Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.- Plato
Sorry, Plato. In the 21st century, laws may be needed more than ever because the bedrocks of civilized society (families and community) seem to have fallen down on the job with respect to teaching responsibility and "goodness" with the result that too many people have no knowledge about what it means to be "good." Perhaps Plato got it right in many instances; this bit of wisdom, though, seems to be open for critical discussion since so many people now have somehow lost sight of what it means to be "good," which makes laws the essential stop-gap against the kind of chaos Plato would despise.
Interesting point. I think Plato's first statement still stands: Good people do not need laws. But your point - that too many people nowadays can't tell good from bad - is also sound. Oddly, though, I think that a few good, clear laws could do the trick rather than behemoths longer than War and Peace that no one, including the legislators, bother to read (though one can be sure the lawyers will).
I think that's a little simplistic, Frank. As a society grows more complex, it's bound to generate more and more complex laws to keep pace. Plus, from what I've seen of life, even "good" people don't always act it.
As for myself, I actually doubt that "more and more complex laws" are necessary to the proper function of a community of men, women, and children. Regardless of the complexity of the community (society), the basics ought to be sufficient. Consider, for example, the Ten Commandments. Do not do so through either the Judaic or Christian prism, but do so only through the prism of human nature and common sense. Behavior within a community that is in full compliance with the letter and spirit of those ten statutes ought to be sufficient, especially if combined with family and community insistence upon personal responsibility (with a little of the Golden Rule thrown in for good measure). Everything else--even your complex laws--would be superfluous window dressing. Of course, I'm imagining a somewhat idealized community, not unlike Plato's Republic.
It is simply not true that a more complex society requires more complex laws. Nature gets by with very simple ones and is more complex than any society. And how is our society more complex than previous ones? Imagine how difficult it was for the ancient Romans to get ice transported from the Alps to cool their summer drinks. Out technology actually makes formerly complex activities quite simple, so simple you can do that home. Like printing your own book, making your own movie or record, etc. A law is not meant to be a treatise or a an all-embracing plan of strategy and action. And it is not meant to be understood only by lawyers. A law that is not clear, simple and broadly promulgated is an unjust law. Period. See post at 3 this afternoon for more on this.