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  • Posts: 655
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This clears up a lot. Thank you so much
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  • Joined: Aug 25, 2019
Okay: enactment vs existence. My flaw is the same as the critic's, being that I don't understand the difference, which further complicates my lack of understanding in problem. So. What's the difference and how does that contribute to my/the critic's alleged misunderstanding?
 Jeremy Press
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
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  • Joined: Jun 12, 2017
Hi villzilla,

Existence simply means the law is there (it's part of the legal code), but we don't know when it was put on the books and how long it has been around. Sometimes a law exists (because a legislature didn't bother to repeal it) even though it's technically no longer enforced or no longer relevant to contemporary circumstances (or, in some cases, where no one even remembers it exists). Here's a fun example that was bouncing around the web about 10 years ago (note, I can't confirm whether this law is still in effect, and I'm not even sure those discussing it are right that it existed): the state of Pennsylvania apparently still had a state law on its books that said, "Any motorist driving along a country road at night must stop every mile and send up a rocket signal, wait 10 minutes for the road to be cleared of livestock, and continue." That law (apparently, at least as of 2009) still existed. Does that mean it was enforced, or relevant, or that people even knew about it? No.

Enactment means when the law is first put on the books, i.e. when it becomes effective by a legislative body's action. The Pennsylvania law above was likely "enacted" sometime around the turn of the 20th century. It probably made sense in Pennsylvania back then: there were not many drivers (cars were a luxury), even fewer drivers at night, livestock were very important and prevalent, and there weren't any headlights on cars. The year of its enactment tells me something about the concerns of the people of the time. That's different than the law's existence (e.g., the same law in 2009), which doesn't necessarily tell us anything about the concerns of the people of the time.

The critic is responding to the historian's legitimate argument about the circumstances surrounding a law's enactment, and the critic goes astray by discussing a different concept, existence, which means that the critic has "missed the point" of the historian's argument and failed to adequately rebut it.

I hope this helps!


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