Put me down in the Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds camp on this one: we are a nation choking in laws.
A recent article in The Hill described the now-adjourned 113th Congress as “historically unproductive,” observing that “few Congresses have sent less bills to a president in 20 years.”
This, I’m afraid, reflects a common journalistic belief that when legislatures are passing legislation, they’re producing something valuable. But while it’s true that when oil wells produce oil, or gold mines gold or automobile factories cars, those entities are being productive, it’s not so clear that every time a legislature passes a law it’s producing something of value. In fact, there’s good reason to suspect just the opposite.
This is, alas, what comes of having a nation ruled by lawyers; for them, every problem needs a legal solution. Like a carbuncle-encrusted ship, we can barely make headway any more, so hindered are we by the dead hands of Congresses long since passed. As I pointed out in a New York Post column nearly four years ago:
Heading back to work this week, Americans were greeted not only by a new year but also by a whole slew of new laws — 31,000 of them at the state level — covering everything from guns to 100-watt light bulbs to, of course, “health care.” As usual, most of these laws tell us what we can’t do: texting while driving (duh), cyberbullying and smoking in bars.
In the near future, everyone will be a criminal for at least 15 minutes, whether they know it or not.
But aside from some laws easing state restrictions on lawful gun ownership, precious few of them tell the government what it can’t do. To the ruling class, there is almost nothing the government, at some level, can’t do — not only via legislation, but regulation as well.
Glenn’s proposal is for a third branch of Congress, the House of Repeal.
So in a third house of Congress — let’s call it the House of Repeal — the only thing that the elected legislators would have the power to do would be to repeal laws, meaning that for them, all the votes, campaign contributions, media exposure and opportunities for hearings would revolve around paring back the federal behemoth. It’s an extension of James Madison’s principle (or, possibly, Alexander Hamilton’s) enunciated in Federalist No. 51 that, since politicians are always ambitious, in a free society “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”
That’s one way, although unlikely. An easier way is to put Congress’s collective feet to the fire and force them to return to the only law that matters: the Constitution — by primarying the bastards, if need be. As I wrote:
Short, clearly written and to the point, the Constitution is not just another one of 31,000 new laws — it is the law. It tells us what the government must do — roads, post offices, patents, armies — and, more important, what the government can’t do. The Bill of Rights is one long Thou Shalt Not aimed at the feds.
It’s high time Congress stopped worrying about being “productive” — which means “passing more laws” — and started undoing the very real mess it’s made.
Like that will ever happen with John Boehner and the other hacks of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party running the show…