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Chapter 13. PRIVACY AND THE LAW: 2001 > What Is the Law within the Several Stat...

What Is the Law within the Several States?

State laws vary widely. They derive from vastly different traditions and recognize the immensely different cultures that come together to form the United States. California, with which we are more familiar simply because we both live there, has many laws derived from Spanish law rather than English. Maryland has laws that more specifically come from the tradition of the Catholic Church. New England states have laws that codify the beliefs of their Puritan founders. Because we usually live in only one state at a time, Americans aren't really familiar with the differences among the state laws. Pretty much we believe that whatever we think the law is where we are is the law everywhere. Those of us who have lived in different states know that this isn't true, but that doesn't really stop us all from assuming a standard regime based on what we think we know.

These differences also reflect the tension we maintain between federalism and confederation. Americans are conflicted in what we think about our governments and how we want them to work. We want our government to simultaneously stay out of our way and provide maximum efficient services. We want local control, but our own personal values should be the ones that everyone shares and the laws based on them should be enforced centrally. Jurisdictions also compete with one another for residents and businesses by having different laws. You can begin to see why our systems look very strange to people who are used to other ways of doing things. The checks and balances provided between the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches of government are complicated by the fact that we also have local district, municipality, county, and state governments whose organization frequently parallels the divisions in our federal government. In addition, we have representative government and not all of us agree, so you get confusing and conflicting methods of solving problems.


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