Kill All the Lawyers

09/27/2005 11:09:37


aka “A Good Start”1


I have often wondered what the “ideal” legal system would look like. Surely it can’t be as bloated as the one we currently have in the United States.

It seems as though our legal system was drafted with good intentions, but with no foresight for the amount of cruft that would accumulate over time. I am not sure exactly how many laws there are in the U.S., but by the time you account for your city, county, state, and nation, there have to be at least… well… a bunch. And however many there are, it is too many.

An interesting thought experiment would be to get a group of people together and try to agree on the minimal set of laws required to govern a free society. Surely we have outdone ourselves in this country.

The Ten Commandments consist of, not surprisingly, 10 rules (Mel Brooks' ideas to the contrary notwithstanding). Hammurabi had 282 laws in the Code of Hammurabi. Ten is certainly too few, and I am not certain if 282 is too many.

Surely the list could be greatly simplified. It would seem that there could be a finite number of rules of behavior that are sufficiently general so as to cover all likely scenarios that might arise, while being specific enough to be useful and not subject to excessive debate over meaning and applicability.

So, I shall begin creating a list here. I encourage anyone who is interested to contribute. Feel free to add, remove, merge, or reword rules. I welcome discussion on the comment page. I am interested to see what might come out of this over time if enough people participate.2

Ground Rules

The order of the rules will roughly represent a hierarchy of importance and precedence. In the event that two rules conflict, the higher priority rule should be applied. This will require some means of accounting for special circumstances, ''without'' simply creating a rule for each circumstance.

Some changes you might make:

  • Add a new rule
  • Delete an unecessary rule
  • Combine two or more rules into one more general rule
  • Change the wording of a rule
  • Change the position of a rule to reflect its place in the hierarchy

Remember, the goal is to create a system of rules sufficient to ensure a free and fair society, using the fewest number of rules possible.

Technical Notes

Please use the summary field to explain why you are making a change. If it is too complicated to fit in a short field, and the reason for the change is not self-evident, you might use the Comments page to explain yourself or to give an example of why the change is necessary.


As this list is created, I imagine there will be a need for some sort of organization. Any thoughts on that are welcome.

The Rules

(Coming up soon… Feel free to jump in.)

  1. “First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.” – Henry VI, Shakespeare  ↩

  2. I am not sure whether this set of rules will more closely resemble a set of ethical rules or a set of legal rules. I am not a lawyer, and I only took one philosophy class in college – ''Philosophy of Law'' by Martin Golding. Although I enjoyed the class, I am certainly not an expert.  ↩

Similar Pages