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Not many lawyers, if any at all, have heard in their law schools anything about a man called Jack Cade. Perhaps rightly so, he was not a lawyer and not even involved in legal procedures in any capacity. Also in general history he played only a minor role as the leader of a rebellion of craftsmen and peasants from Kent against the English Crown in the spring of 1450. After winning the first battle and conquering London they gathered to discuss what to do next and what demands to pursue. But these had not been the usual demands to, say, lower taxes or depose the incompetent King. According to the account of William Shakespeare in his famous drama “Henry VI” from a good century later, the very first point of the programme of the Cade rebellion had, namely, been:

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

This exclamation, which produced (rather dry) laughs of many theatre audiences throughout the next half a millennium, has usually been dismissed as just an expression of general murderous desire of a bunch of gangsters. But if analysed cum grano salis such a rebellion programme from almost seven centuries ago could have made Jack Cade one of the most important men in the history and theory of law. One of the few mainstays in the opinions on law is, namely, that lawyers and their business provoke (sometimes murderous) hatred from the rest of the population. Only recently have serious attempts been made to analyse the underlying context of these negative sentiments towards the law and the lawyers. It turned out that the story of the Cade rebellion, as told by Shakespeare, goes over and beyond just a usual hatred towards the monstrous lawyers as were Thomas Cromwell, Guillaume de Nogaret, Andrey Vishinsky or the likes more recent and nearer to us. Hated and killed by Jack Cade and his comrades were, namely, all the people “with ink on their fingers”, so all the educated people capable of reading and writing and thus able to cause:

“a lamentable thing that parchment, being scribbled over, should undo a man.”

More than 95 percent of the people were illiterate, so they could not even know the written laws and could not properly defend or pursue their rights.

In 15th century England a paper with words written on it really was one of the most dangerous things possible. More than 95 percent of the people were illiterate, so they could not even know the written laws and could not properly (in written form) defend or pursue their rights. Moreover, in the times of Cade the language of law was still Latin, even Magna Carta as the most fundamental constitutional document has at that time not yet been officially translated into English. And incomprehensible for the ordinary people was also and especially the then emerging complex and complicate “newspeak” of the lawyers. These were, in the words of Cade:

“talking of a noun and a verb and in such abhominable words as no Christian ear can endure to hear.”

So much hated by Jack Cade and his compatriots were therefore the proponents of complex language and structure of law, which was alienated from the ordinary people and widely used to get them:

“accused and hanged for matters they, as being illiterate, were not able to answer.”

But to get such a result, the other side of the oppression equation was also needed, namely the “people of pen and ink” employed by the poor to defend them. These were perhaps hated even more than the lawyers from the other side, for they were charging fees the ordinary people were not able to pay and were regularly outbribed by the educated and wealthy elite into betraying their poor illiterate clients. As it is so with every not properly controlled monopoly also this one evolved into evermore excessive monopolistic behaviours. Gradually, the people dealing with the “abhominable” foreign words of law became a new class of people. Of course it was not its proponents to get this monopoly broken up. What was needed was a rebellion from outside. And Cade and his friends provided it, quite plentiful.

By using the story of Jack Cade, Shakespeare provided a brilliant picture of one of the most basic and eternal conflicts in the history (and nature) of mankind. It is about the treatment of the world and life by using complex and complicated words, language structures, concepts and systems. At first these intellectual achievements are not meant to do anything harmful. Quite the opposite: the written Latin structures of law, imported to England from Le Bec monastery in Normandy via Canterbury, were a far more advanced way of handling law affairs than the informal legal customs of the pre-conquest Anglo-Saxon England. But in a rather short time it became clear that for the ordinary illiterate people, unable to hire expensive lawyers to decipher the “abhominable” Latin law structures, the fine tuning of law devised by Justinian or Ulpian was of no use. Although perhaps initially conducted in pure heart by quite some lawyers of the time, for the vast majority of the people this sophisticated legal system became just a farce, a pompous ritual of wigs and robes and many fancy words. In reality, all this became merely a fake structure devised and used for other purposes: to oppress the deprivileged class and to unjustly enrich those with a monopoly over guiding the humble ordinary people through the artificially made worlds of complexity. The legal system became just the opposite of what was (or should have been) envisaged. Instead of its declared function of providing justice to the people it became the system of a profound injustice. And the lawyers as the main proponents of such a legal system were mortally hated …

With his grotesque picture of Cade’s rebels chasing the Latin speaking people with ink stains on their fingers through London Shakespeare had, of course, not been describing something happening only in the times around 1450. Oppressions by too many and too complicated words and systems, degenerated into the alienated fake structures and institutions, are one of the most recognizable mainstays of human history. And so are rebellions and (real or just mental) revolutions against them. The targets could have been in a virtual Latin language, as were the sham structures and institutions of the Borgia or Medici popes attacked by Martin Luther, or in a native although still not understandable language, as in the story of Franz Kafka about the unfortunate Josef K.

