Scoot Blog: Don?t feel good about 'feel-good' laws!
I love talking about the ‘feel-good’ laws that do nothing but make us feel that we have done something as a society to solve a problem, but in reality, that’s all the laws accomplish. Politicians praise themselves for taking action and proclaiming to have solved a problem for the purpose of enhancing their public image. But the laws are called ‘feel-good’ laws because the only purpose they serve is to make the public feel as if the right action has been taken.
I also love talking about laws that just don’t make sense. Again, the motivation comes from a desire to solve a problem, but the problem is not solved while leaders pat themselves on the back for ‘doing the right thing’.
In Lafourche Parish, the ‘saggy pants’ law is apparently seldom enforced. The law bans “indecent exposure” of a person’s “below-waist underpants.” In 5 years, only 45 individuals have been ticketed. Sheriff Craig Webre says that it is up to the discretion of his deputies to enforce the law. Sheriff Webre admits that the department does not have a “baggy-pants task force that spends its time looking for that particular violation.”
I disagree with the ‘baggy-pants’ law, but don’t pass a law if you’re not going to enforce it. Young people in Lafourche Parish are exposed to the same fashion trends as young people across the country. As the result of mass communications and now social media, young people around the world as exposed to the same fashion trends and those trends transcend boundaries. Young people in Lafourche Parish wear ‘saggy pants’.
It’s hard to image that more tickets could not have been written in Lafourche Parish over a 5-year period. This may be another case of responding to a complaint from the community with a law that makes everyone feel as if there will be change - when in reality there is no change.
Last year, in response to complaints about young people hanging out in the Quarter late at night, the City Council passed a strict curfew law banning anyone 16 and younger from being out in Quarter after 8:00 pm seven days a week unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The French Quarter is part of my neighborhood and I am in the Quarter every day. While I am not checking IDs, I can assure you that every weekend night and into the early morning hours there are numerous young teens on Bourbon Street without parental supervision. I don’t see them causing trouble and I’m not blaming NOPD for not doing more to enforce the law, but this is another case of a law being passed in response to a perceived problem without the law being strictly enforced.
It should be up to the citizens to stop accepting passage of ‘feel-good’ laws as if they will be enforced and actually solve a problem. Politicians often receive the support of the community and are applauded for having the courage to pass laws that do nothing to make the community better. The main reason laws like the ‘saggy pants’ law and the teen curfew law are not enforced is because law enforcement has more important things to focus their attention on. And if that’s the case – why pass the laws in the first place?
Just a brief comment about a law that qualifies as a ‘feel-good’ law – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on selling sugary sodas over 16 ounces. The intent of the law is to curb obesity, but this law is a ridiculous and ill-conceived attempt to do something about an actual problem.
The loopholes that expose this law as absurd continue to mount. You can’t purchase regular soft drinks larger than 16 ounces, but you can buy two 16 ounce drinks allowing you to consume 32 ounces of the very drink that has been banned in larger quantities!
And it has now been learned that Domino’s is no longer stocking 2-liter bottles of soft drinks because the company will not be allowed to deliver a large pizza with a 2-liter bottle of Coke because of the law that is designed to fight obesity. A 2-liter bottle of soda contains from 700 to 1,000 calories – Domino’s large Classic Hand-Tossed pizza contains 3,120 calories!
We only have ourselves to blame for supporting politicians who pass laws that do not make a difference in our world. But that’s convenient for us because we feel like our voice was heard on an issue and a problem was solved. So we move on with our lives as if we have something to be proud of!