Contrary to President Trump’s declaration, we have an inescapable need to have laws that coerce, dominate, and control our lives. There may be some people who think they can live without those laws, but I suspect that will only work when they are on an island isolated from any dissenting peers. There is something deep within us that recognizes that the rule of law is essential to our being humans.
This system of governance inevitably results in over criminalizing because it equates so many unrelated violations of law into a single category of a crime requiring a prison sentence. We may need these laws, and for argument’s sake I’ll grant that prison sentences are a valid form of punishment. I question the need for all of these laws to require prison penalties. I question the wisdom of equating any violation of such a wide range of laws to be a single category: an imprisonable convict.
Government by data requires collection of observations of actual modern behavior unbiased by traditional interpretations and one of the sources of such bias is the retention of obsolete laws. We have always introduced new laws to address some immediate concern. We now live in an era where we have the option to retire old laws to confirm that that earlier concern is no longer a problem. Restricting the number of laws enforced gives us the best data about what is most important today. Also such restraint on number of effective laws reduces the chances of misinterpreting behaviors of people disobeying an obsolete law in order to address some new problem. In that case, we need to discover that new problem instead of wasting energy on strengthening the enforcement of a law that has outlived its utility.
One recurring theme of my questioning of practices with big data is the lack of provisioning for human labor to routinely scrutinize the data, not just for operational problems but also for problems of underlying assumptions being or becoming invalid. I call this scrutiny data science and taking the science seriously in the same…