A Tale of a New Law
Once upon a time, our wise and knowledgeable lawmakers gathered together to discuss a problem. After many learned-intelligent people discussed the problem and potential solutions, a new law was passed. That new law would apply common sense, give people guidance, correct previous problems, and prevent future problems. And because so many smart people had a hand in the new law, it had to be just, even handed, and correct.
After the law was passed, there were rumors throughout the land on what it contained. Some people got an explanation from friends, some from news reports, while others got a quick explanation from their lawyers. But it seemed that everyone had a different idea of what was contained in the new law.
The first time the new law was discussed in court, the judge seemed surprised and skeptical. One or both of the attorneys proudly gave the judge a copy of the new law – which educated the judge and also displayed the legal prowess and great ability of the lucky attorney that knew about the law. Sometimes attorneys went to court without knowledge of the new law because many of them were overworked and had little time for sifting through the content of new laws. But little by little, news of the new law was spread throughout the land.
As the months and years passed by it because painfully obvious the new law had a serious problem. No two attorneys and no two judges seemed to agree on exactly what the new law means. “That’s ridiculous! “ someone said. The new law has no big words, it was written by the most intelligent people in the land, and “THEY” must know what they are doing. That same person made a common sense suggestion: “Why don’t we just read the new law? The meaning would then be obvious.”
A variety of people pulled out a copy of the new law, now several years old. Some people said the law applied to people the color of Red. Some said Pink. Others said it was more of a shade of Rust. Other people looked at things differently. They argued whether the law applied to short people. Then, an even bigger argument broke out on the meaning of the word Short. The lawyers applied their considerable experience and education to finer points of the law. Some said the letter “S” at the end of one of the words indicated the law only applied to situations in plural. Other lawyers said that means nothing. The lawyers even argued on whether the new law applies to new situations, old situations, or everyone’s situations.
After years and years of arguing, all the judges, all the attorneys, and most people came to a common agreement about the new law. They all agreed that every time the new law was brought to court, we would all completely disagree on its exact meaning.
Peace finally descended on the land. Because all the learned, all the wise ones, and all the decision makers finally settled on one common principle: that the new law was exactly like all previous laws, and no new law could ever be crafted that had a common sense, universal meaning.
The moral of the story: new laws are the product of many smart people. But the actual decision makers don’t know about the new law until quite a time after the effective date. And after everyone is aware of the new law, we go through a long period of deciding exactly what the law means. This long, grueling period can last many years, with many different interpretations of the new law. Some laws never, ever gain a consensus of what that law exactly means.
The wisdom to learn from this story: new laws frequently have little effect in the year they were passed. Their impact on people takes years. The exact meaning of that law can and will change over time.