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# What is 'a Theory of a Law'?

Module by: John Bosco. E-mail the author


What is 'a theory of a law'? Notice that the question does not refer to 'a theory of law'. The presence of the indefinite article in the question is intentional and significant. 'A theory of a law' is about 'a law' in the abstract as a generality untethered to any distinguishing particulars. It is about 'a law' in the sense of a platonic form or ideal. 'A theory of a law' has its own lexicon. Its vocabulary gives those initiated into the "theory' the ability to talk about a law in general independently of any particulars. 'A theory of a law' creates in our heads a model of a law that generates legal meaning. If the model is accurate, it generates a high fidelity representation of the laws that exist outside our heads. If inaccurate, it generates only poor approximations. In short, a 'a theory of a law' is well-defined explanation of how we import, process and export legal meaning.


'A theory of a law' is nothing more than a toolkit that holds techniques that you apply to legal problems to find solutions. 'A theory of a law' is a collection of established and well-defined pre-existing approaches to the solution of legal problems. By possessing a toolkit of pre-existing approaches, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. With a toolkit, the tools already invented to solve problems are saved ready for re-use when needed.


My question to you is do you have one? Do you possess 'a theory of a law'?


If you are like most people, you have been short-changed. There is a hole in your legal education through which the proverbial truck can be driven. It is an undeniable fact that most do not possess 'a theory of a law'. Do not take my word for it; test my assertion yourself. Ask any lawyer you know to simply explain to you his or her 'theory of a law'? If you are brave, asks a judge. If you want to make a lawyer cry, ask a law professor. They cannot articulate the manner by which they import, process, and export legal meaning. They simply do it. How they do it is inexplicable. It happens magically not systematically. I, on the other hand, am different than them. I have learned 'a theory of a law'. If you ask me, I can answer your question. I can explain how the magic works and do so systematically. Using, as an aid to understanding, The Triangle of a Law and the Periodic Table of the Elements of a Law , I would share with you a well defined algorithm by which legal meaning is formed inside our heads, how it is mounted onto a law and how it is unmounted from a law. What self-respecting lawyer does not have and cannot articulate 'a theory of a law'!


What is more disturbing than hole in their legal education is that they are unaware of its existence. Being blithely ignorant, they do not see the hole. "Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind." To them, everything is hunky-dory. It is not. For instance, my 'theory of a law' has taught me the number of permutations a law can assume with regard to any flow of conduct from Source to Recipient in circumstances. But if I asked other lawyers to tell me the number of permutations, they are nonplussed. It is appalling that they can name the flavors of ice cream but cannot name the three (3) "flavors" of a law.


How do lawyers function without 'a theory of a law'? They get away with a lack of 'a theory of a law' because a law is simple and they get it right a lot of times simply by accident. Yet, may I be so bold as to suggest that it is better to manage legal meaning on purpose rather than by accident? May I suggest that it is better to have 'a theory of a law' than to lack 'a theory of a law'? May I suggest that instead of flying by the seat of one's pants, it is better for a pilot to have a systematic understanding of how the airplane works?


One of the reasons for my interest in legal literacy is that during the nearly twenty-eight years that I have practiced law perhaps sixty to seventy percent of all legal discourse encountered by me has been meaningless. I may be underestimating the percentage. Misunderstanding is more prevalent than understanding. Nonsense overwhelms sense. Legalese is not a legal fiction but an overwhelmingly disturbing fact. Sure, lawyers understand laws that are commands from the perspective of a Source of conduct ( focus ) . Their mummies and daddies have told them to do this (affirmative regulation) and don't do that (negative regulation) since they were babies. Yet change the focus of a Lawmaker from a Source of Conduct to a Recipient or change the law from a command to a permission and they become discombobulated. Their confusion does not arise because lawyers are stupid or lazy. They are the smartest, most hardworking and under appreciated people on earth. The problem is that, until now, our law schools have not told them that they need to learn 'a theory of a law' before they graduate. Law schools teach 'a theory of a law' in much the same way my uncles were taught to swim. They were thrown off the pier into the water on the theory that necessity is the mother of natatorial knowledge. The sink or swim pedagogical method teaches few to backstroke or butterfly, some to dog paddle and too many others only how to sink to the bottom.


So, like Don Quixote, I have left my village and taken up the legal literacy lance "spurred on by the conviction that the world" needs my "immediate presence." (Jumping from Cervantes to Anderson) To all who would listen, I shout, "Look, look, our laws are naked of meaning. They aren't wearing anything at all!"


There is a better way.


The problem has a solution. All lawyers must learn 'a theory of a law'. I put forth mine as a candidate. However, any 'theory of a law' will do. A 'theory of a law' discovers, explores and maps the boundaries that define our knowledge of a law. A Unified Theory of a Law is such a map. It takes fewer than three hours to learn A Unified Theory of a Law. Instead of watching a movie, take the time to learn A Unified Theory of a Law. Stop strutting arrogantly through the legal world with this gaping hole in your legal education. The whistling generated by the passage of air through the hole is unseemly and reveals that your legal education is, just a tad, defective. Plug it with A Unified Theory of a Law. There is nothing to lose and much to gain

John Bosco
Project Director
The Legal Literacy Project

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