Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Quickies: The Knowability Of The Law

     If you don’t know the law, you don’t know whether you’re in compliance with it. That’s very bad – and it’s the state of affairs in America today, by virtue of the extraordinary luxuriance of both statutory and regulatory law. But there’s worse.

     If you can’t know the law – i.e., if the law is kept secret, or if it’s unknowable, perhaps because its enforcement is variable or its “interpretation” is inherently subjective – the authorities can take you down at their pleasure, and for any reason or none.

     That having been said, here’s Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai on that oh-so-beneficent policy the FCC enacted entirely without Congressional authority, “net neutrality:”

     “Companies can come in and ask ‘mother may I? May I do this kind of business practice?’ Even then the agency said, ‘well, if we give you advice you can’t necessarily rely on it and I can bet you if you don’t come to the agency and ask for advice it’s going to be used against you in the future in enforcement proceedings.’ So the question is where do we go from here?...That’s regulatory uncertainly defined. I can’t put it any better than that.”

     I added the emphasis.

     Note also that the IRS has functioned in the exact same fashion for more than a century. Indeed, not one of the innumerable “alphabet agencies” will guarantee you that if you consult it about a proposed practice and subsequently follow its “advice,” you will thereby have protected yourself against future penalty.

     Surprise, Gentle Reader! You probably thought you woke up in a free society.

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