morality sense, are important, I want to talk about actual numbers. Numbers are very important and yet people tend to avoid them.

    Dean Hougen, writing a post at Great Plains Skeptic, gives a fantastic example of this. The Oklahoma bill mentioned says, in part,

    B. To intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise.

    What is “intentionally concealing”? That is the crux of the matter. It is open to interpretation, not by the wearer of the thing, but by the arresting and prosecuting parties. Unless a judge specifically states in an opinion that a certain coverage is the limit (and judges are loathe to make statements like that as they are really a legislative thing), then no one can know what the limit is. What’s worse, is that a coverage that was OK yesterday might not be OK today.

    One of the schools I worked at had a dress code policy for skirts. The bottom hem of the skirt could be no more than two inches higher than knee. This can have a lot of issues as well (especially with these new angled skirt hems), but at least it’s a number. It’s a value that everyone understands.

    It’s a metric of understanding that does not depend on the whim of a police officer, prosecutor, or judge. Anyone with a ruler can make the judgement and be confident of deciding the issue correctly. If someone was wrongly accused of being out of dress code, then a simpler ruler can verify it. No ambiguity… ok, there is ambiguity here and our girls were experts at adjusting their clothing just-so whenever someone checked.

    There are plenty of laws that values are present. Think about the speed limit. In most places, you can exceed the speed limit by a bit without consequence. Of course, what is OK one day might not be OK the next day. But in general, a small amount of speeding is usually fine. But this is an enforcement issue rather than an ambiguity in the law. I doubt the courts would appreciate an officer who gave a ticket to every person doing 56 mph in a 55 mph zone[1].

    The point is, if I have a point at all, is that when we legislate or talk about things, it’s important to describe them fully. What, exactly, is permissible and what isn’t. Without explicit guidelines that can be applied in a non-biased manner, we are just asking for trouble.



    [1] Even if they could accurately judge to that degree of accuracy. Speedometers can have up to a 10% difference in indicated vs. actual speed (for some vehicles). And beware that aftermarket changes to the car (especially tires) can radically alter the actual vs. indicated speed.  And police radar has errors from a variety of sources both technical and environmental.

    Category: CultureSociety


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat