The First Steps in Fighting Legal Nihilism

Shaun Walker, a correspondent for UK paper The Independent, has got a new piece up over at Russia Profile which suggests that Dmitry Medvedev has a number places where he can begin his crusade against legal nihilism:

Talk to any small business owner, or restaurant owner, and they’ll bemoan the litany of absurd and unmaintainable regulations to which they are theoretically supposed to conform. I was told by one restaurant owner that by law he was required to have a special room to store eggs. Obviously, he was faced with two options – either build a special room to store eggs, or pay the health and safety inspector a few thousand roubles on his next visit. Guess which one he chose.

How can people be expected to respect the law in general when they are forced to break it in specific circumstances? When you start regarding the law as something you can pick and choose about, it’s the start of a slippery slope.

When the policeman asks you for your registration, or when the safetyinspector asks the restaurant owner to prove that his kitchen conformsto 1,500 food safety regulations, or when the tax police visit acompany and ask to see the records, or for that matter whenKhodorkovsky goes before a court on embezzlement while other oligarchswander around freely with their ill-gotten gains, what is played out isa total farce.

They know it’s a farce. You know it’s a farce. You know that they knowthat it’s a farce. And so on. While things continue like this, anygenuine respect for the law is impossible to foster. Rooting outcriminality, corruption and bureaucratic morass in this country isnever going to happen overnight. But getting rid of a few laws thatappear designed to be broken would be a good place to start.