Saturday, December 02, 2006

Purpose of Legislation

Adam Shostack celebrates The New Transparency.
"Sometimes, we Americans forget how lucky we are to live in a country with 51 legislative bodies, all of which can pass laws which affect all of us. By sheer luck, some of those laws will not stink, and a few actually turn out to be useful, not jarringly out-of-tune with the gestalt, and not trampling of civil liberties."

Adam singles out the legislation (initially in California, and now replicated in other states) that mandates notification of security/privacy breaches. He points out that this legislation has raised expectations of best practice in other countries, that are outside its jurisdiction.

Similar arguments could be made by supporters of Sarbanes-Oxley. The legislation itself only applies to US public companies, but the required corporate governance practices are being adopted by other organizations as well. So the effect is broader than its legal scope.

Sometimes the explicit purpose of legislation is not just to control behaviour but to change attitudes. If it is successful, the legislation itself might even become unnecessary. But removing the redundant legislation from the statute book at this point would send the wrong signals.

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