After a verbose preamble, which among other things informs you helpfully that "behavior becomes unacceptable when it infringes on the rights of others," the Code of Conduct of the Public Library of the city where I live provides thirty-one examples of unacceptable conduct. These examples can be sorted into five general categories:
1. Highly site-specific regulations (i.e., "Eating or Drinking," "Overcrowding at Study Tables or Carrels (limit of 4 per study table").
2. Behavior associated with street people ("Bathing/Washing Clothes," "Lack of Shoes or Shirt," "Loitering including refusal to leave at closing").
3. Behavior evincing failures of basic acculturation mechanisms ("Obscene Language," "Body Odor/Perfume/Cologne (Excessive) which Elicits General Complaint or Causes Discomfort to Other Library Users," "Excessive Public Displays of Affection").
4. General criminal behavior ("Theft," "Gambling" "Physical, Sexual or Verbal Abuse or Harassment of Library Users or Staff").
5. Criminalized behavior associated with mental illness or substance abuse ("Exhibitionism/Flashing," "Visible Drug or Alcohol Intoxication," "Voyeurism/Peeping").
[...] How well does this theory apply to a typical piece of modern bureaucratic regulation? Or the types of behavior the library code prohibits, you might note that only those listed in the first category can be thought to convey useful information to any minimally socialized member of the community. There could be a real reason as to whether you're allowed to bring a bag of pretzels into the library, but do you really require "notice" that you can't snatch purses, expose yourself to patrons, do your laundry in the bathroom, or play high-stakes poker in the reference area? Suppose you hadn't been given notice of any of these things; does it follow you're free to claim as a defense insufficient publicity on the part of the state?
Can there be any non-psychotic person of minimally functional intelligence who would suppose that any of the things on this list, other than those dealt with in the most site-specific regulations, were not prohibited? [...] So here we seem to be faced with a wholly superfluous invocation of legal rules: rules that merely reflect tacit social understandings that themselves have no apparent need to be cast into a public legal text.
Posting a public notice of the unacceptability of theft, or of exhibitionism, or of physical and sexual abuse, is very much like passing yet another law providing still more penalties for the sale of already illegal drugs. Such actions represent our legal culture's equivalent to the practice of nailing garlic over doorways to repel vampires. In each case a psychological imperative born of a sense of lack of control, and of the fear and anxiety this sensation produces, demands of us that we "do something." Those same factors then lead us to do things that appear in the cold light of rational analysis to be almost wholly irrational.
Funny I read the other day a joke - it kinda illustrates what's talked about here:
Little Johnny is riding a bike to the street corner and he sees a cop riding a horse. The cop asks "Did Santa give you that bike?" and Johnny replies "Yes!" so the cop hands him over a ticket and says, "Here, next year, tell Santa to put lights on it!"
Johnny gets annoyed and asks "Did Santa give you that horse?" The cop plays along by telling him "Yes!" and Johnny tells him "Next year, tell him the d i c k goes under the horse, not on top of it!" and rides off on his bike.
Hahaha eli - you're so funny - I have read a slightly different version of the joke though - anyway!