This asinine bill seeks to mandate that digital cameras in phones make a sound when activated to keep people from making surreptitious photos. Beyond the incredible inanity (what if you need to quickly photograph a crime in progress?) and nannying of the bill, it highlights just how lazy and divorced from the productive world the political class has become.
Specifically the bill says:
Requirement- Beginning 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, any mobile phone containing a digital camera that is manufactured for sale in the United States shall sound a tone or other sound audible within a reasonable radius of the phone whenever a photograph is taken with the camera in such phone. [emp added]
Okay, imagine that you’re an engineer tasked with implementing the sound function in the phone. By what criteria do you determine what comprises a “reasonable radius”? Engineers work in numbers. An engineer has to engineer the phone to emit a sound of X decibels in order to be heard by Y percent of the general population at a radius of Z with U decibels of ambient noise. What values of X,Y,Z and U are legally “reasonable”?
The idiotic and politically dangerous thing here is that manufacturers will have to develop phones and then bring them before some bureaucrat who will inform them after the fact whether the phone’s audio signal has a “reasonable radius”. Imagine if all the speed limits where simply defined “as driving at a reasonable speed”. Cops would sit beside roads and determine, only after you drove by, if your speed had been reasonable. The potential for abuse would be enormous.
This law is far from rare in its completely useless legal definition. The Americans With Disabilities Act’s infamous “reasonable accommodation” being perhaps the infamous example. “Safe” is also a word tossed about with total disregard to the fact that the word describes only a nebulous and relative concept.
Nothing so separates the productive from the political than numbers. Engineers, designers and managers work in a world of numbers. If you make a physical object or program software to manipulate a physical object, you have to use numbers. Only number have meaning. The political need only principles and vague concepts. To succeed, they need only to manipulate the emotional states of others using emotively charged words.
Ultimately, this lazy and slipshod law-writing undermines the will of the people by moving the final decisions about what constitutes “reasonable” and “safe” to unelected bureaucrats and judges. We elect representatives to make laws, not airy statements of principle.
We need a constitutional amendment that requires law makers to write all laws with explicitly numerical boundaries when dealing with matters described by numbers. Otherwise, we all going to wake up one day and find out that no one can tell us before we act what is and what is not the breaking of the law.