Also Underestimate the Persistence of Human Failings, May Writes
WASHINGTON, D.C. - From last year’s attack on the United States to the Enron mess and campaign finance reform, Progress and Freedom Foundation’s Senior Fellow Randolph J. May notes a troublesome trend: Politicians proclaiming “never again” and resorting to the false security of additional laws, many of which do little to protect their promises. In fact, in his latest “Fourth Branch” column in Legal Times, May says such promises create problems of their own.
“After the Holocaust became widely known, the world promised that “never again” would such a human tragedy take place,” May writes. “I’m not overly sanguine that humankind can keep that promise, although I understand the yearning that gave birth to the vow. But I also confess to a certain dismay at the frequency with which today’s politicians easily utter ‘never again’ as they sound-bite the latest issue du jour.”
“In one sense, the ‘never again’ pandemic may be viewed simply as a harmless manifestation of today’s hyperventilated political discourse,” May continues. “But in another sense, this particular hyperbole is troublesome. Being promised ‘never again’ when, intuitively, we know there are some events beyond the realm of law and regulation’s control, breeds a false sense of security and dependence on the government.”
“Ultimately, all law can do is establish norms that we hope most people will follow most of the time. If we begin to believe otherwise, we will find ourselves moving quickly down a road paved with a surfeit of law,” he writes. “The cost will outweigh the benefits – and not just in strict economic terms.”
“At bottom, events such as 9/11 and Enron, as different as they are, have something fundamental in common: As much as anything else, the root causes lay in failings of human nature that no amount of law or regulation reasonably may be expected to prevent,” he concludes.
May writes a regular column on legal and regulatory affairs for Legal Times. He has published numerous articles and essays in leading national publications and law reviews on a wide variety of topics, ranging from communications and administrative law to constitutional theory.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.