Types of Unjust Laws
I have been thinking about different ways laws (mostly) can be unjust. Here are some possibilities I thought of, with examples. Note that these all also have good and ambiguous forms (except possibly #1).
- Direct: Alice is allowed to steal Dilbert's new stapler, but if he tries to steal hers, he gets in trouble. The Nazis banned non-Aryans from the civil service.
- Selective application: No one is allowed to steal anything. However, if Alice takes Dilbert's stapler the crime is quietly ignored but Dilbert taking hers would be a major issue. The Un-American Activities Committee probably falls in this category, as do laws forbidding undefined hate speech or anti-social behavior.
- Rapidly-changing laws: The law normally forbids all theft. However, for about 5 minutes, an exception is made for staplers, and Alice uses this window to grab Dilbert's. Then the laws is changed back. In a subtler form, the government of Egypt gained power as a result of popular demonstrations and then outlawed popular demonstrations so no one could take power from them the same way.
- Limits on accusations: Theft is forbidden, but Dilbert is not allowed to accuse Alice because she is a harder worker than he is (or his accusation is dismissed out-of-hand). On the flip side, Alice can successfully accuse Dilbert of stealing her stapler even if he didn't. I think this is what "administer justice impartially" is supposed to prevent.
- Laws with disproportionate effect: Theft is forbidden, except for staplers during the ours of 2:00 to 6:00 AM. Alice is sometimes there working very late, but Dilbert never is, so Alice can take Dilbert's stapler but he can't take hers. Many "broad" feminists (the ones who use the term to refer to more than equality) stick abortion laws in this category.
- Redistribution laws: All staplers to be are redistributed to the employees who would derive the greatest potential benefit from them, as determined by an impartial formula (time spent in circumstances when a stapler might be useful). As Dilbert owns the only stapler, and Alice works the longest hours (and she could use a stapler at any time during them), his stapler is redistributed to her. The North-West Rebellion was caused by this, when land the some Metis were living on was surveyed and sold by the federal government.
- Privatization laws: Everyone used to use the stapler, which was stored on Dilbert's desk (because he had the middle cubical). However, difficulties over who would buy the staples resulted in the stapler become the private property of Alice, and she wouldn't let anyone else use it. In the Bible (Lamentations 5:4), Jeremiah complains that, in Babylon, you have to pay for water. Presumably water in Jerusalem had been free (they had a spring diverted via Hezekiah's Tunnel), so this seemed unfair.
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