LOOPHOLE: an opening or aperture.


It’s almost boring to find that the real meaning for the term loophole has to do with holes in the wall of a castle wall, through which shots (or arrows) can be fired at the enemy.  Ho-hum.

It is a word from 16th century England which means “arrow slit.”  That is what I have described above.  I have no idea why the word “loop” is employed in this definition.  The resources I found made no mention of it.  They, like most of us, are more concerned with the contemporary meaning of the word, which is to describe a flaw or oversight in the writing of a law which someone can take advantage of to benefit themself.

We hear all the time about politicians, business owners, criminals of other kinds, and even orators who take advantage of such mistakes to gain success in whatever they are doing.    Having once worked for him, I am fascinated with the frenetic activity surrounding the charges (and now decisions) against Sheldon Silver, former Speaker of the New York State Assembly.  It was alleged, and then determined by courts, that he regularly took advantage of loopholes in the laws which permitted him to manipulate his income from outside sources.  In some cases, it is alleged, he took advantage in illegal ways, not even depending upon loopholes. *

The advent of social media has meant that close scrutiny by people previously excluded from the practice of governmental process has led to whistle-blowers and investigative reporters  who have found these violations.   There are a good many former “civil servants” (using the term very loosely) who now spend their days behind bars.

Loopholes are frequently sought out by those who want to take advantage of the legal system.  Whether it be defense attorneys who are trying to get their client off from charges, or criminals who are trying to make money off the sometimes unintelligible laws which affect a process, it is big business.

I suspect that there are legitimate uses of loopholes, where those responsible for writing laws and regulations have overlooked the possibility of options which do not require adherence to the law.  It may mean the release of innocent people from jail, where it seemed impossible before close scrutiny by good people working on behalf of innocents.  Or, it may mean delay or even denial of laws which are so imperfect as to be dangerous to the general populace.

We’ve come a long way since the 16th century when archers were given access to targets on the other side of seemingly-impregnable walls of castles or fortresses.   But, in many ways, it isn’t all that far.


Cartoon Credit: Ethicsalarms.com

*Here in Rhode Island it has been a way of life for elected officials.  New York State holds no copyright on the misuse of loopholes and hidden ways of manipulating the law.


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