Can we have a rule that if a question is about a "law" which has no enforcement authority, then it doesn't belong on the site?

Questions about "international law", history, or politics are sometimes phrased as questions about law because of the unstated assumptions, that people have, about what the law should be.

And as long as it remains unstated, it's difficult to point out that the site is meant to answer questions about what the law happens to be rather than what the law should be.

So if someone asks about an enforcement mechanisms of a treaty, then it's a legitimate question about the law. But if someone starts on another diatribe of how Israel is an "illegal state," or something along those lines, well, that's just an opinion that is cloaked in legal terms.

Of course, there are some innocuous examples (like this), but they still have nothing to do with the process of administering law.

2 Answers 2


Questions that require the answer "No, that's not what the law is, the law is this instead" are perfectly acceptable here

There are plenty of laws that can't be or aren't enforced due to practical or political impediments rather than legal ones. Questions about the legal aspects of these are on-topic and good answers should address the practical and political issues as well as baldly stating that, yes, the government of Iran can declare the US President a war criminal.

Similarly, a question that makes incorrect assumptions about the law is on-topic and answerable by pointing out those incorrect assumptions.

A diatribe on Israel is off-topic, but a genuine question about what is involved in the recognition of national sovereignty isn't. Taking Israel as an example, in nearly half the nations of the world there is legally no such country. In the rest, there is. In practical terms, there is an entity on the Levant that acts in the world like its a soverign nation.


While I agree that this is not the place for political or philosophical arguments about what law should be, I don't see that we can devise a more specific generalization about "what's not law" than "not political or philosophical arguments about what law should be". Even then, many questions motivated by a personal feeling about what the law should be are under-informed appeals to actual principles of law (e.g. strict scrutiny is a "should not be" applied to certain kinds of law). Questions about the history of law (e.g. how did the concept of "negligence" arise in common law) are eminently on-topic.

I don't see that there's a specific problem needing fixing beyond the level of fix that we already have. As far as I know, there is nothing that resembles "law" that relates to recognition of governments, be it the putative illegality of Israel or the status of breakaway republics like Puntland State of Somalia or the Republic of Minerva. Many questions about "international law" are just confused in the sense that they misinterpret UN or other political declarations to be "international law", and yet there is plenty of international law that is real law. Plus, many people think that "international law" means something about suing a person in a foreign country, which is a confused theory.

Devising a specific and narrow rule should be a last resort. I'm not entirely sure which questions you have in mind, but I think many of them can only yield opinions as answers, and not legal facts and arguments. Or "why did the politicians do X?" can be swiftly migrated.

  • Yeah, I guess I fell into the trap of thinking that just because there was a process to resolve a recurring issue, it meant that the issue could be treated as having been permanently resolved.
    – grovkin
    Oct 8, 2021 at 3:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .