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Magna Carta, Still Posing a Challenge at 800 - The New York Times

Magna Carta Still Posing a Challenge at 800 The New York Times


Interesting history and conflicts.  Historical Present, that's a tense you should use more often.

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Is it safe to say that there is no perfect law but at least our law is modifiable?

In a sense, the Magna Carta and the US Constitution are perfect laws, or perhaps better they embody perfect principles and meta-laws, an architecture for laws.  Specific laws often need to be expressed relative to details that change, situations that are superseded, etc.  The principles don't really change, although sometimes they are more revealed, almost like a scientific discovery.

They are good for having the ability to be modified to serve present needs.

Sometimes I am unhappy that the Constitution is so hard to modify, but that probably prevents a lot of frivilous changes.

It does seem harder to modify now than ever, but that's not a problem.

The real problem is that each years laws are heaped atop the previous year's laws.

Hardly ever is there a "refactor" that happens.

As a result there are so many laws now that it's difficult to follow them all!

A lot of laws are now legally invalid and moot.  Unfortunately, a lot of codes are not updated.  They/we desperately need github for laws.  The Constitution looks pristine compared to local, state, or federal law.  There are still laws outlawing black people in certain towns, blue laws (outlawing common sex acts), preventing you from videotaping police, etc.  These have all been ruled unconstitutional yet you have to know that to combat a zealous prosecutor.  It is yet another full-employment ploy for attorneys.  I once fought and won a ticket in Virginia due to an expired registration given on private property.  The police and courts knew or should have known that the Virginia top court had ruled that illegal under Virginia law.  Only because I happened to have read in the Washington Post about a case a few months earlier was I able to make the right argument, winning easily over the adamant prosecutor.  If I were the judge, I would have warned the prosecutor and the police from breaking the law again, but it was clear that nobody cared; they were happy taking advantage of people's ignorance.  Incestuous jerks.

I like that idea: Github for Laws!

Especially right now when so many laws conflict with each other!

What does "historical present" mean in this context?

It was mentioned in the article. I thought it was interesting they pointed out and named the tense. Although I had experienced that tense, didn't remember it being named distinctly.

“It’s one of the many, many things in the Anglo-American legal tradition that will eventually grow and mutate and be misinterpreted as something that’s important,” Akhil Amar, a professor at Yale Law School and author, most recently, of “The Law of the Land,” said of Magna Carta, using the historical present. He added: “Stuff happens later that endows it with a certain retrospective significance.”

Ah, okay. I guess it means evaluating the present as if it were history?

Or does it mean evaluating the present given past history?

He means it as a verb tense: "It became important..." is past tense, "It will eventually become..." is historical because it is written as if someone was knowingly saying it in the past about the future while in fact it has already become true hence "historical tense".  It means speaking as if you are evaluating the future which really is the past.

Ah. Putting now into the context of a hundred years from now!

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