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Join the conversation! There are now 19 comments on this chapter's page 60. Keep Your Head Down. What are your thoughts?
  1. Liam says

    This was a very interesting and thought-provoking section. I couldn’t help but notice that a similar change seems to occur in other systems, such as games. Programming, roleplaying, creating sports- in any system, the more you try to improve it, the more complex it gets.

    Speaking of roleplaying- I now am very much motivated to look up the original Roman laws for my Dungeons & Dragons game.

    • In programming, simplicity for the user generally hides HUGE amounts of complexity behind the scenes to make it seem so simple.

      • Interface code in programs, in general, tends to be much more complex on average and much longer than typical “mechanical” code and maybe even boilerplate code for complex systems.

        Simple and elegant user interfaces are indeed simple and elegant because of how hard they are to get right, and perhaps this principle applies to legal systems as well.

    • I would totally be up for that game. Will it be set in a fantasy Roman Empire, or will you just use the laws in your own setting?

    • I’m in! I just rolled a Level 1 Imperial Cavalry decurio of the Valerii, human, male, lawful neutral.

      I’m gonna name him “Pinky.”

  2. Legion says

    Nice. =]
    But yeah, in RPG’s it’s Gamist and/versus Simulationist.
    Gamist Theory is that whatever your rules are, they should be streamlined and not intrude on play where possible. This can cause problems with suspension of disbelief.
    Simulationist is instead that the rules should “make sense” and be consistent. This is not always healthy for things like Class Balance.

    • You forgot the third class of storytellers, whose theory is that it doesn’t matter if the game is particularly balanced or realistic, so long as you have a badass plot that everyone enjoys.

  3. WJS says

    Is “keeping your head down” really enough? I mean, it’s not bad advice in general, but I wouldn’t have considered a collector of feathers and a manufacturer of soup to have been pushing the envelope or anything.

    • Well by “keeping your head down”, unfortunately that seems to mean less “don’t break the law” than it is “don’t get caught doing it”, which is exactly why overcriminalization breeds lawlessness to begin with.

  4. Mark says

    Thought provoking.

    I imagine those advocating for reform would be accused of being ‘soft on crime’. Perhaps one way to counter this would be to re-frame the argument. Reformers should say: Society must be governed by law so that crime is punished. People are losing respect for the legal, which is collapsing under its own weight. When it does collapse, it will lead to lawlessness. The law must be reformed to ensure crime continues to be punished.

    In other words, turn the tables on the ‘tough on crime’ idiots: frame them as the ones who are ‘soft on crime’, as their actions will eventually lead to a lawless society.

    • “I’m not being ‘soft on crime,’ I’m being precise and accurate while you just hit everything with a club! How are you ‘tough on crime’ if you can’t even FIND it!?”

      • A chisel’s harder than a whiffle bat, and easier to take seriously, even if it has the disadvantage in terms of speed and reach.

  5. Icarus says

    Out of curiosity, what (if any) improvements have been made in dealing with overcriminalization since this strip was written?

  6. psionl0 says

    A lot of the “strict liability” laws listed in the chapter sound suspiciously like bills of attainder which is prohibited by the constitution.

    • No, a bill of attainder would be “Congress hereby decrees that psionl0 is guilty of the crime of aggravated mopery with intent to creep.” They wouldn’t have to prove anything or give you any due process, just announce that as a matter of law you personally are guilty of a crime.

      Strict liability just means they don’t need to prove mens rea. They’d still have to prove you committed the actus reus. And such laws are not directed at you, personally. Anyone can commit them. (Often without realizing they’d done so.)

  7. If we ever get another constitutional convention (which would be EXTREMELY dangerous), I’d hope we’d adopt some of the proposals attributed to Professor Bernardo de la Paz in Robert Heinlein’s _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_. Like an antilegislative body, whose only authority is to repeal laws and regulations, that need not pass their bills through the other two houses, and with a lower threshold for veto override. And/or requiring a supermajority for every law passed. And as Nathan suggests, a constitutional amendment forbidding the executive branch from passing regulations without a mens rea requirement for any criminal penalty.

    And to fight gerrymandering, a requirement that all congressional districts must be able to fit within a rectangle with an area no more than 120% of that of the district.

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