We need more laws to pro­tect us from ex­ist­ing laws…

Cape Argus - - Opinion - By David Biggs

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.

Last Laugh

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.

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