In the last couple of decades humanity seems to be sliding deeper and deeper back into the times of Jack Cade. Again there are at least 95 percent of people who are not able to know and understand even the basics of laws which are determining their lives.

The rebellion of Jack Cade was not successful. In the end, he and other leaders were either killed in battle or hanged as traitors. But in the long run the issues pursued by them succeeded to quite some extent. People became generally literate. Latin had been abolished as the language of law. And the brilliant abstractions of the great codifications of laws of Continental Europe from a century or two ago, or in essence similar achievements of the Anglo-American judiciary, had prevented at least the worst oppressions of the ordinary people by what Shakespeare described as the use of “abhominable” complex words and of the lengthy “noun and verb” alienated word structures. With the clarity and controllability of laws so achieved, plus some general prosperity and accessibility of legal services on a relatively free market, the second half of the 20th century probably was a time when the artificial complicating of laws was ruining the world and lives of people so little as never before in the history – at least in the times and places where guns were silent and dictatorships mild …

But in the last couple of decades humanity seems to be sliding deeper and deeper back into the times of Jack Cade. Again there are at least 95 percent of people who are not able to know and understand even the basics of laws which are determining their lives. This is not caused by the Latin language or illiteracy of the people anymore. The same and perhaps worse is caused simply by the enormous quantities of the nowadays laws. The situation as to that is in one country described by the following:

“There have been multiple attempts to count the number of federal crimes, including by the Department of Justice, and no one has yet succeeded.”

In the three decades the production of laws, and their constant changing, amending and replacing, has reached a quarter of a million pages. This is equal to 200 books of the size of Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace”, the longest ever written work of literature.

The rough count for this country ends up with figures of more than 4.500 regulated criminal acts and of over 300.000 misdemeanours, punishable (also) by prison sentence. By taking into account hundreds of misdemeanours regulated in one before the last chapters of all the main Slovene laws this could very well correspond to the situation on this side of Atlantic. An ordinary (as well as extraordinary) nowadays person cannot even read through the 40.163 currently valid legal acts of the European Union. This is impossible even if one is limited to “only” 11.547 directly binding EU regulations, also because quite some of these legal acts, for instance the 2006 Directive on VAT, can contain more than a thousand legal rules each. In Slovenia, a small legal area of about a half percent of Europe, there have been 209 editions of the Official Gazette published in 2021, so announcing new laws and regulations almost every working day, in total on over 12.000 pages per year. In the three decades of the independent state the production of laws, and their constant changing, amending and replacing has reached a quarter of a million pages. This is equal to 200 books the size of Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace”, the longest ever written (worldwide known) work of literature. It is inevitable that judgments applying such a quantity of cacophonic and everchanging laws need to be complicated and lengthy. Also in such a sport Slovenia (and the rest of Europe) is among the best, although still some way behind the world record of a 1.448 pages long judgment, followed by the lesser medallists of 1.045 and 1.042 pages.

It is hard to say where this worldwide stampede of legislative and judicial pleonasm and logorrhoea came from. It may be that in the recent times of virtually infinitive storability, transferability and copypasteability of information the upper hand has generally been gained by self-confident mediocre people not able (or willing) to distinguish the simple from the complex and to treat and express the simple in a simple way. We are living in the age of logorrhoea, originally a mental illness, sometimes called also the “verbal diarrhoea”, usually defined as:

“a verbosity that uses superfluous or fancy words to disguise a useless or simple message as useful or intellectual”.

