One of the interesting annual privileges is when I get to talk to high school kids on Law Day, May 1. I both love and loathe the task.
I love it when I can spend quality time and engage in dialogue with impressionable young minds. I loathe it when I'm expected to lecture young folks because they often wind up with the impression, at least partially correct, that they're being talked down to.
This year I only have about five minutes to work with so what do I tell them about law?
To keep it brief, I came up with an interactive engagement to have them offer up three very basic principles of why we have laws.
To paraphrase Chris Rock, laws are like hints -- you know, "I wouldn't do that ____ if I were you."
We can, however, look at our laws as serving three prime objectives.
Number one: protection. We want the dangerous dirtbags in our society taken out of circulation. That's a no-brainer.
The other two may a bit more difficult for young minds.
For example, ever hear the phrase, "Law and order?" What does that mean?
Another prime reason for laws is to ensure predictability and order in the everyday affairs of life.
This weekend I'm flying to San Francisco. When I get there I want to rest assured that the drinking water in the fountains at the airport is safe to drink. I want the gallon of gas I put into my rental car to be just that -- a full gallon. I want to be sure that approaching traffic will stop for a red light and won't drive the wrong way on a freeway. I want the food in the restaurant to be pure and safe to eat. If I get sick, I want to know that the EMT's on the ambulance crew and the physicians at the hospital meet minimum standards of competence.
In short, laws enable us to ensure that mundane but necessary parts of everyday life remain predictable and safe. That's the "order" in law and order.
Finally, laws allows us to peacefully resolve disputes
In our society government takes up (or at least it's supposed to take up) the cause for the underdog. Our legal system is designed to allow the comman man access to the courts to resolve disputes.
So, if you're ripped off, the law should allow you to seek redress through the courts.
That's also the smart thing to do.
Happy Law Day!