We need more laws to protect us from existing laws…
WE PROBABLY all agree that the country must be governed by the “rule of law” and say earnest things like: “Nobody – not even the state president – is above the law,” and, of course, no society can run without laws.
The law has entered into our everyday speech as something we all accept as being good. We say things like: “He’s a very law-abiding chap,” or: “He’s the lawful owner of the estate.”
We pay politicians a great deal of money to make or amend laws, about some of which they probably know very little. Any politician is free to join in a debate on the control of locusts, for example, and decide what may or may not be done to combat the swarms. They might know that DDT may not legally be used, but what about pyridafenthion or tralomethrin? If I need to know whether I am legally entitled to spray them on my locusts, I can look it up in the law books, which were written by politicians who wouldn’t know a locust from an elephant.
Basically, laws are there to protect the good guys from the bad ones. It’s that simple. Unfortunately it often takes a clever lawyer to interpret the law, and if two clever lawyers get together, they can find 100 ways to interpret any law.
I own several books of jokes, from which I try to find suitable ones for the bottom of this column every day.
The largest section in each of the books is the one that contains lawyer jokes. Sometime we make fun of the things we fear most.
I know at least three people who have been destroyed by lawyers.
In one case, a court ruled in favour of a farmer whose entire crop had been ruined by a packaging company’s error. The company refused to pay compensation, in spite of the court ruling, but instead issued a counter-suit and managed to drag out the proceeding for several years until the farmer ended up penniless.
In another case, a friend who was a mechanic was not paid for some expensive repair work he had done. Eventually, he sued the car owner and the man sent a lawyer’s letter counter-suing my friend on some technical matter. After several expensive months of legal wangling, my friend was advised by a lawyer friend: “Just drop it and accept the loss. This chap is rich enough to keep the case going until you are completely bankrupt.”
What we need I think, is a few more laws to protect us against laws.
A patient was told by his doctor that he needed a heart transplant.
“How much will it cost?” asked the fearful man. “Well,” said the doctor, “we can get you a doctor’s heart for R10 000, or a bank manager’s heart for R12 000, or a lawyer’s heart for R100 000.”
“Wow!” said the patient, “Why is the lawyer’s heart so expensive?”
“Have you any idea how many lawyers we have to go through before we find a heart?” said the doctor.