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Laws, rules no substitute for citizens doing the right thing

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: September 6, 2013

GOVERNMENT power is often out of control in areas where citizens wish it were constrained. Yet that power is ineffective at addressing other problems that most concern citizens.

Cumbersome laws and excessive regulations can arbitrarily destroy entrepreneurial dreams and impede economic progress. But when it comes to public safety, government policy is largely confined to punishing offenses after the fact or merely attempting to deter activity.

The Associated Press reports that 55 of 69 BCS football schools — 79.7 percent — have either reviewed or strengthened their policies regarding minors on campus following the conviction of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on dozens of child sexual abuse charges. At the same time, lawmakers in 32 state governments have reviewed statutes; at least 18 states have adopted new laws. Most of those new laws require university employees and volunteers to report child sex abuse.

The University of Oklahoma was one of two colleges reporting no action. OU officials said the school's policies undergo constant scrutiny. This may outrage some, but if OU reviews it policies on a routine basis, that's a far better mode of governance than a “do something” rush following tragedy.

Laws and regulations are enacted and implemented by fallible men and women. Careful deliberation and foresight are crucial to development of effective long-term policies. Knee-jerk reactions seldom yield that result. A law's unintended consequences can be as bad as the original problem.

Consider this: The Journal Record recently noted a law allowing mechanics to slap a lien on a car for unpaid repairs is now allowing criminals to “legally” steal vehicles. Basically, criminals take a vehicle from a car dealership under false pretenses and then leave the car at a repair shop run by an accomplice. The accomplice immediately files a lien for repairs that were never requested or rendered. The dealer is unable to reclaim the car without a payoff, or the crooks can legally sell it.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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