Pixelization of Law

Dear Friends,

It seems to me, just as the detail of a picture is increased the closer to the subject, the applicability of laws becomes ever more prescient, the closer they are made to the people they effect. As Mandelbrot explained, the number of feet of shoreline around Britain is infinite, the shorter the length of measure, the longer it becomes and the more accurately it is measured. The logic also applies to laws and regulations but not to standards. Just as a single pixel must be a composite of, and analogous to, whatever it represents, a law must apply to everyone in it’s scope of enforcement, even those to which it has no applicability, utility and is even counter productive. If the scope of enforcement is smaller, the “pixel” of law is more accurate, just as it would be of a more fine pixel in a photograph. Laws therefore should be made close to the subject and not far away.

Mandelbrot’s description of the shoreline of Britain was an explanation of the concept, the smaller the measurement a thing is measured by, the longer that measurement of it becomes, and the more accurately it is measured, the opposite also being true, that the larger the measurement the less accurately the measure, and the shorter it will appear to be. How this applies to law and regulation is this, laws are supposed to place a negative incentive on a negative action, since this is the case, we could place a blanket law making every action imaginable, a criminal offense, and no negative thing would ever be done… without being punished at least. Of course, if everyone followed such a law, the economy would grind to a halt, people would starve in their own homes surrounded by food, since it would be illegal to cook it, and the human race would cease to exist. This would be like a single pixel covering the whole picture.

On the other side of the spectrum, laws could theoretically be so minutely applicable they would only target individuals who are at risk of certain actions, only in certain places… down to the foot, which could, if sufficiently accurate, stop all crime as well. This however would be utterly unworkable. The laws would have to be so arcane only super computers could apply them. So the one end of the spectrum, one law applying to everyone outlawing everything, is absurd, as is a myriad of laws so complex and local that one could legally light a cigarette and draw a puff, then take a step, and by taking that step, commit a felony, is also unworkable. This would be analogous to a picture rendered of the tiniest pixels, far more accurate than is necessary. Obviously then, we need to find a balance, one that is just and one that doesn’t destroy our prosperity, liberty or society.

We can all agree however, that the sharper the image the closer to true justice it becomes, and will have the least unforeseen consequences. So, to meet the balance where both justice is served and law doesn’t destroy that which it is supposed to protect, it should be passed and enforced as locally as possible. With the smallest pixelization possible. Basically, the pixels, (locality) should be fine, but certainly not to the inch or foot, but the city, county or State, depending on the local people’s desire. If City A wants to legalize gambling and city B does not, then why should the one be forced to go against their wishes, because gambling is made legal or illegal, statewide or nationwide? Showing the locality of law should be the self interested choice of the local inhabitants… self determination.

This logic explains why federal regulation is so pernicious, in that it is destructive of our society, liberty and prosperity. The federal government is too far away to make effective laws. The pixel is too large to get any detail. The big ones, universals, like initiating violence against another and violating a person’s property rights can, but still should not, be addressed at the federal level. Every State has laws against murder, armed robbery, etc… The only legitimate role for the federal government, visa vie the pixelization of law, is to protect the whole, standardize and defend the Constitution. All other activities of any federal government should be carried out by State and local governments.

We have compared the locality of law to the pixels in a digital picture, with the analogy that the smaller the pixel the smaller the locality that law applies in. Laws made locally and enforced locally will be better policed, more pertinent and effective, than laws made at a national level. The national level should be reserved for the big picture… the Constitution, enforcing the Constitution on themselves and the states, national standards, protection from other nations, coining money and such projects the nation agrees needs to be done by the federal government. Little else should be decided at the national level. If that were the case however, and we went back to following our Constitution’s letter as well as spirit, vast swaths of bureaucrats would be laid off, whole departments would cease to exist, taxes would necessarily drop on a federal level, corporate welfare would be cut off and the economy would shoot to the Moon. People could address laws they thought oppressive at the local level where we have some input. It would be quite a change, to use ideas from the Mandelbrot set, to create more accurate law and by doing so, a more fair society.


John Pepin

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