The Rule of Law was a pretty hard won principle...

to be abandoned just because you think that electorate will always choose angels (and gods, apparently).

Chris Bertram argues that law enforcement agencies should be allowed to just "zap the bad people" regardless of whether they are actually, y'know, violating the law.  

I guess that even though ex ante watertight rules are impossible, the ex ante ability to predict who, ex post, might interpret your actions as being "at or over the moral and legal boundaries" is possible.  

Bertram assumes quite a bit more knowledge than he should.  He assumes that so-and-so "kn(e)w perfectly well" what these "moral boundaries" were, and that "enforcers" are actually capable of knowing that he so knew.  He assumes that the enforcers know what the "moral boundaries" are.  He assumes that "that the rest of society" (whatever that might mean) agrees with the enforcers.  

It seems to me that the urge to punish such "obvious" moral transgressors is a manifestation of the cognitive bias called the availability heuristic.  Easy to imagine scenarios overly influence one's judgment.  Because it's easy to imagine banking transactions that can be used for gaming regulatory systems, it's natural to assume that that is their primary use, and that distinguishing between such use and ordinary use is straightforward.  When the enforcement boots hit the ground, though, all sort of complications arise.  

Bertram notes that: "Rule-of-law fetishists, Hayekians, and the like tend to think (that this law enforcement discretion) just appalling."  Yep.  


Hat tip:  Megan McArdle, on twitter