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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 108 of the 1998 Liberty Fund reprint of John Maxcy Zane’s superb 1927 volume, The Story of Law:

When a bad law [that is, a bad piece of legislation] is passed to-day, we still cling to this primal belief that the stupid public is not at fault, that it has been misled or deceived.  Aristophanes, in one of his comedies, brought the people on the state as Demos, where it was led around by the nose, cajoled and flattered and deceived and made a fool of by artful demagogues.  No doubt the play was highly applauded by the Athenians, who could not comprehend that the fable was narrated of themselves.  The fact taught by the law is that any political society has the laws that it deserves.

Yes.  The details of legislation are typically best explained by public-choice realities such as special-interest-group concentration, voters’ rational ignorance, and voters’ rational irrationality.  But the thrust of a society’s legislation and laws reflects the ideas that are dominant and prevalent in that society.  Change those ideas and the legislation and law change; don’t change those ideas and the legislation and law don’t change.