The thesis that law (taken here to mean binding rules of any social organization) should be as small as it can be (like a microkernel; do everything in “userspace” if possible). Why?
One point of contention is whether laws should capture what people feel is right. The principal of MinimalistLaw says no; laws are a framework for social interaction and organization, not a statement of morality. However, MinimalistLaw is not the consensus viewpoint; hence many laws do try to capture morality.
MeatBall does not have too many laws, in fact I think it is rather MinimalistLaw in that we have lots of conventions and community feelings as to what is right, but there are only a few of these that we crystallize into very precise statements which are listed prominently. That is, MeatBall seems to prefer informal CommunityExpectations to formalized rules.
I assert that a system of trying to make laws coincide with morality is actually unworkable. A good example (seemingly extreme, but sadly not) is religion. Many people believe in various religions, and believe in their system of morality. Some of these systems of morality disagree (for example, is it immoral to have multiple sexual partners?). I assert that the proper function of law in a country with significant proportions of people of disagreeing factions is not to make choices between their moralities, but rather to provide a minimal framework for nonviolence and the production of the necessities of life. Certainly the community will make some futher compromises between its various factions, but I don’t think these should be written into the law (i.e., perhaps in some societies people who sleep with many people are shamed, in other societies they may not be; but I don’t think it is wise to have legal repercussions for such a thing when there is a substantial minority which disagrees).
:The reasons I think that other arenas are better suited than law for mediating such compromises are given in the first section at the top of the page.
:In other non-governmental organizations, for similar reasons, I also feel that ironclad, hard to amend, formal written rules should be similarly minimal.
:If you are of a religion prohibiting multiple partners yet you live in a country in which it is allowed, you cannot be moral just by following the law. I think there are other examples of this; for example, in the United States, supporting the KKK (a group whose purpose is to be racist) is not illegal but I feel that it is immoral. I don’t think it should be illegal, either (although I believe that this sort of thing is illegal in many other countries).
:Also, yes, I am complaining about the United States, because I’m not enough of a scholar to know how legal systems work elsewhere. It seems to me that systems based more on case law may be different than US law. However, certainly even in many non-US countries the body of written, legislated criminal law eclipses the ability of many citizens to read it, so that part at least is valid in many places. – BayleShanks
Here’s another example of the distinction between law and morality; consider the case (inspired by real life but thankfully not my own) of a child whose parents were often very mean to them. The parents often verbally abuse the child in a variety of ways (for example, tell them they were worthless and ugly), and this child grows up to have no self-esteem and a very negative outlook on life. I think what these parents did was terrible and was not only unwise but also clearly immoral. However, as far as I can tell this is not, and should not be, against the law.
A law against viciously making fun of your child would do more harm than good because it would be impossible for the court to reliably find out exactly what was really said, how often, and what the context was. Also, even if some extremes were agreed to be bad by most of society, making an actual law would prompt the prosecution of a large number of borderline cases in which it would not be clear if what was done was “too mean”.
So, even when society can agree that a particular thing is morally wrong, there can be good reasons not to place that moral judgement into the law. – BayleShanks