This disease is spread all over the world, in all areas of life. Of course, occasionally there are reasons of technical or commercial nature leading to express things in complicated ways. But already in the spheres of the mentioned illness are, for instance, the user manual of ridiculous 88 pages for a simple kitchen cooktop, so complicated as to be totally unusable, a manual for even not too fancy car on 308 pages, with 616.064 words and an estimated 43 hours needed only to read it through, or a system of mandatory nightly updates and cookie-clicking on your electronic devices, (quite openly) designed only to make the systems uncontrollable and to force you to buy a new machine sooner rather than later. Although initially perhaps devised in pure heart, to do something good, the end effect of this and the like is more or less just to make life of the people miserable. How it came to be so, is another story, not to be elaborated here. But this “technological advancement” is still something avoidable. It is, after all, possible to cook a meal or to drive a car without (carefully) reading hundreds of pages of incomprehensible operation manuals. And the market should, hopefully, also spit out those who are excessively harassing their clients with the pleonastic garbage of the password requirements of a minimum of one lower case letter, one upper case letter, one numeric and one special character, mandatory embedded somewhere in the middle, in altogether at least 10 characters, with no personal data, to be created anew and different than any previous ones, stored somewhere in advance and to be repeated during the procedure all over again and again …

Unfortunately, not much of these escape devices could work in the world of pleonastic and logorrhoeic “legal creativity”. One just cannot avoid the valid and binding legal system, however crazy this system is. Again, and again only occasionally, there may exist good reasons to regulate certain aspects of modern world, life, or the market in a complicated way. But it could not be so with – all, or even more than a fraction of – the quarter of a million pages of legislation published in the Slovene Official Gazette. And the notion that it is not necessary, but simply crazy, applies also to the more and more frequent laws as is the following example of the rule formulated by using 92 words in one sentence:

“It is also appropriate that, during that transitional period, intra-Community acquisitions of certain value, made by exempt persons or by non-taxable legal persons, certain intra-Community distance selling and the supply of new means of transport to individuals or to exempt or non-taxable bodies should also be taxed in the Member State of destination, in accordance with the rates and conditions set by that Member State, in so far as such transaction would, in the absence of special provisions, be likely to cause significant distortion of competition between Member States.”

It looks like a good part of the last two generations of legal advisors, judges, professors and attorneys have in their lives hardly been doing anything else than elbowing their way up by producing as many as possible (and more than others) long and fancy texts.

The enormous discrepancy between the necessary and the actual (complicating of laws) can be explained only in one manner. It looks like a good part of the last two generations of legal advisors, judges, professors and attorneys have in their lives hardly been doing anything else than elbowing their way up by producing as many as possible (and more than others) long and fancy texts, as many as it goes footnotes, references, referrals to whatever, cite more precedents and inventing the most astonishingly complex theories – just to exalt themselves before their bosses, the scientific community, or before the clientele able to fill their pockets. If anything is dead and buried in the modern world it is the theory of parsimony, (falsely) attributed to William of Ockham, teaching that out of many ways towards the conclusion the shortest and the simplest way is the right one. To get promoted or wealthy – or just to keep the job – one needs to be doing just the contrary.

In some opinions the enormous quantity and sheer complexity of present-day laws and jurisprudence are nothing more than a proper reflection of the rich and diverse modern world and life. Certain people even find what is happening as very impressive, the rule of law principles are getting entertained with all the necessary diligence and enthusiasm, regulated by laws and adjudicated by courts are even the tiniest details of human life. For them there is nothing wrong with the state of affairs in which one law of Slovenia is in the very first article explicitly calling for its interpretation through no less than 16 European directives and by taking into account as much as 191 international conventions and protocols. And there is nothing wrong also with another law, mandatory to be interpreted through “only” 14 directives, which got substantially changed and amended no less than 19 times in 16 years of its existence, by so gaining three times more fat, from originally 709 articles to now over 2.000. Everything OK here, marvellous stuff for us to write lengthy (highly profitable) legal opinions or fancified separate judicial opinions with multitude of footnotes on very many pages …

But only people entirely cut off from reality could fail to see that much (if not all) of this sophisticated fine-tuning of law has in recent times been perverted into something just the opposite of the envisaged. Huge quantities of everything have caused some general Hegelian transition from quantity to quality. It is, namely, inevitable that the legal system with as many as 300.000 regulated misdemeanours cannot function otherwise than as a tool for arbitrarily picking out the people the arbitrators wish to harass. And thousands of highly diverse and everchanging judicial interpretations of the 92-vague-words rule on VAT tax cited above could only produce some unpredictable and unjust “legal system” of arbitrational fishing in (legal) muddy waters, open to all sorts of abuses and manipulations.

