Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding, and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties, which may make anything mean everything or nothing, at pleasure.

—Thomas Jefferson. Letter to William Johnson, Monticello, June 12, 1823.

Passing a complex law means the law cannot be understood until it has been tested by judicial interpretation. This means the law is unknowable in advance. Moreover, highly complex legislation is often not clarified by judicial interpretation but rather made even more uncertain. The end result is that only big business, with its legions of clever lawyers and accountants, can navigate the labyrinth.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove