How many laws are affecting you as you’re reading this today?
If you think you know the answer, I will tell you you’re lying, and there is a law against lying about how many laws there are.
I really don’t know that there is, but then again, you really don’t know that there isn’t. So we could both be in trouble.
However, I do know that ignorance of the law is no defense. This is something I’ve heard many times in the past, but I have no clue as to whether it’s really law or just something judges use to belittle people into feeling guilty.
Thinking through the title for this column, I have to admit that I have no idea how many laws truly exist in the U.S. But then again, neither does anyone else.
They’re simply not countable. There is no central place for our laws, no common form, style, or accessibility requirements; only some level of hope that once enacted, people will pay attention to them.
Here’s why this is such a confusing issue.
The total number of governmental bodies in the U.S. is approaching a staggering number – 90,000. Every city, county, state, and special taxing district has its own governing body with its own elected officials.
Taking on many of the characteristics of living, breathing organisms, these governmental organizations are constantly fighting for influence, control, and survival.
Each one of these governmental entities has an ability to create and enforce its own laws, rules, and regulations. Working with a limited set of tools in their toolbox, governments have resorted to using laws and regulations to solve virtually every conceivable problem. The sheer volume of laws emerging from these 90,000 rule-making bodies is truly stunning.
It may indeed total 18 million.
With a society that is already heavily invested in our current systems, and people already pre-programmed to think and act accordingly, what we need is a system for changing the system.
Here’s what I would propose.