Laws. What a pain. The old joke is that a camel is a horse designed by a committee and surely the same is true of laws. Laws are brought into society by ‘lawmakers’. My impression is that this is just a huge committee of politicians.
Some of the laws that exist are just plain silly. I am sure we have all heard of some of the stupid laws that exist around the world: children may not purchase cigarettes but are allowed to smoke them (Australia); it is illegal to leave keys in unattended vehicles (Australia); it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague (London); it is illegal to drive a vehicle while blindfolded (Alabama); it is illegal to change a light bulb unless you are a licensed electrician (Victoria); it is illegal to chew gum (Singapore); it is illegal to skateboard in a police station (Miami). I accept that some of these laws may be urban myths or very old, but you can just see the logic of lawmakers who are trying to address a specific issue that occurred in their area.
My point is we all know some local laws that are nonsensical and it is pretty easy to justify not adhering to a few laws here and there. I don’t like that law so I will ignore it. It is illegal to drive over 110km/h. I am a safe driver with a modern and safe car. I know that law isn’t for me. That department store just reported huge profits so I know they won’t miss a pair of jeans if I help myself to a new pair and don’t pay. People justify law-breaking behaviour all the time with various irrational reasons.
Unfortunately society doesn’t work like that. If we want to be a part of society then we need to respect the rules that have been created for the greater good. I might think I am really special and can ignore a few ‘silly’ rules, but if I do, not only am I a fool, but I am treating my fellow citizens with complete contempt and displaying incredible arrogance.
I often hear people tell me that certain Council rules, or Council-enforced laws (Councils don’t create laws as such), are stupid. When you only look at an issue from the complainant’s point of view, it might seem that a rule is stupid because it doesn’t suit them. However, lawmakers need to look at issues from an holistic viewpoint.
Take the issue that has generated some media interest of late. Roadside trading throughout the streets of Dubbo. Surely a few people on the side of the road selling fruit is harmless. Add in a few cars for sale and what possible harm can that do.
For a start, it is illegal. If we want to live in a country that is calm, peaceful and respectful, we want law-abiding citizens. If you believe the law to be stupid, there are processes in place to have laws changed. Until the law is changed, the activity is illegal.
You might wonder why it is illegal. There are a number of reasons. Firstly, when traders and cars are parked along the side of the road without correct traffic management devices in place, cars may make dangerous or sudden movements which puts other traffic at risk. Many people have told me about near accident experiences when someone in front of them has suddenly braked or turned off the main road to buy some fruit or look at a vehicle.
Secondly, items are being setup outside correctly zoned areas. I have spoken in previous articles about the logic of zoning; it helps a city grow in a controlled manner. I recently returned from Mexico where I saw the result of ‘anywhere’ zoning. Bedlam would be a conservative way to describe it.
The next reason that the law probably exists is that legitimate businesses are being harmed. We have businesses in Dubbo that have submitted DAs, pay rent, pay their staff, have appropriate insurances in place – in effect are running lawful businesses. They shouldn’t be penalised by illegal traders.
Finally, the law helps protect consumers. If you purchase a vehicle from a private seller on the side of the road and later discover it has been stolen or officially declared a write off, no one is going to give you a refund. Similarly, purchasing food from the side of the road is at your own risk.
Clearly, while some laws may seem silly, nonsensical, or downright dumb, they were made for a reason – generally for ‘the greater good’. What a perfect time to ponder such a notion.
With Christmas on our doorsteps and a new year just days away, I encourage you to take this time to reflect on 2012 and all the good things you have experienced and witnessed in our City. I wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas.
Follow what I am up to over the Christmas break on Facebook at MayorOfDubbo.
Clr Mathew Dickerson
Mayor of the City of Dubbo