Monday, October 3, 2011

The law is a poorly written program/application/system

Originally published 2005-12-08, on

It struck me today that the written law is very similar to a poorly written program.

All these "the aforementioned party" and "the other party" and "with the exception of article 9, 5 and 6", and the sentences half page long, and references to other papers cropped all over ...

Do you remember BASIC with the GOTO statement or the assembler language? Now obfuscate it: remove all comments from that code. Replace all subroutine names with numbers, put extra GOTOs, and voila: you have the tax code.

The difference is: the user of the BASIC code - someone who plays a computer game for example - cannot be put to jail for not knowing and understanding every line of the computer code. The tax code user - can.

There are hundreds of thousands of lines of tax code, and they, as a system, change all the time. Why on Earth, we - the users - are obliged to know, understand and keep track of that? Give it to machines instead of us, lawyers, and judges. Give it to the Common Language Runtime. Let it analyze all references. Let it break trying to compile it. Let it freeze before displaying a verdict...

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