Not much bottom-up analysis is needed to see that in the last decades very many laws have deteriorated into legalistic illusions covering the profoundly different malign reality hidden behind many big and fancy words. Created is a whole world of fake legal categories, designed only to exploit the current highly abnormal situation of “too many notes” in all fields of law. These are astonishingly alike to the fake Latin legal categories, invented and applied to pervert the law in the times of Jack Cade some seven centuries ago. One notorious modern-day example may be the regulation applicable if you decide to build a house on, say, the Slovenian seacoast. Until 2002 this was regulated by the Building Lawof 108 short and clear articles. Afterwards the totally new several times longer law of 2002 was enacted, which was substantially changed in the next good decade 16 times, more than once yearly. In 2017 a brand-new law was passed, changed several times in the following years, and in 2022 replaced by yet another the newest Building Law. With this last law the number of different types of buildings has exceeded 30, with different conditions, procedures and judicial review regulated for (almost) any of them, whereas almost half of the law are transitive regimes as to the previous regulations. Simultaneously, a multiheaded hydra of over 15 extensive accompanying laws on the territorial planning, the land use, etc., has been produced, and changed God knows how many times. And their own site planning regulations have been regulated by all and every of the 212 Slovene local municipalities, most of them challenged before various courts in the procedures lasting decades.

The only thing clear as to such a legislative jungle is that these laws are not doing what they (supposedly) should. They serve only as an illusion of the declared transparent and workable regulation on what is and what isn’t allowed to be built. But in reality the only result of this enormity of everchanging fancy words is that anything can be said to be allowed and anything to be forbidden, depending on the bribe offered to the official empowered to do the arbitrating. The biggest joke, however, are extensive rules on inspection procedures against illegal builders. Never ever has any serious illegally built building in Slovenia been torn down by the building inspection (and even less by another joke, the remedies of civil law). Just looking around into the Slovenian landscape is proof enough: never plastered yellow brick extensions on every other private house, plastic auto salons in the middle of idyllic villages, hundred-meter-tall Panamax port cranes ruining the “highly protected” veduta of the ancient seaside town of Koper – and many other features seen only in the messy third world places as, say, Lagos or La Paz.

Despite very many fancy words, or exactly because of them, “the lawyers” inventing and conducting such a pleonastic system are, again, making the honest ordinary creditors broke and the privileged rotten people winning.

There are many other Slovene legalistic Potemkin villages, last but not at all least the Insolvency laws. Until a good decade ago we lived quite well with the Law of 1993 covering these procedures in 198 articles on 54 pages. But in 2008 the new Law emerged in 500 much longer articles on 219 pages, which with all the subsequent changes and additions is now already a thick book of altogether 332 pages of only the text of the Law. However, this flood of words has never ever forced any firm in Slovenia to declare insolvency before the main assets have already disappeared and so nothing remained for the creditors. And one can hardly remember a compulsory settlement other than voted through by the “creditors” faked into the role by the debtor just for the occasion. So, despite very many fancy words, or exactly because of them, “the lawyers” inventing and conducting such a pleonastic system are, again, making the honest ordinary creditors broke and the privileged rotten people winning …

And here we are once more with Jack Cade and his remorse against “the lawyers” protecting only the wealthy corrupt elite and their own pockets, in his times by using the fake Latin legal structures and in our times by doing the same under cover of legal pleonasm and logorrhoea. But the lawyers to be “killed” for this are not only from obscure countries as (perhaps) Slovenia or the country where top judges are writing insane 1.448-pages judgments instead of investing their highly qualified energy into persecution of gang rapes and murders of poor women daily occurring there. The descendants of Cade could – and eventually will – quite rightly strike also into the (seemingly) far more credible legal environments. Nobody, except those wanting to exploit legal uncertainty, can get any good out of, say, the common system of VAT of the European Union. It is regulated by the 2006 Directive with 413 complicated articles, 67 “whereas recitals” and multitude of Annexes on altogether 195 pages – with no fewer than 34 repealed but for many cases still applicable previous directives on altogether over 1.000 pages. No court is able to cut clear paths through the thus created legal jungle anymore, overflooded courts are deciding on taxes from 15 years ago and with judgments not understandable even to the experts on tax law.

And, as it has been noticed only in the far-away countries, there are very many other similar non-penetrable thick jungles all around, strangling us every day, but nobody (in Europe) doing anything about it – which makes the world quite akin to the one just before the Cade events of 1450 …

Photo: Russ Morris, Flickr.